We currently have a table set up in the mud room. The top of it is crowded with a hodge-podge of assorted tubs, buckets and aquariums. This time of year every expedition outside seems to offer such great opportunities for observing (and collecting) wildlife. Everything is busy nesting, laying eggs, hatching, defending territories, growing, raising young. Our backyard birds have resumed their annual positions and it is like welcoming back old friends. Our tree stump bluebird family has already raised one clutch. The orioles have been spotted, along with our friendly house wren on the pergola, phoebes, chickadees, indigo buntings and barn swallows. The resident mockingbird sings full tilt day and night and always startles me with his extremely accurate rendition of a car alarm.
On our natural history table we are currently observing and caring for one red-eared slider hatchling
One bullfrog tadpole with an incidentally caught baby crawdad (look just below the tadpole)
And four northern cricket frog tadpoles/froglets (formerly called Blanchard's cricket frogs), which we are releasing back into the wild today.
|with Margaret's finger for size comparison|
Along with these charges we also happened to scoop up a wide variety of mini-critters including snails, dragonfly larvae, and cladocerans (ceriodaphnia I think...it's awful hard to identify zooplankton without a microscope), just to name a few. Also, if you look at the picture below -- try to spot the little off-white blobs next to the tadpole. I was probably way more excited about catching these guys than I was about the tadpoles... they are ostracods, the little bi-valve microcrustaceans I studied in college. Again, without a microscope (and dissecting kit...and taxonomic key...) I am in deep water (pun intended) trying to ID these guys. Cypricerucs....reticulatus?? Candona?? Anyone want to buy me a nice microscope (dissecting, or otherwise)?
For a couple hours we also had a robin fledgling nestled among the aquariums. He was blown out of his nest by a fierce storm the night before and, apparently, suffered some sort of brain damage or other internal injury. He couldn't perch and listed dreadfully to one side, like a sinking ship, so we took him in and gave it a go. He did chirp and gape for a few feedings before posing in increasingly odd positions and passing quietly away. Poor little guy. It can be a rough world out there.
Missouri has an abundance of turtles, and it is one of the reasons I love living here. I love the pattern on this fellow's lower shell.
I may not get paid for using my biology degree, but the excitement and sheer delight I see on my children's faces is all the reward I need.