I find cedar waxwings to be some of the most beautiful birds in the United States. Just amazing in every way. Here is one I saw today in Michigan.
A couple days ago I was walking down a fence line. I was on the cow side of the fence and the river was on the other side. I always appreciate it when ranchers keep their cows out of the creeks.
So I came over a little rise and saw a big raccoon hightail it away as soon as she saw me. Didn't think much of it as we see them all the time. But when I walked past where she was I got a good display from this baby raccoon. There were two of them, which apparently didn't get the memo to flee when mom took off, but this one was really giving it a go with his defensive posture.
The first thing was a hissing/growly kind of noise that certainly gives one a bit of a start when suddenly coming from a few feet away from your boots. Then it arched its back high and raised all the fur on its back making it seem much larger and more dangerous than it was.
The second baby buggered off pretty quickly, but this one stood his ground letting me get within maybe three feet before deciding I really was bigger than he was and that it was time to run.
I wish I new what species these are, but probably a toad given their dark coloration. These were found in a river in the "thumb" of Michigan and while there was lots of space in the river they seemed particularly attracted to this little spot. Tadpoles are usually vegetarians, so likely a trove of weed there that drew them in.
These are some really common birds, but the largest concentrations of them are at the Great Lakes. And here is one of them, just sitting on a channel marker on the end of a jetty in Lake Huron.
Fun fact: The "double crest" is kind of a mating thing and for most of the year really isn't visible so don't expect to see it too often. Kind of odd to name a bird after a feature you pretty much never see, but well, then there is the bald eagle named after a feature it does not even possess at all, as it isn't even close to being bald.
This common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) was crossing the road from the swamp on the one side to the swamp on the other side as I was driving along just west of Port Austin, Michigan today.
So I donated some blood to the local mosquito population to take a couple photos since he was just sitting there. Turns out that he was a one-eyed turtle as his left eye looked much too damaged to see out of. Yes, it's rough out there.
We have been finding that eastern chipmunks are nearly omnipresent in all the bits of forest in the "tip of the thumb" part of Michigan. Here is one with its cheek pouches stuffed.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) at the Huron County Nature Center Wilderness Arboretum in Port Austin, Michigan
Had a little extra time today so went for a trail walk at the nearby arboretum. While at the overlook this red fox wandered by and seemingly didn't notice me at all. Fox here are seemingly quite common and always happy to see them.
A short walk around Lake Accotink in northern Virginia was quite enjoyable, with many gray squirrels out and about getting ready for winter.
Okay, okay, I know Sam the Eagle isn't a real eagle, and this is quite a departure for this blog, but I was asked to create this little meme today so here it is.
After studying The Cave of Death and all the carbon dioxide coming out of it, we were interested in any other places with such emissions. Turns out Carlos knew of a gassy swamp, and so we decided to check it out.
Now most times you go slopping about in a swamp you get some gas bubbles coming up around your feet as the by-products of plant decomposition are released. This is primarily methane and carbon dioxide with some hydrogen sulfide in the mix, created when plants decompose in the mostly oxygen-free zone under the swamp water.
But this swamp was quite different than anything we'd seen. First, it is just a flat spot in the middle of a pasture that looks completely unremarkable other than one small pool of open water barely visible.
But once you start to head into it, the swampy nature becomes quickly noticeable. Did you notice in the first photo that Carlos had on waders? Well he would be the only one with dry feet after this bit.
We let Carlos go first, and it didn't seem bad at all. He worked his way out into the weeds and didn't seem to be sinking in very far. Oh this wouldn't be bad at all.
So McFarlane jumps at the chance to head in next, and just about when he catches up to Carlos he takes one step and drops through the grass matt up to his knees in water. Huh? Oh, didn't you know that a long time ago Carlos had laid boards through the swamp as a trail, but stepping a little left or right and, well, kabloosh.
However, soon enough even Carlos lost the old board trail and it was slogging along trying to step on the grass hassocks and not find spots without a plant root mat. Yes, we were in fact for the most part just walking on water. The grass grew as a mat over the top and as long a we kept to the clumpy bits then we just sort of mushed along instead of sinking deep.
At some point I realized that Guy had been quiet for too long and turned around to see him bemusedly trying to navigate the place while carrying a lot of electronic equipment and camera gear that would not enjoy it if he took a misstep and went in a deep spot.
Finally, we arrived at the exact spot Carlos was trying to find. He kept telling us to look for a funnel in the middle of the swamp, which made no sense. Until we came across a giant funnel in the middle of the swamp. An upside down funnel, but a funnel nonetheless.
Apparently since Carlos was here last, the vegetation had grown such that it completely covered the funnel. And why, pray tell, is there a giant metal funnel out here? Turns out Carlos himself put it here to capture swamp gas from a fixed surface area and then measure the flow out of the top to see just how gassy this swamp was. Okay, that's pretty neat science, and a whole lot of hard work to put that thing out there.
We popped the lid off the tube at the top and could actually see the carbon dioxide gas coming out. It's clear gas, but it looks a little bit like heat waves on a very hot day. And it's pretty much pure carbon dioxide gas. But wait...
Previously I noted that swamp gas is methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, and now I am saying that THIS swamp gas is 100% carbon dioxide. Yes, and yes. Because this swamp is located on the flank of the Poas Volcano, in a zone where carbon dioxide is super common in the subsurface, the swamp has become a sort of gas escape spot. From what we could tell, very little gas in this swamp is from plant decomposition, while loads of it is from some effect of the nearby volcano.
Carlos chopped a hole in the grass near the funnel to show the water surface. And it was just bubbling away! This was cool.
Okay, but this is just a large flat spot in a field, we couldn't be over more than a foot or two of water, right? Carlos had more demonstration up his sleeve to show why it would be best to walk carefully. He used a tripod with one leg fully extended.
That's some deep water! And we just were walking over it on the grass mat. After this it did seem like everyone did walk ever more carefully though.
We left the swamp and Carlos told us about all the carbon dioxide in the area. It seems that there is so much of it that they drill wells for it and capture it to use in pretty much every can and bottle of beer and soft drink in all of this part of Central America. It's a lot of gas. And on our way out of the area we did get to see one of the wells, which was our last quick stop before heading for dry footwear back at Recreo Verde.
And I hate to bury this very fun video at the end here, but this is something that Guy van Rentergem put together and is worth watching. See the gassy swamp in action!
Keith Christenson - Wildlife Biologist