Thursday, April 29, 2021

Deer in the Toad Pool


These two small pools were constructed in an attempt to encourage toad production at Blue Jay Barrens.  The pool in the foreground is in its eighth year and the one behind was constructed five years ago.  Utilization of the pools by breeding Eastern Toads has increased each year.  Thousands of small toads have morphed from these pools to inhabit the surrounding area.  The temporary pools lose their water by midsummer and remain dry for several months.  Aquatic predators that would feast on the small tadpoles do not become established.  Click HERE for more on pool construction.

A multitude of other wildlife species regularly visit these pools.  Indentations in the pool bottom are made by Whitetail Deer that come to drink.

Heavy rains don’t cause the pool water to become cloudy with sediment, so what makes the water occasionally look like this.  Even when the weather has been rain free for several days, the water can suddenly take on the appearance of creamed coffee.  In an effort to discover what was happening, I installed a motion activated wildlife camera set to observe both pools.

I discovered that deer visits were the cause of the muddy water.

This compilation video shows the deer in action.  I don’t know how to explain their behavior.  This doesn’t happen every day, but it’s not uncommon to see it occur several times each month.

Other than developing a coating of silt on the egg strings, the toad eggs are relatively unaffected by the erratic deer activity.

The eggs have hatched and toadpoles are developing normally.  I’m expecting another successful influx of young toads into the local population.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Harvester Ants

In late October I came across an industrious group of Harvester Ants.  These ants of the genus Pheidole exhibit dimorphism, having two different sizes of workers; a smaller size dedicated to food gathering and general nest chores along with a larger version that uses its extremely large head in defense of the colony. They are primarily seed gatherers and were busy moving spent flowers into their nest.  I assume there were some edible seeds included with the flowers.

The ants had located their nest in a shallow mound of bare soil.  The plants in the upper right of the photo are Draba cuneifolia, a rare winter annual.  I’ll be checking this plant population later in the year, so I’ll take some time then to see if I can identify these ants to species.


As usual, I was behind on the amount of work I had hoped to accomplish for the day, so I only took the time to get a couple of still shots and a short video.  The huge headed individuals seemed to be constantly on the move.  My presence may have disturbed their normal behavior, but I didn’t notice them until I was almost on top of the nest, so I don’t know what they were up to a few seconds earlier.