Friday, August 9, 2013

Special guest appearance by a Trapa natans nutlet

Spiders aren't for everyone and anything larger than a bathroom spider might be a little too horror film for some, but six spotted fishing spiders (Dolomedes triton) are actually relatively docile and won't bite unless they're provoked. Members of the nursery web family, they are similar in size, appearance, and behavior to nursery web spiders you might find in meadows.  True to their name, fishing spiders do fish. They're capable of diving and swimming underwater, and actively hunt their prey rather than spinning a web to catch it.  They can scurry along the surface of the water and can even jump straight up to escape predators, if they need to!

Like their terrestrial cousins, female fishing spiders carry the egg sac in her palps until the eggs are ready to hatch. When they're ready, she spins a special nursery web, often on floating aquatic vegetation, and stays nearby her babies until the spiderlings have all hatched and are ready to disperse on their own.

We found A LOT of adult and baby six spotted nursery web spiders on Carding Mill Pond. Intimidating at first, by the time the Mass Audubon crew moved on to their next work site they had grown accustomed to sharing their boats with these eight-legged friends and were, dare we say, even fond of them?

How could you not love this face?!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Phew, it's been a while! Field season is gearing up, so expect more updates soon!

Meanwhile, we haven't been very active outside during the winter, but that doesn't mean that other animals haven't been out and about. These tracks were left on a frozen wetland on the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.  Can you guess who made them?

(here's a hint: it's a rodent!)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wildlife sighting!

Watch out, buddy. Don't you know it's hunting season?

This picture was taken at around 4:30 pm. Did you know that deer are crepuscular?  That means that they're mostly active at dawn and dusk. You may see deer out during the day as well, particularly when it is overcast. Predators are often active either in the middle of the day or primarily at night, so when prey animals, like deer, are active during those in between times of dawn and dusk, they are at a lower risk of getting eaten!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The gall of the gall

As leaves beging to change and fall, you may start seeing more of these weird round balls attached to oak leaves. They're not uncommon and yet remain somewhat mysterious. So what the heck are they?

They're galls, specifically, leaf galls. The one you see above is most likely an oak apple gall. Galls can form on both the leaves and wood of a tree, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and some are even fuzzy. A gall is an abnormal growth on the outside of a plant that occurs because something is irritating the plant, such as an insect, fungi, bacteria, or parasite. The oak apple gall is caused by the larvae of a wasp called, appropriately enough, the oak apple gall wasp.

An oak apple gall forms when a female wasp injects an egg into the leaf or a developing leaf bud. Upon hatching, the larvae produces a chemical that irritates the leaf. In response, a gall forms from the leaf tissue and surrounds the wasp larvae. The gall protects the larvae as is grows and develops, eventually pupating within the confines of its spongey globe. Once it emerges as an adult, the wasp drills its way out of the gall.

Don't worry, though! Oak apple galls are essentially harmless and do not impact the health of the trees. Oak apple wasps also can't sting, so they are of no danger or discomfort to humans - always a plus for woodland explorers.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Time for another rousing game of Slug or Flower! 

While our somewhat slimy gastropod friend does bear some resemblance to a pitcher plant, he is definitely a member of the kingdom Animalia.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spring peepers are usually very easy hear, but not so easy to see -they're small and nocturnal. So imagine their surprise when Dani and Katrina stumbled across this little guy while they were monitoring purple loosestrife at Oxbow NWR in Harvard, MA!