Springtime in New York (part III)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 5:24 PM Bookmark and Share
With spring now turning to summer, here's a few more photos and comments to follow up on part I and part II of "Springtime in New York". Sticking to my promise, I'll leave the insect world behind with a parting nod to another arthropod before getting into more bird, reptile and amphibian pictures.

When most people think of animal mothers and their young, they're likely to think of a family of some mammal or bird. Indeed, familiar urban and suburban animals like birds, deer, foxes and the like can very noticeable when they've got young in tow!

Still, nearly all major groups of organisms contain examples of moms (and dads!) providing some form of parental care for their offspring - far more species in fact that just the furry and feathered species we tend to notice the most!

Young Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), Ithaca, NY - 23 May 2008.

In many spider species, for example, the eggs are carefully bundled up together with various kinds of silk produced by mom, and are then guarded until they hatch. While most young spiders are independent and can fend for themselves, young wolf spiders will spend some extra time under their mother's guard by clinging to her abdomen. Other arachnids (e.g. scorpions) are known to do the same.

A large (dollar coin?) sized wolf spider (species unknown),
Guarding her eggs in Ithaca, NY - 24 May 2009.

Amphibians, on the other hand, are more hands off - they tend to produce offspring that are ready to fend for themselves and need no care from mom or dad once they've hatched.

Similar to the very first vertebrates to adapt to life on land, modern amphibians still need to lay their eggs in water. In most species, these eggs often hatch long after the parents have left, and the young are left to look after themselves as they mature from fish-like larvae (e.g. tadpoles) to more adult-like forms that can leave the water and live on land.

By late spring a variety of frog, toad and salamander larvae can be found in ponds and streams near Ithaca ( full list of these species and other information can be found here at the New York Herp Atlas (DEC) website). Some species have clear preferences for where they lay their eggs. For example, the two-lined and spring salamanders prefer moving water, while others like most frogs and toads almost exclusively use shallow ponds.

A female American Toad (Bufo americanus) nearing the
end of her stay in a breeding pond near Ithaca, NY
Her offpsring won't need any parental care (Note the biting flies!).
24 May 2009.

American Toad eggs from the same pond as the above female.

A Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris) found along
the grassy banks of a stream near Ithaca, NY - 24 May 2009.

Larval salamander or newt (unknown species - approx. 2cm),
Monkey Run, Ithaca NY - 25 April 2009.

A 4-5" larval Northern Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus p. porphyriticus)
under a rock along a small stream near Ithaca, NY - 24 May 2009.

Northern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea b. bislineata)
An adult from near Ithaca, NY - 24 May 2009.

And of course, there are the most observable of all wildlife - the birds! While I was tempted to stick to "herps" for this post - the evolutionary position of birds more than justifies their inclusion here. Still, I'll be brief.

By late spring, a number of the local breeders have returned from their wintering grounds south of New York - some having traveled up from Central or South America or islands in the Caribbean. Many (like the Northern Waterthrush, below) waste little time - and begin to breed almost immediately.

Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis) with
nest material, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Ithaca, NY - 4 May 2008.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) with
nest material, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Ithaca, NY - 4 May 2008.

Resident or shorter-distance migrants have in some cases already begun to breed by the time these migrants return. This adult red-tailed hawk, for example, is taking a young Cottontail Rabbit to its almost adult-sized chick up in a nest on Cornell campus.

A Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) with a prey item
(a young Eastern Cottontail Rabbit) near the hawk's nest,
Cornell University, Ithaca NY - 29 April 2009.

Finally, I'll end with a few shots of our local snakes. Many snakes like the locally uncommon Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis o. obsoleta) emerge from hibernation in spring, and after their first shed will mate and lay their eggs once it's warm enough to maintain the higher temperatures they'll need to hatch later in the summer. Others, like the Brown Snake and the Garter Snake (T. sertalis) are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young - usually in late summer around the time other snakes eggs are hatching.

Dekay's Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi dekayi)
near Ithaca, NY - 24 May 2009.

Northern Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii)
A rear-fanged snake, though it rarely bites. It's venom doesn't
appear to affect humans, only it's prey (e.g. salamanders).
This one was found near Ithaca, NY - 24 May 2009.

Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis o. obsoleta)
Note the opaque eyes, indicating it's about to shed.
Seen near Ithaca, NY - 9 May 2009.


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