gators (Alligator mississippiensis) or cottonmouth moccasins (Agkistrodon piscivorous)! In the first pond, we startled an anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), and it flew up into the trees. The anhinga is a type of cormorant-like bird, and spends most of its days either swimming through freshwater in search of tasty fish, or sunning itself and preening on the bank. They are not only very good at swimming underwater due to a reduced buoyancy created by heavy bones and wet feathers, but they are also very good at soaring and riding the thermals, similar in fashion to certain types of raptors. Turns out, I would be seeing more of this interesting bird on our trip.
In Colorado, it is not altogether uncommon to spot a great blue heron (Ardea herodius) hunting along the banks of a pond or lake, or flying overhead with their impressively elongate neck drawn back in a tight s-curve, reminiscent of certain types of theropod dinosaurs (such as Compsognathus, pictured below). However, in South Carolina, you can hardly go anywhere without seeing a heron, be it a great blue heron, an egret, or some other type of heron. Right after spotting the anhinga, we noticed a great blue heron on the opposite bank. In the picture below you can see the usually majestic bird caught in the not-so-majestic act of shaking itself dry.
|A picture of a first generation cast of Compsognathus from the Solnhofen Quarry of Germany. Although this animal almost certainly lived a very different lifestyle than the anhinga, it is interesting to compare the necks of these two animals. You can also compare the anhinga's neck with the neck of another theropod dinosaur Coelophysis (who has a neck more similar to a heron's than that of Compsognathus) by clicking HERE to check out a short feature we did on this dinosaur awhile back. This cast is a first generation cast in the collections of the Morrison Natural History Museum.|
|The protorosaur Tanystropheus. Photo Credit: Sam Lippincott|
frogs and toads are all in the same family, the family Anura, but toads are generally characterized as having dry skin, while frogs are characterized as having wet skin.
|The reddish egret. It's a little tough to see, but the bird is flying roughly in the middle of the photograph, a little more on the left hand side.|
|The great egret. It's a little tough to see, but the bird is flying a little below the middle of the photograph, and a tiny but further to the right of center.|
teeth looked really sharp and not very worn down, so I was thinking maybe it was a younger animal.
spider web. Now, the thing about the spiders in South Carolina is that some of them grow nasty-big, and seem to have a propensity to spin their webs in between hip and head height for your average adult human. I'm specifically talking about the banana spiders (Nephila sp.), or golden silk orb-weavers. I'm not entirely sure how large the biggest banana spiders get, but I've seen ones that look like they have a leg span of three to four inches. Disgusting.
Before we got out of the woods, I found a raccoon skull with both jaws nearby, as well as some other isolated bones. I saved the skull, and hopefully I can remember to upload a picture later! Raccoons are omnivorous, so they have fun teeth, an interesting combination of carnivorous and herbivorous dentition.
We also found a pair of what definitely looked like burrows. We found lots of bones in the vicinity of the burrows, clearly from different animals, so I think it likely that they were created by a more carnivorous critter, likely a fox. Gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) not only climb trees, but also don't seem to burrow under the ground, unlike the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), so if it is a little carnivorous mammal burrow, I think that the red fox is a good guess as to the den maker!
On our way back to the house, I noticed an interesting flower that I later identified as the trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) which, according to the USDA, can cause itching, redness, and swelling amongst mammals if the leaves and flowers are touched. Well, later on, I picked up a flower, and did not find that to be the case. Perhaps I didn't touch it enough, or maybe different people experience different reactions. I thought they were interesting because I noticed that the long, tubular flowers might be a perfect example of a type of flower that has coevolved (learn about coevolution HERE) with hummingbirds and butterflies, pollinators with the means of reaching nectar from deeper within a flower, and it looks like that might indeed be the case! Interestingly, for the first half of the trip, I don't remember hearing or seeing a single hummingbird...odd. The trumpet creeper is a member of the Bignonia family, the family Bignoniaceae.
After a few hours of downtime, we went down to the beach as the sun set. Didn't see much, except part of a molted horseshoe crab shell, the Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus). Once they reach adulthood, horseshoe crabs shed their shells annually, usually in July or August. Arthropods shed their shells, or exoskeletons, as they grow larger, kind of like how snakes will shed their skin as they grow larger. Turns out, I would also be seeing a whole lot more of these later on, too!
father, sister and I all went gator hunting. This was to be our first gator sighting of the trip, although we really couldn't see much. The small reddish dot in the photograph below is actually the eyeshine of the gator, created by the reflective tapetum lucidum (read more about that interesting bit of eye anatomy by clicking HERE). So we really couldn't see much unfortunately.
American toad (Anaxyurus americanus), possibly the same one that I spotted the previous night!
American Toad (Anaxyurus americanus)
Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea)
Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)
Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana)
Atlantic Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus)
Banana Spider (Nephila sp.)
Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
Squareback Marsh Crab (Armases cinereum)
Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
White Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans)
American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
ACE Basin Species Gallery: Gray Fox. (n.d.). ACE Basin Species Gallery: Gray Fox. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/mrri/acechar/specgal/grayfox.htm
Anhinga. (n.d.). , Identification, All About Birds. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/anhinga/id
BIGNONIACEAE. (n.d.). BIGNONIACEAE. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://theseedsite.co.uk/bignoniaceae.html
Lone star tick a concern, but not for Lyme disease. (2011, October 21). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/stari/disease/
Molting. (n.d.). Natural History: Lifecycle-Embryonic Development. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://www.horseshoecrab.org/nh/molt.html
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes). (n.d.). SCDNR. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/species/redfox.html
Ticks. (n.d.). Types Of In South Carolina, Tick Bites And Tick Control. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://www.aikenpest.com/pest-identification/profile/ticks
Trumpet Creeper. (n.d.). . Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_cara2.pdf