The Eastern Screech Owl, Megascops asio, is one of North America’s most common yet most variable owls. This little 6 to 9 inch owl can be red, grey, brown, or a combination — with varying amounts of white as well! Screech owls are nocturnal carnivores that live in open forests throughout the eastern half of the United States and neighboring areas of Canada and Mexico.
Type Archive: aside
Tarsiers have some of the largest eyes relative to their body size of any animal. This comes at a cost, however — they cannot rotate their eyeballs within the sockets but must rotate their entire heads instead. The Philippine tarsier, Carlito syrichta, lives only on a handful of islands in the Philippines. See where the other species live.
I went out on my porch to take pics of my artwork and found this little guy crawling happily along the porch railing. Knowing my daughter would love to see such a furry little thing, I put him gently on a leaf and carried him inside. I noticed he looked very grub-like beneath his fur, so I put him on a transparent lid and took some pics from both sides. Curious, I looked him up online and found out he is the most venomous caterpillar in America! If I’d have been more aggressive with him, even petting him, the spines buried in his fur might have injected enough poison into me to cause me pain that has been likened to a broken bone, even worse than a scorpion or jellyfish sting! Check out the links below, and be sure to warn the kids around you to NOT pet this furry little dude!!
Iguazu Falls, one of top natural wonders of the world, straddles the border between Argentina and Brazil in the southern half of South America. Both countries have allotted land on their side of the falls to a national park, and both sides are visited by tourists eager to explore this area and its wildlife. Home to endangered species such as jaguar, jaguarundi, ocelots, tapir, and harpy eagles, this area also features a wide diversity of butterflies along with toucans and coati. Visit the sites below to find out more about this amazing natural wonder!
The Salar de Uyuni in southern Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flat at almost 5000 square miles. In all that area, its height above sea level only varies by three feet — so nearly perfectly level that NASA uses it as a benchmark to align some of their equipment in space! This whole area is unique with many geologic features — check out the links below to find out more and see awesome pics!
Like other deciduous larches, the subalpine larch, Larix lyallii, sheds its needles each year. The trees make a grand show up there near the treeline, with their yellow needles and often twisted form. Further down the mountains, they tend to be taller and grow straighter. Fresh new twigs have single needles, whereas older twigs have clusters of needles growing from a little raised knot along the twig. Cones are spherical with long bracts extending out past each scale, giving the cones a shaggy appearance. These trees grow along with their very close and very similar relative, Larix occidentalis, in the upper Rocky Mountains and Cascade range in the northwestern United States and nearby regions of Canada.
The Dhole or Asiatic Wild Dog, Cuon alpinus, is an endangered canine with only about 2500 to 3000 individuals left in the wild. This unique species does not fit neatly into either the wolf-like nor fox-like canids, and therefore has its own genus. Dholes have two extra teets… and two less teeth than other wild dogs! They hunt in packs like wolves, but communicate with a whistle rather than a howl. Dholes are now mostly found in India and parts of China, but also can be found on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java.
Common Heather, Calluna vulgaris, is a dominant plant in European moorland, and can also be found in some bog areas and pine forests. This hardy species of heath has come to be naturalized in parts of North America and Asia and is often cultivated in rock gardens around the world. There are close to 1000 different cultivars of this once-humble species, varying in growth form, flower color, flowering time, and other features. The natural species has tiny scale-like leaves and mostly pink flowers, and blooms in late summer.
The American Bittersweet vine, Celastrus scandens, is native to central and eastern North America, but is unfortunately being replaced by a non-native invasive species, the Oriental Bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus. Our native species has alternate, oval, fine-toothed leaves and berry-like fruits that start out green, change to yellow then orange, then finally split open to reveal the 3-part fruit interior shown below. The fruits are poisonous to humans but eaten widely by birds and mammals, from wild turkeys to eastern cottontails. When growing up a young sapling, bittersweet vines can choke out and even kill their host, but typically it causes no real damage.
Two days in a row, when I went to my mailbox there was a Zelus nymph — a young assassin bug — on the handle. Each time, I gently lowered the door on the box, trying not to disturb the unique creature that graced my front yard. Each day, it was a different species, too! One day it was the red one shown below, Zelus longipes. The other day it was a smaller, little green guy, Zelus luridus. While some say they look like their adult forms (due to incomplete metamorphosis), I could not find these nymphs in any of my insect books because there is no ADULT insect that has this body shape. My research began by googling “skinny bug”! 😀
American Insects: Zelus longipes — Zelus luridus
Reduviidae: Assassin Bugs (Austin Bug Collection)
Bug Eric blog — Nature at Close Range blog
Arthropods of Maine (blog page on Z. luridus)
Featured Creatures: Zelus longipes
Beneficials in the Garden (mostly on Zelus longipes)
The Oriental Sweetlips, Plectorhinchus vittatus, lives in reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, near Indonesia. They have rather puffy lips, hence the name. 😛
This species really looks different between its juvenile and adult form! Young sweetlips are rather speckled with dark splotches on a light background. Eventually, these markings morph to black and white stripes with yellow tail, fins, and face. The bright yellow shows the splotches of youth, although they are smaller overall, more like spots. Check out the links below the pic to find out more about this unique species of grunt fish.
Most red-eyed vireos (Vireo olivaceus) breed in North America and overwinter in the Amazon basin of South America. During the breeding season, a single male may sing constantly, up to 10,000 times each day! Because of this and their canopy-feeding lifestyle, these little birds are often heard rather than seen, and their song is part of most forest soundtracks. If you can zoom in on an adult, you may be able to see its bright red eyes, but most commonly you will have to settle for its song and its olive green body with grey, black, and white head pattern for identification.
The Pied Butcherbird, Cracticus nigrogularis, has an AMAZING song! And if that wasn’t enough for this Australian songster, he also copies songs of other birds and even imitates human sounds!
Click play to hear this bird’s amazing song. You may enjoy this duet! 😀
The Indonesian or Sunda Stink Badger, Mydaus javanensis, looks like a stocky, short-tailed skunk. It has a large white “cap” of fur on top of its head, with the warning coloration extending all the way down its back and onto its stubby little tail. These animals are related to skunks but have an even worse spray — dogs have been known to go blind and humans pass out from the force of the milky green liquid! Making this animal even more unique, it has a snout like a pig! Learn more using the links below.
The honey locust tree, Gleditsia triacanthos, is easily identified by its combination of thorns, long narrow compound leaves, and long curly seedpods. Found in the eastern United States, this species is actually a legume, in the family Fabaceae. Its long seedpods resemble beans and peas, which are more familiar legumes. Honey locust pods start out green and eventually turn crisp and dark brown, growing up to about 7 inches long. The pods are sometimes eaten by livestock, which digest the pulp and excrete the seeds. Thorns are found on both the trunk and branches of this tree species, again starting out green, but then turning red, and eventually grey. Leaves of honey locust are pinnately divided, similar to mesquite and acacia.
Fennec foxes are the smallest species in the canine family, only about 8 inches at the top of their shoulder, body about 12 inches long, tail a bit longer… and ears about 6 inches long — up to half the length of its body! Of course, these ears help them hunt, but they also release heat into the air to keep the fox cooler. Their tiny feet are also well padded with hair to protect against hot desert sand. Their coat is roughly the color of sand to help them stay camouflaged in their Sahara desert home. Fennecs live in groups of about 10, digging interconnected burrows at the base of stable sand dunes lined with at least some vegetation. They tend to stay in their dens during the hot desert day, doing most of their hunting at night when it is cooler. Fennecs eat a wide variety of insects, small mammals, and some plant materials such as roots and berries. Click the links below the pic to see so many more cute pics, and to learn more about the world’s smallest fox!
The tiny Australian marsupial Western Pygmy Possum (Cercartetus concinnus) is unique among its relatives in that it has a cinnamon colored coat (rather than grey) and bright white underside. The females carry up to 6 young in their pouch, weaning them after 50 days and miraculously giving birth to the next litter just 2 days later! Amazingly, the mother’s teats shrink during the 2 day period and the milk changes to include more colostrum. As adults, these southern Australian marsupials eat nectar and pollen. Their long prehensile tails are covered with scales rather than hair and help them dangle from plant stems to reach their food sources.
I love liverworts! There are almost 9000 different species in the liverwort division of the plant kingdom, Marchantiophyta. Most hug the ground or other substrate they are growing on, but there are many, many varieties to keep the botanical mind guessing. Some day, I would love to create my own little bryophyte garden — tiny plants like mosses and liverworts. What fun! Add a few little frogs or sallies, insects, worms, a misting system… and you have your own little microhabitat! 😀
There are thought to be seven distinct subspecies of Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii). The map below shows distribution and examples of the wide variety of colorations for this single species in its genus. The ensatina is a lungless salamander who breathes through its skin and therefore must remain in moist habitat. When times get a bit dry, they can burrow down under logs and leaf litter until the above ground habitat becomes more moist once again.
Click the links below the map to find out more about this amazing species, and to see more pics of its variety! Scroll down on the first linked-to page to see entire pages of pics and videos for each of the seven subspecies! 😀
The binturong (Arctictis binturong) is one of those strange creatures that most people have never heard of, and that appear to be made of several animals spliced together (like a platypus). Whiskered face like a cat, stocky body like a bear, and prehensile tail like a monkey, this animal is sometimes called a bearcat. However, the binturong is neither a type of bear nor a cat. Instead, it is a viverrid like civets and genets (more animals most people do not recognize by name).