Friday, September 18, 2015

Painted Turtle

Though Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) are one of the most commonly sighted turtles in the United States, this does little to diminish their beauty. Sporting some of  the most striking and vibrant coloration of any North American turtle, painters are easily distinguishable and... well... just plain cool. The female in these pictures was found in late May--a time when painted turtles leave the water to lay their eggs on land.

Like most of their reptilian brothers, painted turtles are cold blooded. They can often be found sunning themselves on logs and bog mats throughout the late spring and summer. The infusion of heat that they get from the sun gives them the energy to forage, mate, and swim around quickly enough to make catching one in the water more than a bit challenging.

Females like this one will lay a clutch of anywhere from 2-20 eggs, and in some especially productive years, a second clutch in late July or early August. In such cases, baby painted turtles have been known to over-winter in their nests if they're born too late in the season. When they do emerge, hatchlings are basically carnivorous. As they mature into adults, however, painted turtles fill much more of their diet with vegetation and berries.

Fun Fact: While there are several ways to easily distinguish adult male from female painted turtles, their offspring actually start out with no gender. Yup, you read that right. Unlike humans, which are born with sex chromosomes passed down from their parents, painted turtles are born with no sex dictating chromosomes. Instead, the temperature the eggs are incubating at will dictate whether the turtle embryo will become male or female.

Photographs taken May 2015 - Argyle, NY

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wood Duck Chicks

Stumbling across these Wood Duck chicks (Aix sponsa) was a stroke of sheer luck. I caught a glimpse of one duckling rustling around in the meadow grass while on a short hike with some friends, and couldn't resist stopping to watch them parade around. Since their mother was nowhere to be seen, we didn't want to disturb these little guys too much. But luckily I was able to get a shot of them marching about in a row before leaving them to their business!

Unlike many other species of ducks, wood ducks have highly developed toes and claws that allow them to perch in trees. Breeding pairs typically make nests in cavities high up in trees, where females lay anywhere from 6 to 40 eggs (averages around 15). While they prefer spots closer to water, these avians are true 'ducks of the forest', and have been known to nest as far as a mile from any water sources. 

Chicks like those pictured above are born with feathers. Shortly after birth, they jump from the heights of the nest down to the forest floor, then proceed to migrate to the nearest pond, lake, or swamp, where they are raised by their mother into adolescence. Young woodies have a diet that consists mainly of insects and small fish.

Fun Fact: With their vibrant green plumage and colorful accents, adult male wood ducks are widely regarded as one of the most beautiful ducks in North America. Their colorful display only lasts during mating season, however. During the remainder of the year, the male duck grows a new, more muted set of gray, blue, and white feathers. Females keep the same set of grayish-brown feathers year-round, and can be identified by the ring of white that encircles their eyes.

*Conservation Alert*: Due to the fact that wood ducks nest in trees, they've had more success than any other duck at adapting to man-made conservation "nest boxes". Building a nest box is a relatively simple process, and can help wood ducks cope with deforestation. For instructions on how to build one in your own back yard, check out the tutorials here or here.


Photographs taken May 2015 - Argyle, NY


What ho... looks like the first bits of spring are in the air! We're now a bit past those first bits, but back when I took this one the land had just begun to awaken from a very harsh winter. I caught a glimpse of this chipmunk peeking out of its hiding spot in a tree on one of the first warmer days of the season. When I first approached he ran back down into a hollow, but as I kept getting closer without actually threatening him in any way, he eventually became a bit bolder and came out to see what was up.

While chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are often seen in trees like this one, they're actually mostly burrowing animals. The typical chipmunk burrow has a main tunnel that extends 20 to 30 feet in length and branches out into a nesting chamber, one or two food storage chambers, various side pockets connecting to the main tunnel, and separate escape tunnels. They are territorial, and despite the fact that their range extends a 1/4 to a 1/2 acre, they usually stay within fifty feet of their burrow entrance to defend it. Judging by the semi-filled food pouches visible in the picture above, I must have caught this one when he was out running errands.

Fun Fact: In order to make their burrows less conspicuous, chipmunks carry all the dirt from their digging efforts away in their cheek pouches and sprinkle it far from the entrance to their den.

Behind the Scenes: This chipmunk displayed a ton of character while I was photographing him. As much fun as it can be to shoot pictures of amphibians and reptiles, there's something incredibly cool about photographing an animal that acts just as curious about what you're doing as you are of it.


Photograph taken April 2015 - Argyle, NY

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Green Frogs

The more I take pictures of animals, the more I'm learning that a huge part of wildlife photography involves embracing the unexpected. There's a local park near my apartment where my girlfriend and I have happened upon a lot of amazing animals, including a pair of ducks that likes to swim regularly in the same pond. In a pretty typical noobie photographer move, one afternoon I decided to go down with a camera to see if I could photograph the pair. While I had no luck with the ducks, it wasn't long before I noticed some other residents around the pond who were looking pretty photogenic.

Green Frogs (Rana clamitans) are one of the most common species of frog in the northeastern United States. They can often be seen hanging out around ponds, streams, swamps, and lakes. Their most distinguishing characteristic is two dorsolateral ridges that extend from just behind the eardrum to about two-thirds of the way down their back. Despite the name, these frogs can be found in various colors like green, brown, bronze, yellowish-green, and even blue.

Green frogs are able to produce as many as six different vocalizations during mating season, including the signature "banjo twang" made by males. When startled, they usually make for the nearest water, where they'll hide along the bottom beneath whatever muck they can find. Green Frogs tend to be a little less skittish than their larger cousins the American Bullfrog, and will very often pop back up to the surface a few minutes later to check out what's going on.

Fun Fact: As with many other species of frogs, there are several visible differences between male and female green frogs. One of the easiest indicators is the frog's tympanum, or eardrum. Males have a larger ear than females. You can also usually tell from the coloration on the underside of the frog's chin. The chin of males is a yellow hue, while females have a white coloration. Can you tell which is which below?


Photo taken May 2015 - Yorktown Heights, NY

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wood Frog

Hello and welcome to my nature photography blog: Wild Earth Photos! Taking pictures of animals and nature is something that I've always enjoyed, and as the summer season hits, I'm starting to find myself taking more and more pictures of the outdoors. This blog is a space for me to share some of those photos as I learn more about photography. Thanks for checking it out!

This little Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) was photographed in upstate New York on a cloudy May day. Wood Frogs have always been one of my favorite New York frogs because of their cool mask-like coloration. Normally they're pretty hard to find due to how good their camouflage is and their wandering nature, but this one gave herself away by jumping when I walked nearby. After a bit of hopping she finally settled down and agreed to pose for some pictures. Considering how close I got to take this one, I'd say she was pretty cooperative.

Fun Fact: Wood Frogs have one of the earliest mating seasons of any North American frogs, and are the only frog found north of the arctic circle.


Photograph taken May 2015 - Argyle, NY