Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bedeviled Bullfrog

On a hot July evening, I thought that I heard a faint cry coming from the pond. It sounded like it was saying "Ow...Ow...Ow" in a small voice. 

I ran over and visually scanned the pond area, but I couldn't determine where the sound was actually coming from. I hurriedly grabbed my camera gear and zoomed in on a small, distant Bullfrog that was sitting in front of a hole in the high clay wall of the pond. 

As I looked on in amazement, a larger Bullfrog crawled out of the water, leaped up the bank, attempted to grab the smaller frog, then tumbled back into the water. The large frog did this several times, as my camera shutter snapped. I assumed that they were simply feuding over territory, but I couldn't have been more wrong. 

When I was able to see what was actually going on, the small frog had been swallowed nearly up to his neck, by a Water Snake that was hiding deep within the hole. The adult Bullfrog had apparently been trying to rescue the smaller one from the snake's deadly jaws. 

As I realized the severity of the situation, I gasped and quickly searched the area for a weapon. I angrily armed myself with a long stick and ran to the back ledge of the pond, above the area where the frog was being attacked. I hung precariously over the edge of the pond and furiously poked the snake with the stick until it regurgitated the frog, in order to escape my wrath. The small, thinly-stretched frog let out a loud squeak, tumbled down the pond bank and rolled into the water with a welcomed splash. 

The large Bullfrog peered up at me, in apparent appreciation, then turned and belly-flopped into the relative safety of the water. I wished the frogs well and went on my way.

Bullfrog being eaten by a Water Snake


My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Big Bad Beetle

On a recent morning, I walked the dog in the back yard for a while, then returned to the house, using the rear steps. As soon as I opened the back door, the dog dashed inside. When I started to walk into the house, a small voice said, "Go look by the side steps". Because of past experiences, I didn't hesitate. I quickly closed the door and headed down the side steps, toward the yard light, wondering what was in store for me, now. 

I soon spotted a big beetle, furiously flailing on its back, with a column of Fire Ants marching nearby. I picked up a stick, for the beetle to grab onto, and lifted him out of the sand and away from the ravenous ants. He crawled up the stick and onto my left hand, where he desperately clung to my finger. His sharp little claws dug into my skin, as he fastened himself to me. I excitedly chirped, "Ouch, Ouch, Ouch", as I hastily headed for a shady spot, to examine him more closely. 

He was big and olive-yellow in color, with brown spots on his back and shiny black horns on his head. It was the elusive male Eastern Hercules Beetle, that I had been hoping to photograph, for nearly a year. Last August, I had rescued and released a female Eastern Hercules Beetle. She had knocked herself out by flying into a wooden fence in the back yard. I had been searching for a horned male since I realized how beautiful their species was.

I took him inside the house, thinking that he could better recover from his overnight ordeal, away from the scorching sun. I walked into my bedroom, wondering what I could do to make him more comfortable. As I silently sat on my bed, he calmed down and loosened his gator grip on my finger. Then he slowly crawled off of my hand, and onto my pillow, where he promptly went to sleep.

While he rested, I did some more online research on his species. Every few minutes, I would look over my shoulder, to make sure that he didn't disappear on me. I could imagine the surprise of rolling over on a big bad beetle, lost in the sheets, in the middle of the night.

Over an hour later, when I looked back for the millionth time, he was nowhere to be seen. Horrified, I jumped up and ran over to the bed. I was relieved to see him lazily crawling to the back side of the pillow.

I decided that it was a good time to take him back outside, for some photographs under a shade tree. He wouldn't stay still for long, but I got a few good shots of him, before taking him back inside. This time, to be on the safe side, I placed him in a large plastic container, with plenty of holes in the lid. I poured a little bit of maple syrup in one corner, for him to feast on. In the wild, they feed on tree sap, but I didn't have any of that to offer him. 

After a while, I heard him scratching and moving around in the container. When I checked on him, I saw that he was face down in the corner, lapping up the maple syrup. Like a cheerful child playing in mud, he had it all over his legs and face. I picked him up, to make sure that he wasn't going to drown, but he appeared to be having a syrup sipping good time. To make the container a bit more homey, I added a large piece of bark, for him to rest on. He seemed to like the new crib.

I attempted to release the male Eastern Hercules Beetle late last night, near the yard light. I took him out of the container and, when my finger was finally liberated from his death grip, put him on the ground. After over two hours, he still hadn't gone anywhere, so I returned him to his freshly-cleaned container for another stay in the house. I added a small piece of ripe banana and poured some more maple syrup in a ranch dressing bottle cap for him. He quickly went face-first into the banana slice, and was later seen sleeping on top of it. I guess that he must enjoy bananas as much as I do, although I can't recall ever sleeping on one. He totally ignored the syrup, when offered the banana option. I think that I will nickname him "Nanner Man", since he is so fond of them.

Fortunately, that afforded me another photo opportunity with him, after the sun came up the following day. Many hours later, when I first woke him up, he was lethargic and ornery, like he didn't want to be bothered. I gently rinsed the banana residue off of him with some warm water, to which he vehemently objected. When I took him outside, he flinched at the intensity of the sunlight, but once we got under a shady oak tree, he mellowed out. He crawled onto my left thumb, cinched himself to my skin, and posed for several close-up photographs. He soon became disinterested, though, and detached himself from my thumb. He then proceeded to climb up my arm, painfully poking me the whole way. I decided that it was time to take him back inside, before he tenderized my neck.

Male Eastern Hercules Beetle

My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Marvelous Mud Turtle

As I was returning home, the other evening, I noticed a small Eastern Mud Turtle attempting to cross the lane. I stopped the car, picked the turtle up, and took him inside the house. I placed him in a large plastic uncovered container, along with some water and Turtle Food, for the night. 

This was the first turtle of that species that I had ever seen. They are listed as "Endangered" in some states. 

The following day, I took the turtle back outside, to photograph him in the sunlight. After seeing how he extended his neck so drastically, when handled, I nicknamed him "Stretch". 

God really blesses me with a lot of cool critters to photograph. 
This is a shot of the Mud Turtle in my hand, with his neck only one third extended. 
Unfortunately, it proved impossible for me to get a clear photo when he fully stretched his neck out, and swung his head from side to side. Every shot was out of focus.

I released the little nocturnal turtle into the pond late last night. He swiftly kicked with both back legs and immediately swam away. I looked on sadly as his small, dark shell vanished below the murky surface. Several minutes passed, while I sat quietly with my bare feet on the lower ledge of the pond. Surprisingly, the turtle reappeared and crawled back up to me. He acted as if he didn't actually want to leave. I was elated, but deep inside I knew that he really belonged in the wild. I sat on the bank and talked to him for a while, then about an hour later, he finally went on his way. 

Take care, Stretch.


Eastern Mud Turtle


My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Swelling Suwannee

Recent torrential rains have caused the Suwannee River to overflow its banks, but it still provides many great Wildlife viewing opportunities.

It is a bit harder to find convenient parking now, because the best parking spaces are under four to five feet of swiftly-flowing water. I recently managed to snap a comical photograph of an American Alligator swimming past a Handicapped Parking sign, that was neck deep in the drink.

If hiking, extra diligence is necessary, to avoid walking in grassy areas, where snakes and other critters seek refuge from the ever-rising water. I happened upon several different types of Water Snakes during my trek. After the impromptu photo ops, they went their way and I went mine.

I noticed that the Alligators and Wading Birds were coming even closer to shore. I photographed a Snowy Egret that was wading dangerously close to an American Alligator, while enjoying the abundance of small fishFortunately for the Egret, the Alligator was content to simply watch, as the bird furiously darted back and forth, catching its fill of fish.

Sometimes, inclement weather conditions can actually enhance the Wildlife viewing experience, but we always need to be wary of new dangers that might present themselves at any time.


American Alligator

Banded Water Snake

American Alligator and Snowy Egret


My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Springtime Spectacle

It is such a wonderful feeling, each year, whenever I spot the first Dragonflies patrolling the pond, and look closer to find hundreds of tiny eggs hidden in the shallows. 

The Giant Moths return to meet a mate beneath the yard lights, and the Toads show up to gorge themselves on the many late-night treats. 

At the waters edge, a choir of Frogs are singing praises to God for the much-needed rain, while the Bats are feasting on an abundance of Mosquitoes and Gnats. 

The first Songbirds begin showing off their vocal talents before the sun even breaches the horizon, while enjoying a breakfast of last night's leftovers.

Beautiful Butterflies and Bees are dashing to and fro, busily extracting nectar from the bounty of new blooms. 

In the Swamps, pollen-covered baby Alligators are desperately calling for Mama, as numerous Wading Birds squawk in their treetop nests.

Yes, the much-anticipated SPRING is finally here.
It provides a renewed sense of hope for the future, of both Human and Nature.


Male Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly

American Alligator Family

Tricolored Heron

Osprey


My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Splendid Suwannee

On a recent visit to the Suwannee River, I was elated to find an extensive variety of wildlife to view and photograph. 

I first saw a colorful Red-Shouldered Hawk standing near the edge of the water. Surprisingly, it allowed me to approach close enough to get some detailed shots, before it took flight, high in the baby blue sky. 

I later happened upon a large American Alligator basking on the river bank, with a recent kill in the water nearby. It looked at me as if it thought that I might try to steal it's leftovers. After excitedly snapping some great photographs, I continued on.

While intently watching seven Alligators gathering at a sharp bend in the river, I observed a Wood Stork flying over my head. I hurriedly followed it, until it landed in the top of a towering Cypress Tree. It perched and posed for several minutes, for me to get some great shots.

A short time later, a gorgeous Great Blue Heron perched in a nearby tree, with limbs draped in Spanish Moss. What a photograph that made.

As the sun settled in the swamp, I counted my many blessings and thanked God for all of the beautiful creatures that He created, and generously allows me to photograph. What a day.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

American Alligator

Wood Stork

Great Blue Heron


My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/