Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia)






Likely one of the most recognizable spiders in North America, the Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) is a familiar inhabitant around houses, buildings and field edges. Its large size and strikingly patterned abdomen is unmistakable. Females, like the one above, can grow to 28mm, more than three times the size of the male. Also, their habit of creating a thick zigzag design of silk in the center of the web is a distinct characteristic of this species. These web decorations are known as stabilimenta. There are several theories of the purpose behind this type of behavior. Some of these include camouflage, prey attraction and predator defense. This spider's venom is not harmful to humans and bites are rare. If the spider is harassed or grabbed it may defend itself by biting intruders. As long as the spider is left alone it poses no threat and can be easily observed from a safe distance. Appreciate the opportunity to study such an interesting creature, in many cases, very close to home.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Mating Walkingsticks

This was a nice surprise in our yard, today. This is a pair of mating walkingsticks (Anisomorpha).
I've always been fascinated with this family of insects, as they are very unique in shape. The females are much larger that the males as can be seen in the photo below. This appears to be one of the "two-lined" species that can be found in north Georgia, and no doubt much of the southeast United States. Judging by the markings of the female, it appears that this is the Northern Two-lined Walkingstick(Anisomorpha ferrugenea). 


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Carter's Lake Christmas Bird Count Summary - January 2, 2015

The eighth annual Carter's Lake Christmas Bird Count was conducted on Friday, January   
2nd, 2015.  This year was a wet one! Our efforts were greatly impacted by the amount of 
precipitation that fell on count-day. As a result, there were many below average totals this 
year, as well as a few low counts established. Still, the overall numbers reported are
impressive for such dismal surveying weather. This is a direct result of dedicated observers.


The counters did an excellent job covering their section routes. There was a total of ninety-
two species recorded on count-day.  


Count-day teams were as follows:

Team 1 - Carter's Lake Section - Bill Lotz, Teresa Francis, Sandy Pangle, Jess Searcy 

Team 2 - Pine Chapel Section - Dan Vickers, Pierre Howard

Team 3 - Coosawattee WMA Section- Allan Muise, Charlie Muise, Tracey Muise

Team 4 - Fite Bend Section - Rebecca Byrd, Jason Baumgardner, Angie Jenkins, Mark
McShane, Max Medley, Nick Sackas

Team 5 - Salacoa Section - Ann Stewart, Stephen Stewart, Richard White

Team 6 - Dews Pond Section - Chris Lambrecht, Bob Babcock

Team 7 - Ranger Section - Jim Greenway, Dawn Greenway

Team 8 - Fox Bridge Marsh Section - Joshua Spence, Derrick Ingle, Duncan Beard

Team 9 - New Echota Section - Johnnie Greene, Jo Ann King, Larry Stephens 

Team 10 -  Nicklesville Section -  Joel McNeal, Nikki Belmonte


Team 11 - Early Owling Effort(12:45-6:00 am) - Joshua Spence



species accounts:



CANADA GOOSE numbers were below average with 296 reported.*

WOOD DUCKS were observed in high numbers this year, but were scarce throughout most of the circle. 103 in all. Team 8 observed the majority of these at wetlands within the Conasauga River floodplains. *

GADWALL, one of our annual ducks on the count, were observed in below average numbers.  A total of 47 individuals were reported this year. *

Two AMERICAN WIGEONS were observed by Team 8. This is the fourth time that this species has been observed on the count.

The 56 MALLARDS were below average.*

Team 2 found the only NORTHERN SHOVELERS for the day. Three in all.

Team 8 observed three BLUE-WINGED TEAL, which established a new high count for this duck.

The RING-NECKED DUCK numbers were terribly low, only 7 observed this year.*

HOODED MERGANSERS were few and far between. Only three were reported by Team 6! This is the lowest showing for this species since the count's beginning.*

The 13 WILD TURKEY counted this year is below average for that species. Team 8.*

Team 9 observed nine NORTHERN BOBWHITE in the Coosawattee WMA. This is only the third time that this species has been observed on the count.

Team 1 observed a RED-THROATED LOON at the Carter's reregulation pool. This is the first time that this species has been observed on the count and one of only a handful of records from northwest GA!  

PIED-BILLED GREBES were found in below average numbers, at 5 individuals. Team 1 reported all of these.*

Team 1 also observed the only HORNED GREBE for the count at Carter's Lake.

GREAT BLUE HERONS were observed in good numbers this year, though the total of 23 is slightly below average for this circle. *

The 31 BLACK VULTURES established a new low count for this species. Team 2 observed the majority of these.*

TURKEY VULTURES were found in decent numbers this go-around, 223 in all.  A roost of at least 111 of these was observed by Team 5.*

Only four NORTHERN HARRIERS this year, all of which were observed at the Fite Bend fields. Team 4.*

Team 6 observed the only SHARP-SHINNED HAWK for the day.

Two COOPER'S HAWKS were reported this year. This tied the low count for this bird.*

This is the first year that RED-SHOULDERED HAWK(28)* outnumbered RED-TAILED HAWK(22).* This established a low count for the latter.

Team 8 heard a single VIRGINIA RAIL at the usual site, the Fox Bridge marsh.

SANDHILL CRANES were MIAthis year's four was quite a surprise. This does indeed establish a new low-count for this species.*

This circle typically produces some high numbers for KILLDEER, so this year's low count of 62 was unexpected! *

A combined count of 14 AMERICAN WOODCOCKS were reported from five sections. This is slightly above average.*

The 105 ROCK PIGEONS were below average numbers for this count. Most were observed at the Fite Bend silos by team 4.*

Only a single EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE was observed, and this by Team 10. This is a below-average count for this species. 

After a few years of below average numbers for MOURNING DOVES, they showed up in record number this time! 358 is a great showing for the circle's only native dove. *

Two BARN OWLs, one heard and one seen by Team 11. This tied our high count for the circle.

EASTERN SCREECH OWLS were found in high numbers. Ten in all. *

Two GREAT HORNED OWLS were reported this year. Team 1 & Team 11.

Five BARRED OWLS were observed this year. 

A low count for BELTED KINGFISHERS. Only six in all. *

A total of 18 RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were reported from five teams. This is above average. Team 2 reported the majority of these. *

This year's count of 69 RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS was extremely low.* 

An average count of 27 YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS were reported this year.*

33 DOWNY WOODPECKERS were observed this year, and this did indeed establish a new low count for this common bird.*

Six HAIRY WOODPECKERS were counted.*

NORTHERN FLICKERS were just slightly above average with 65 being reported.* 

PILEATED WOODPECKERS came in at 12, which is low. *

Team 2 had the pleasure of observing a PEREGRINE FALCON take a Brown-headed Cowbird from a flock! This is the first time that this species has been reported on this count.

This year's 15 AMERICAN KESTRELS  established the circle's low-count! *

EASTERN PHOEBES were observed in below average numbers this year, 37 in all.*

One LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE was observed in the circle, and as usual it was observed by Team 2 at the Pine Chapel pastures. *

This year's reported number of 248 BLUE JAYS, was slightly above the average. *

AMERICAN CROWS were reported in low numbers. Only 414 tallied this time. *

Both CAROLINA CHICKADEE(127)* and TUFTED TITMICE(98)* were both reported in  below average numbers.*

Team 7 found our only RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH of the day.

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH(13) and the BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCH(40) numbers established new low counts.*

Four BROWN CREEPERS were recorded this year. *

Our regular wintering wrens were about average with this year's numbers. HOUSE WREN(5), WINTER WREN(12)* and CAROLINA WREN(162)*

Kinglet numbers were basically the same as most everything else.....below average. GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET(77) RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS(85).*

This count has produced high numbers of EASTERN BLUEBIRDS in the past, but this species was grossly misrepresented this time around. 114 in all. This does establish a low count for this beautiful bird.*

29 HERMIT THRUSHES were reported this year.*

AMERICAN ROBINS were in good numbers throughout most of the circle. 1130 were reported.*

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRDS(101) were found in just slightly below average numbers.*

28 BROWN THRASHERS were reported.*

3,524 EUROPEAN STARLINGS were reported.*

Team 4 observed the majority of the day's AMERICAN PIPITS at the Fite Bend fieldsThe count's total of 36 is below the count's average*

CEDAR WAXWINGS came in with a total of 943 which is above average.*

Only two PALM WARBLERS were reported. *

The 18 PINE WARBLERS reported is slightly below average.*

The YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER total this year was below average, 50 in all.*

Eleven species of Emberizidae were observed on the count. 

EASTERN TOWHEES were reported in good numbers, 158 in all. Well above average.*

The 310 CHIPPING SPARROWS is a decent showing, though still below average. 

FIELD SPARROWS were found in lower numbers this year, 138 in all. *

Only five VESPER SPARROWS were tallied for the count. This is the fifth year in a row that this species has failed to reach double-digits. Team 4 and Team 6 shared these.*

The SAVANNAH SPARROW number was barely above average, coming in at 185 individuals. *

A total of 61 FOX SPARROWS were found on this year's count! This totally shattered the former high count of 36 that was established during the first year. Almost all of these were observed in the Coosawattee WMA by Team 3. *

SONG SPARROW(336) SWAMP SPARROW(116) were slightly below average this year. *

WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS(481) were in good supply this time, but not enough to beat the circle's high of 508.*  

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS came in at 60 this year, which is the second highest tally for this species. Team 4 observed most of these. *

DARK-EYED JUNCO numbers were above average at 135. The majority being observed by Team 1.

A total of 364 NORTHERN CARDINALS were counted this year.*

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS, only 728. Below average.*

EASTERN MEADOWLARK(107) numbers were below average.*

COMMON GRACKLES were also below average (928). *

BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS can often be absent on this count. This year's 444 easily established a new high for the circle. Most of these were found by Team 4. 

An average number of 21 HOUSE FINCHES were reported.*

PINE SISKIN established a new high count for the circle with 82. This is no surprise considering that it is an irruption year for this northern finch.

AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES were in slightly higher numbers with 197 being reported in all. * 

49 HOUSE SPARROWS were counted, which consequently established a new high count.*



There was a good effort to supplement our results by scouting and follow-up teams this
year. In fact, twelve species were reported during count-week. Count-week is defined as 
three days prior and three days after the actual count day. During these six days, 
species that were not observed on count day can be reported to the NAS as present 
within the circle. Species reported:

Snow Goose
American Black Duck
Redhead
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Common Loon
American Coot
Wilson's Snipe
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Fish Crow
Horned Lark
 
The Carter's Lake CBC is located in the ridge & valley province of northwest GA. The fifteen mile diameter circle covers portions of southern Murray County and northeastern Gordon County.

The Christmas Bird Count is a winter bird survey that stands as the longest running wildlife census. It is conducted by volunteers. The National Audubon Society has promoted the census for decades. The society and others use the data to determine the health of wild bird populations.


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