First Walk 2012

Happy New Year to one and all!  Yesterday was a fine day to be out taking a first-of-the-year walk.  I had the day off so we headed into the woods for a ramble.  Below are just a few of the things we saw...

 Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus

Treebeard and I started our bird lists out with different birds this year.  His first bird of the year was an eastern bluebird and mine was a cedar waxwing.  We aren't avid list-keepers, we do it more as a way to compare species present from year to year.  We enjoy birding as a part of any walk but we seldom bird as an end unto itself -- there is just too much other stuff to see out there :)

We flipped a log or two as we walked and were rewarded with a variety of things.  Some logs sheltered salamanders.  We found a total of four and they were gracious enough to pose for photos.  If you flip, please remember to put the log (or whatever) back the way you found it.  It is, after all, something's home.

 Eastern Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon cinereus

 Marbled Salamander, Ambystoma opacum
This one is reflecting blue sky.

 Our second marbled...

 ...and our third.  Each one's pattern is different.

While it is not unusual to find aquatic turtles out basking on mild winter days, we seldom ever find a box turtle out in winter.  It was a surprise to spot this fellow out enjoying the day.  I poked around a bit and found the hole he had emerged from just a foot or two from where he was sunning.  Hopefully he boogied back into that hole as the sun went down.  It's supposed to be cold the next few days.

 Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina

 It's a boy!  Note the concave plastron.

 He had a little age on him.  I'll have to count his "rings" sometime.  I will also go back and check my catalog of box turtle photos.  There is a strong possibility that I've seen this turtle before.

A rustle in the leaf litter drew my attention at one point.  My first thought was that I had startled a ground skink, but upon closer examination I discovered the noise was created by a horntail.  Horntails belong to the same group of insects as wasps, bees, and ants.  They lay their eggs in dead and dying trees and the larvae eat the wood.  They are also known to transmit white-rot fungus.  You could think of them as clean-up crews.

 Best guess... Asian Horntail, Eriotremex formosanus, but don't hold me to that.

 Sitting on Treebeard's finger to give a since of scale.
  This one is a female.  The longer "tail" is an ovipositor.

Our last log flip of the day yielded a cute little surprise.  Tucked safely under the log, this anthill was a perfect little dome.  We often see ants working under dead logs, but this is the first time we have found such a tidy little hill.

Species unknown.  I wish E. O. Wilson would stop by and ID the builders for us!

Thanks for joining us on our first walk.  I hope this new year will be better than the last!


Ron @ *TOGBlog said...

Greetings from Southern California

Great Shots! Especially the turtle.

Take Care & Have a Nice Day :-)

Pablo said...

Thanks for taking me along on your hike.

swamp4me said...

You are always welcome on our hikes. BTW, nice profile pic on Facebook - I like the rock :) (Found you through Karen W.)

Floridacracker said...

Gosh! It must be salamander city up there!
Love the salamanders!

swamp4me said...

We do have a nice salamander population but if you really want to see some sallies, you should go to the mountains of NC.

ksdoolittle said...

You ALWAYS find such nice treasures!! I never heard of a Horntail before. you can be sure I'll be on the lookout. I hope you have a very Happy New Year. I so enjoy your blog. Warm regards, karen

swamp4me said...

I hope you have a very Happy New Year, too. Thanks for coming by :)