Showing posts with label Shawnee Nature Center. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shawnee Nature Center. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis)

When I saw this furry little hummingbird lookalike fly up to a milkweed blossom, I at first thought he was a Hummingbird Clearing Moth (Hemaris thysbe), but when he turned sideways, I could see he was wearing a little black mask and black gloves, making him a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffnis)...

A Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis) nectars on Common Milkweed.

The little black mask on his face and the black gloves on his legs give him away as a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis). The other Hummingbird moth, a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe), has no mask and has lighter colored legs. Click here for a previous post on Hemaris thysbe.

While nectaring, hummingbird moths stabilize their hovering by placing their front legs on the blossom.

...such a furry little body! He looks more like a tiny flying mouse than a moth. I'm surprised he doesn't have the nickname Hummingbird Mouse...since "flying mouse" (Die Fledermaus, Bat) is already taken!

Hummingbird moths start with maroon-colored wings, but after their first flight, the scales start to drop off, creating the "clear wings" for which they are named.

This Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth was nectaring at Shawnee State Park just outside the nature center in the butterfly garden.

...the yellow bands on the inside of his abdomen cause some to worry his is a very large bumble bee, but don't worry, the Snowberry Clearwing has no stinger. He just likes to drink nectar...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Green Snake...

Volunteering at Shawnee State Park in Southeastern Ohio
Green Snake is another favorite at the nature center. Overtly friendly and super active, he loved to climb up arms and fingers like he would a tree with tiny branches. Green Snake was graceful and smooth, and definitely the most "cartoonish" in his movements of all the snakes at the nature center. He could glide like butter across a hot pan as he expertly wound himself around fingers, hair, camera straps, and anything else in his way. He would stop and look at you now and then, hovering midair before smoothly and suddenly dipping down to wrap himself around something new.

Green Snake hovers in the air while his tail entwines around this small boy's fingers.

...again, Green Snake seems to defy gravity.

Kids liked the name "Green Snake," but because he was a Green Snake kids would often try to to come up with something unique. Matty and I heard lots of attempts at new names...Mr. Green Jeans, String Bean, Slinky, Snots (gross, I know, but after all, he was green...and little boys were the ones coming up with the ideas...), throughout the entire week nothing new seemed to stick, so Green Snake is still Green Snake.

Green Snakes are native to Ohio, although they are a bit rare. I'd love to stumble across one, and my chances might be going up. I just read an article in the Dayton Daily News that reports 11 Smooth Green Snakes were found on the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Big news considering it's the first time the snakes have been found in our area since 1871! Click here for a a link to the article.

I think Jenny said Green Snake was a Rough Green Snake. They are found in the southern-most parts of Ohio. There's no denying his beauty. Sleek and streamlined, his neon green skin was almost surreal. He was fun to watch and could eat crickets like nobody's business. Within seconds of popping a few in his cage, he would seek out and devour them.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Who can resist an Oreo? (or...oh no, another snake post...)

Volunteering at Shawnee State Park in Southeastern Ohio
...I know, I know...another snake, but look at him! He's Oreo, a California Kingsnake, and he's beautiful. I think Oreo was requested more than any other snake at the nature center. All the kids loved him and wanted to hold him (and the parents too, even moms...). With California in his name, it's obvious Oreo is not native to Ohio, but you can find Black Kingsnakes in Ohio. If you go back to the first Shawnee post I did, you'll find photos of Mr. King, a native Black Kingsnake. Although super friendly and gentle with humans, we had to keep the kingsnakes away from the other snakes because kingsnakes love to eat other snakes, and no snake seemed to be too big for dinner. I'll have to check with Jenny, but I think she said poor Pumpkin (the Corn Snake) had his whole head swallowed by Mr. King. Thank goodness someone was there to pull Pumpkin's head out! Kingsnakes will even eat venomous snakes. Apparently, Kingsnakes are immune to venom from Ohio's three native poisonous snakes (Timber Rattler, Northern Copperhead, and Eastern Massasauga).

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center
It's easy to see how Oreo got his name...

...although he could have been named after a cookie simply because he's so sweet!

...the kingsnake's scales are beautiful. I learned in an art history course I took eons ago that early artists mimicked snake scales and patterns in their art and the designs may have lead to the development of mosaics. I can certainly see the connection here!

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center
Matty shows a small child how to hold a snake using open hands.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center

Matty learned an open-handed technique was a great way to get hesitant kids accustomed to the larger snakes. The kids were less fearful with open hands and soon grew to love the snakes. If you have children who love snakes (or are afraid of them), go to Shawnee and visit with Jenny at the nature center. Kids really respond to her. I saw so many timid children overcome their fears and learn to appreciate another part of nature after visiting with Jenny and all the critters at the nature center.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center

...Oreo hangs down from Matty's neck as he talks to one of the visitors.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center
...Oreo rests around Matty's neck, peeping out from behind.

...see you later, Oreo! We miss you...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Piglet, the Western Hog-nosed Snake

Volunteering at Shawnee State Park in Southeastern Ohio
I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I had never heard of an Eastern or Western Hog-nosed Snake before I came nose to snout with one at Jenny's Nature Center, and if I'm telling the truth, I should also mention that when I first picked little Piglet up, I was a tiny bit...unnerved. That little up-turned snout looked dangerous to me, but within seconds of holding him, I was hooked. He was so gentle and cute...and sweet! After all, how could anything named "Piglet" be scary?

How can I have lived almost 50 years in Ohio and never have heard of or seen this beautiful snake? I knew so little about our native snakes before volunteering at Shawnee State Park. The knowledge I gained was invaluable. Thanks, Jenny!!

Piglet was playing in the rain with Matty when I took these shots. His little Piglet snout looked especially cute sprinkled with raindrops, but it has a function too. He uses it to dig in sandy soils, sweeping his head back and forth.

...beautiful markings, but the pattern scared some of the parents who thought he might be an Eastern Massasauga (poisonous). A lot of people had never heard of a hognose, but soon overcame their fear when they saw how docile and harmless Piglet was.

...the longer you look at this guy the cuter he becomes. It's amazing what a week with these critters can do for you.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center
Piglet rests in Matty's hand.

...all the kids who came into the Nature Center ended up falling for Piglet! Here a little boy gently holds Piglet who gives us a nice profile shot!

Hog-nosed Snakes actually have fangs (or large teeth) in the rear of their mouths, and their saliva is slightly toxic to their prey but harmless to humans. Piglet was so friendly, we didn't get to see the act a hognose puts on when he feels threatened. A hognose will rear up, flatten its head, inflate its body and hiss...and if that doesn't scare his enemy away, he might just flop over and play dead like an opossum. Either way, it would be quite a sight to see...

...for a post on a native Eastern Hognose Snake and his "playing dead" antics, click here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Everyone loves Pumpkin...

Volunteering at Shawnee State Park in Southeastern Ohio
Part of our volunteer work at Shawnee State Park was working at the Nature Center from noon to 3:00. What a wonderful place. Jenny has turned the cozy A-Frame building into Nature Learning Central. She has books, posters, activities, frogs, bugs, bird nests, and snakes! All but two of her snakes are native to Ohio. One that isn't native is Pumpkin, the albino corn snake. Corn snakes are close relatives to Black Rat Snakes, which are native to Ohio, and therefore shares his digs with Steve, the Black Rat Snake (more on that sweety later).

Look at that beautiful red albino eye. If you look closely, you can see his pupil is round. A round pupil lets you know he is not a venomous snake. Venomous Snakes, such as the Timber Rattlesnake, Northern Copperhead, or Eastern Massasauga, have elliptical pupils. That's the sort of helpful information you learn when you visit Jenny's snakes!

...before working with Jenny at the nature center I wasn't a particularly "snakey" kind of girl, but after learning about all of our native snakes and handling all the sweeties at the nature center, I think I actually might fall into the "snakey" category now. I had no idea going into the week how much I would learn to love and appreciate snakes, and how much I would learn about them.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center. Matt and other volunteers take the snakes out to play in the rain.
Anna, Kayla and Matty and I each took a snake out to play in the rain. The snakes love feeling the rain falling on them as much as we did. It was hot out, and the rain felt great. Pumpkin was content to rest on Matty's shoulders.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center
...sometimes Pumpkin would just curl up and go to sleep in your arms. Here he's resting around Matty's neck, curled in around his shirt.

Matthew Riccetti at the Shawnee State Park Nature Center
Pumpkin is a corn snake, and corn snakes are constrictors, but they eat rodents and lizards and other small things, so we didn't have to worry about him trying to constrict around our necks. If you look in the background, you can see posters of birds and butterflies. Jenny's walls are covered with information on the natural world. Kids love it there!