Category Archives: Nature: plant and animal identification

Northern Short-tailed Shrew Found In Maryland Yard

The Northern short-tailed shrew Blarina brevicauda and the Southern short-tailed shrew Blarina carolinensis are hard to tell apart unless you are an expert. For the rest of us, we can make an id by the range. The Northern can be found in MD but the Southern is not. I discovered it while emptying a large container of soil.

It didn’t want to stay still for a photo. It soon scurried off.

This guy was about 3.5 inches long.

“Northern Short-tailed Shrews have poisonous saliva. This enables them to kill mice and larger prey and paralyze invertebrates such as snails and store them alive for later eating.”

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Hard Working Decomposers: Carrion Beetles

In the month that we celebrate all things macabre, I thought I’d include a post on carrion beetles.

First off, carrion is the carcass of a dead animal. Vultures, hawks, eagles, Virginia opossums and carrion beetles will all eat carrion. Maggots of some flies also eat carrion. It is good that they do eat carrion because they help recycle nitrogen and carbon.

You may also be interested in my post (with cool pictures) of black vultures.

Strangely, this dead opossum was on my driveway one morning. Not sure what killed it.

In addition to eating carrion, carrion beetles eat fly maggots. The flies come to lay their eggs on the carrion. The maggots (if not eaten by carrion beetles) will also feast on the carrion.

Ridged carrion beetles (Oiceoptoma inaequale) on a recently dead opossum.

They will mate (see in photo one beetle on another) and lay eggs. The eggs will hatch into larvae (the babies) and like their parents, eat carrion and fly maggots. Yum yum!

Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi) Found In Southern Maryland Yard

I came across this little snake (A brown snake -Storeria dekayi) while weeding around my strawberry plants. This area had been neglected and was quite overgrown.

They only grow to be about 12 inches long.

These pictures are of the same snake on the same day. It is interesting the way the patterning looks different in some of the pictures.

Northern brown snakes like this one are live-bearing which means it doesn’t lay eggs.

Know Your Local Snakes: Baby Rat Snake

This cute little snake is a baby black rat snake and is also called an Eastern Rat Snake: Scotophis alleghaniensis). It is harmless. Often people see the pattern on its back and confuse it with a copperhead snake and kill it on site. An adult black rat snake is black on its back and has a white chin.

I found this guy on my porch by my front door yesterday.

In Southern Maryland where I live, the copperhead is the only poisonous snake.

Rat snakes and other non-venomous snakes have round pupils while Copperheads have an elliptical pupil like a cat’s eye. It looks like a small vertical slit in the eye.

If you aren’t sure what kind of snake you are looking at; it’s best to keep your distance.

Here is a guide to Maryland herps: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Plants_Wildlife/herps/index.asp

Osage-orange Ball Craft

Have fun making moody osage-orange guys. Collect natural materials such as cherry stems, beans, acorns and other seeds… Mix and match to create amusing characters.

An osage-orange (Maclura pomifera)  is a tree not native to Maryland but can be found growing here. My husband remembers having wars with his friends; they would throw them at each other. Boys!

I call this one the Grinch.

I call this one Oscar the Grouch.

I call this one Dude.