Category Archives: Nature: plant and animal identification

Green Frog In Maryland

Green Frog (Rana clamitans)

I’m participating in a program called Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas (MARA). MARA is a project run by the Natural History Society of Maryland (NHSM) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR); it is a five-year (January 2010 -2014) atlas of the amphibians and reptiles of Maryland. Amphibians and reptiles are collectively known as “herpetofauna” or “herps.”

I’ve been learning my local herps in the last few years and I’ll share some pictures of herps that I find on my property or in my neighborhood.

Green frogs are sometimes confused with bull frogs. You can’t go by color because their color varies. Look for the prominent dorsolateral ridges that go down the back but not all the way.

Note the large external eardrum called a tympanum (the circle behind the eye).

This picture illustrates relative size.

I love its eyes!

P.S. I believe this is a female because she lacks a yellow throat and her tympanum is not larger than her eye.

Eastern Wormsnake: A Fun Snake To Find

I disturbed this Eastern worm snake Carphophis amoenus amoenus when arranging soil in my garden beds. I see a few of these each year here in Southern Maryland. They are non-venomous and do not bite.

They spend their time in the soil, rotten logs, leaf piles etc. You are not likely to see one slither across your lawn.

My daughter holds this wiggly Eastern worm snake while I snap a few pictures then she takes some with my hands in the photos.  It was less than 8 inches long.

Check out the tail on this worm looking snake: it is pointy and helps it burrow into the soil.

(Be sure of the identity of any snake before handling. Ask an adult to help.)

Woodland Vole in Maryland Yard

The woodland vole, Microtus pinetorum, is very common around my house in Maryland. They spend most their time in tunnel systems close to the soil surface.

I feel bad for the little guys that often become food for my cat. In the picture is a woodland vole that I rescued after my cat brought it inside to play with. Honestly, I’m trying to discourage such behavior in my cats (the bringing inside). There seems to be no shortage of voles around.

I was always unsure what kind of critter was digging those tunnels in my yard. After a little research I now think I can tell the difference between the woodland voles (83 -120mm long including tail) and the meadow voles (128 -195mm) both found in Maryland. These woodland voles are smaller and have a shorter tail (15 to 40mm). Meadow voles have tails that are about 40% of their body length.

Frog Hunting In Maryland: The Northern Cricket Frog

It is spring and time to look for frogs. Yesterday, my daughter and I went for a nature walk in the woods around our house. During our adventure, we found this frog. It is a cricket frog, Acris crepitans. Cricket frogs are non-climbing tree frog. I’ll be sure to look for their eggs during their breeding season (May through July).

This cricket frog is on a child’s hand.

Identification:

They vary in color but often have a dark triangle present between the eyes and a Y-shaped stripe on their backs.

Observing Nature: Black Vultures Haunt Local Library

Black Vultures Coragyps atratus in Maryland December 2010.

If you live in Southern Maryland, you should definitely check out the wake behind the St. Mary’s County Public Library in Lexington Park. A wake is the name of a group of vultures. They are also collectively called a committee. You will find an impressive number of Black Vultures there. Don’t be spooked by their large size, black bodies or their eating habits: they feed mostly on the carcasses of dead animals. They won’t be that interested in you. Therefore, getting relatively close shouldn’t be a problem if you approach slowly. Bring a camera.

I love the way they walk: what funny characters they are. You have to admit that they are interesting at the very least.

More about vultures:

According to Wikipedia: Vulture stomach acid is exceptionally corrosive, allowing them to safely digest putrid carcasses infected with Botulinum toxin, hog cholera, and anthrax bacteria that would be lethal to other scavengers.[5] This also enables them to use their reeking, corrosive vomit as a defensive projectile when threatened. Vultures urinate straight down their legs; the uric acid kills bacteria accumulated from walking through carcasses, and also acts as evaporative cooling.

O.K. that was gross and cool at the same time. Vultures are amazing. They are needed too. Scavengers like vultures along with decomposers keep the earth clean of stinking dead things and break them down into components used to make new living things.