Tuesday, July 31, 2007

AOU Checklist Supplement

I don't even have time to read it, as I'm extremely busy this week preparing for the AOU conference and for my 3-week long megatrip (more on that before I leave), but here is the 48th Supplement to the AOU Checklist of North American Birds. Perhaps I will have time to comment on it before school begins, perhaps the next checklist will be out before I have some free time.

Cornell student takes conference award

The grad student I am working closely with, Andrea Townsend, won the Outstanding Student Presentation Award at the Association of Field Ornithologists conference last week. She presented "A test of the genetic benefits hypothesis for extra-pair paternity in the American Crow" with Anne Clark, Kevin McGowan, and Irby Lovette as coauthors. Big congrats to Andrea!

An aside: be sure to check the very amusing guide to speaking Mainah on the AFO conference website.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

My first hatchling!!!

Today I woke early for some birding, went over to check on all my incubating eggs, and this little guy was staring back at me! My first Crested Gecko hatchling!!!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Herp Education Program

I met the most amazing frog today, but had to give it back. Meet the Vietnamese Mossy Frog, Theloderma corticale:

A friend was gracious enough to let me borrow one of her Theloderma corticale for an education program with our Cornell Herpetological Society. Here are some pics from that fun event:

Gaia the Turtle. The event was her Hatchday Celebration commemorating her 'hatching' one year ago. Modeled after one of our member's former pet snappers. Notice her wizard captain.

Gaia's mean stepcousin?

If I let them chomp on me enough, I can put my Flying Geckos into a trance and show them to kids:

Mike grabs a snake...

... and starts educating.

More mossy frog fun:

Ritt's Macklot's Python makes a break for it..

A happy group:

Our "herp list" for the show:

Gray Treefrog
N. Leopard Frog
Vietnamese Mossy Frog
African "Pyxie" Bullfrog
Horned "Pacman" Frog (normal and albino)

Spotted Salamander

Common Snapping Turtle
Eastern Spiny Softshell

Leopard Gecko
Crested Gecko
Flying Gecko

Mexican Pine Snake
Tricolor Hognose
Western Hognose
Macklot's Python
Spotted Python

and tons of little kids.

Quite an impressive list, even for one of our big events... I wish we could find all that field herping

A Trip Home

The weekend of July 14th, I took a trip home for my Tuscarora Nation's 162nd National Field Day... better known as the Indian Picnic. Being that I spend pretty much all my time at school now, even staying to work and do research over breaks (such as now), this is one of my treasured times to get home and see family and friends. I of course also had a hidden motive: getting out to see some rare herps. I took my little sister herping with me (she was begging to go look for snakes all weekend) and we went scouting for Queen Snakes (Regina septemvittata), one of the two most endangered snakes in NY at an old locality near Buffalo.

My first find was a nice young Milk Snake in my Grandma's backyard:

Unfortunately my sister missed this beauty. We headed on down to the creek, where Missy spent time netting minnows and looking for crayfish, which the Queen Snake is a specialized predator of. We checked various spots along the creek, and it looked like pretty decent habitat, but we found no Queens. In fact we found very few herps.

We did find a nice Odonate and a nice Lep:

Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)

A butterfly, a Hairstreak species? I don't have a butterfly guide.

Missy did net a Dusky Salamander:

Our coolest herp find of the day was a nice big N. Watersnake that launched off the bank and swam across the creek:

Back on the Rez, I was surprised to find a Yellow-billed Cuckoo calling at close range across from my Grandma's. Cuckoos were a long-time nemesis species for me, and I enjoy every look I can manage. Here's some photos:

And a video of it calling:

This year at the Picnic, I missed the Smoke Dance competition, as I was off watching the new Harry Potter movie. However, I would not want to post without some videos of this awesome event, so here are a few (poor!) videos from the Picnic two years ago:


Young Men's


Young Women's


Also at the picnic, after closing ceremonies, is an unofficial game of Fireball. Fireball consists of two teams, Young Men and Old Men. It's not an age category, but defined by whether you have kids or not. The game consists of getting a ball through opposite team's goal. There are no real rules, you can kick, carry, and throw the ball. The only catch is: the ball and the goal posts are on fire. You play until the ball burns out.

Friday's Fireball game was excellent, lasting a good ten minutes at least. For Saturday's, I came prepared with my camera, all set to tape. Unfortunately it was raining all day, and the wet field and a pile-up contributed to a smothered ball not 10 seconds into the game! So no video this year. However, here is another poor video from two years ago and some photos to give you an idea what this is like:

Enjoying Fireball in the rain

My Psychopsis in bloom

Butterfly Orchid, Psychopsis papilio

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Here they come!

It really is the doldrums of summer (even if it's been unseasonably cool for a few days). Herping this past weekend in some prime habitat on the local hilltops, I heard maybe ten birds in two hours. When a single goldfinch flew over calling per-chick-o-ree, I started, because it made me realize how silent the woods were.

Don't let this news keep you down, however. The last straggling migrants passed through just a few weeks ago, yet here come the southbound shorebirds! From cayugabirds-l and geneseebirds-l:

Subject: Shorebirds in Region 5
Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2007 23:18:42 EDT

An increase in shorebird numbers and diversity is being noted in Region 5.

Tony Shrimpton and I made a late-day trip to Delta Lake. New (and more) birds from Sunday were noted.


1 unidentified accipiter, packing a lunch, a peep I'm guessing
1 BALD EAGLE (adult)

The White-rump, looking like the same bird as Sunday, is early (7/22 date is possibly record-early based on what I've been able to find for Region 5). Somewhat better looks were had today and it does seem to be a White-rump.

Most of the birds are distant, but there's a ton of habitat for phalaropes and other goodies.

---David Wheeler

Kingsnake attacks hummingbird nest

I found this Fieldherpforum thread describing a Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana) eating a Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) nest with pictures here.

Really cool sighting. There is a little unsettling bit involving human bones.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Local herping

No new lifers this time around, but a fun trip. Amanda, Ritt, Mike and I hit two local spots that we visited earlier in the summer, hoping to see more Coal Skinks and Green Snakes. We didn't (well, we didn't catch any I should say).

We pull out some beautiful redbellies pretty fast:

We didn't pull a whole lot more out of that site, so we headed back down:

We scoured a field at the base of that hill for some snakes and blueberries:

I was able to chase down two flutterbys (a third, a big unidentified fritillary, got away):

Common Wood-Nymph
Pearly Crescent

Next we checked a small pond in the area.

Mike bent down in the grass, searching. Suddenly he let out a big whoop, and pulled up this beauty:


She's the biggest Nerodia sipedon (Northern Watersnake) I've ever seen, a great big gravid female. She was pretty calm after giving Mike a nip.

Mike counted 40-some small punctures from all four upper jaw teeth rows. The big girl almost looks proud. I know Mike is:

We picked up a few unidentified Rana. Amanda claimed oddly colored and patterned Pickerel Frogs, I can't help but wonder why the odd color and pattern matches Leopard Frogs

Here's a real Pickerel we caught later:

To top off our first spot, we flipped some rocks along a little creek for sallies. Nothing out of the ordinary. Amanda flipped big Wolf Spider guarding her egg sac:

We moved on to a second spot to try unsuccessfully for Coal Skinks and Green Snakes. We flipped this:

to find the sharpest-patterned Brown Snake I've ever seen:

In a bark pile we were digging in for skinks, I pulled out the remains of a Tiger Moth that I think was chewed up by the ants in the pile:

A few more miscellaneous shots. Another redbelly:

A Redback with a regenerating tail:

A large Redback:

A Redback nest:

And finally the belly red of a red belly: