Archive for the ‘Wild Animals’ Category


Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) Rebuilding Winter Destroyed Nest

Ten days ago, great blue herons began rebuilding their nest that was destroyed by last winter’s brutal storms (See Rebuilding Destroyed Nest and Loving Bonds). Today an osprey pair began to rebuild their nest that had been completely blown away by winter gales.

Osprey Nest Completely Destroyed by Winter Storms

In early April we documented the 2014 osprey nest in the SouthCoast rookery that had been destroyed by the harsh winter. To revisit this osprey nest in all its glory last year,  see Ospreys Engaged in Nest Building at SouthCoast Rookery.

Osprey Brings Branch to Rebuild Nest

This morning, 22 April, the osprey pair busied themselves in ferrying branch after branch to the destroyed nest to restore it for the 2015 season.

Osprey Waits for Mate with More Building Material

With the arrival of this pair, all elite waterfront accommodations at the SouthCoast rookery have been claimed for the 2015 season by a mix of ospreys and great blue herons. We’ll be watchful, though. On occasion, ospreys callously evict heron pairs to claim the nest for their own. See Aggressive Ospreys Evict Great Blue Heron Nesting Pair.


Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Male Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Brings Branch to Rebuild Destroyed Nest

A great blue heron pair flew back to the Marion rookery yesterday, April 11th. As we noted in earlier postings (See Great Blue Herons Return to Rookery), winter storms completely destroyed last year’s nests. So, this heron couple has begun to rebuild their nest from scratch.  With the placement of each new twig and branch on the nest, they reinforce their loving bonds. Nest building is exquisite in the delicate beauty of its aerial ballet, and tender interactions between the heron pair are more than a little moving.

Montage of Great Blue  Heron Nesting Rebuilding


We present the entire sequence in still imagery below.  Each photograph can be clicked for a high resolution version.  Enjoy!

Female Great Blue Heron Awaits Return of Male

Male Great Blue Heron Collects Branch for Nest Rebuilding

Male Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Male Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Returns to Nest

Female Great Blue Heron Greets Returning Male

Male Great Blue Heron Returns to Nest with Branch


Female (Left) and Male Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Rebuild Storm Destroyed Nest

Each image can be clicked for a high resolution version in a new window.

American Toad Mating Migration on SouthCoast

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

 American Toad (Anaxyrus/Bufo americanus), April 2015

Darkness, drizzle and fog descended on the SouthCoast of Massachusetts Friday night.  The Turtle Journal team bounced over deep potholed backroads to assess amphibian mating activity in local wetlands.

Mating Chorus of Spring Peepers, Wood Frogs and American Toads


Leaving lights and civilization far behind, the volume and shrillness of mating calls intensified as night engulfed us like an eclipse.  Spring peepers trilled mating invitations at frenzied pitch; wood frogs croaked and gurgled amphibian love songs in blank verse.

American Toad En Route to Mating Pond 

As the muted beam of our headlights blurred through the mist, we sensed more than saw an army of wriggling, hopping shapes darting across the pathway, zigzagging from dense woodlands to rain-flooded bogs.  We stepped outside and scooped up a specimen who stared back at us with face, eyes and expression that mirrored a diminutive alien.  An army of aliens, Eastern American Toads, headed for spring mating.  As American toads splashed into the bog like summer campers dashing to the old swimming hole, another, more subtle chirp joined the symphony, punctuated by a shrieking ululation.

Buckets of American Toads Leapfrogging to Mating Ponds

Despite thick fog and relentless drizzle, with flashlights in hand we cleared the roadway of a few buckets of American toads and helped them join their brothers and sisters in an amphibian night to be remembered.  For us, too, Friday proved a memorable event, rare and powerful to witness an army of “aliens” marching through the wetland darkness.

Early Spring Critters Battle Lingering April Chill

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) in SouthCoast Massachusetts

We suspect that most folks associate spring frog emergence with the chirpy soprano voice of the Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) and, no doubt, they are a delightful sign of the changing season.  So far, we have heard a few isolated peepers in this far too cold April, but not yet in a concentrated volume that would herald SPRING with a capital S.

Haunting Wood Frog Chorus from St. Patrick’s Day, 2012


To our ears, though, bursting springtime is more aptly reflected in the explosive chorus of croaking wood frogs, whose voices are more akin to a heavy metal band than a soaring falsetto choir.  The video clip above comes from March 17th, 2012, and illustrates the profound difference between gentle peepers and raucous wood frogs.

Camouflaged Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus)

As we patrolled a local bog on Monday, we almost literally stumbled over this well camouflaged wood frog, hopping from woodland wetlands to mating aggregation.  Sue Wieber Nourse fortunately spotted the frog as Rufus the Turtle Dog and Don Lewis blithely strolled on by.

Wood Frog Croaks Magically

As Don examined the wood frog, it croaked magically, echoing the insistent calls emanating from the nearby mating aggregation. Snapshot documented, we quickly released the frog to hop into the murky wetlands and join the boisterous band.

11-Year-Old Female Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) #131

By this time in April, we should see dozens of spotted turtles mingling in local mating aggregations.  Instead, we have captured a total of four spotted turtles, two males and two females, all of which were basking for heat or transiting from woodlands to bog.  Air temperatures have lingered in the 30s and 40s, and the water still has icy patches.  The forecast calls for more of the same until Friday, when finally we may see some salamander action … with any luck.

Female Spotted Turtle (Note small, thin tail and bright, colorful neck)

Also on Monday, we captured female spotted turtle #131 basking along the bank of the future mating aggregation.  We first captured this female on 2 May 2014.  Since then, she has gained 11 grams and has grown by about 3 millimeters.  She currently weighs 185 grams and her carapace stretches 10.66 centimeters straight line length, making her a very healthy young lady.  You can determine her gender by her thin, small tail and her bright colorful neck.

First Active SouthCoast Turtle of 2015

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

 Sue Wieber Nourse Captures Hardy Male Spotted Turtle #109

At noon today, April 1st, the Turtle Journal team ventured to Grassi Bog in Marion, MA to determine whether any spotted turtles might be active.  Don Lewis spied two spotteds basking on a distant island.  

Male Spotted Turtle #109

Sue Wieber Nourse, covering the other side of the bog, netted hardy Male Spotted Turtle #109 basking on a grass clump between snow and ice patches.  Rufus the Turtle Dog, of course, supervised the entire enterprise.

Carapace of Male Spotted Turtle #109 (Note Tail Size)

We first met #109 on 10 April 2014, swimming in the mating aggregation at Grassi Bog with three other males and females.  At the time, he weighed 110 grams and measured 8.75 centimeters straight-line carapace length.  A healthy, young male.

Spotted Male #109 (Note Dark Colored Neck and Thick Tail)

Since last year he has done quite well, gaining size and weight, even over this challenging winter.  #109 now weighs 122 grams and measures 9.26 centimeters carapace length.

So, FINALLY, the game’s afoot for turtle research on the SouthCoast of Massachusetts.