Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

To celebrate the holiday, I'm sharing this nice turkey I caught (just on camera, of course).

A wild turkey, making a hasty retreat.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The birds in blue

While taking a walk in the small woodland near my apartment, I found that my sensitization to crow alarm calls this summer had carried over to one of their relatives: the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata).  I followed the jeering calls of several blue jays until I located the hawk at the center of the commotion.

The hawk that had agitated the blue jays.
With the mystery of what was upsetting the blue jays solved, I decided to record the blue jay's alarm calls.  Thus, I fortuitously switched to video mode just in time to catch the startling climax of the confrontation between the blue jays and the hawk.

* To see this video in high definition (1080p), you may need to: 
(1) click "YouTube" to watch on the YouTube website
(2) change the settings at the bottom of the video screen

After successfully chasing off the hawk, the blue jays quieted down and I continued on a more peaceful walk.

Explore some more: Blue Jay (All About Birds)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Falling back, part three

The encounter that I observed between the black-and-yellow argiope and the wasp ended peacefully.  However, when I went to check on the spider a few days later, there was evidence that it had gone through a more violent confrontation in the interim.  Can you find what is missing in the picture below?

What is missing?
Either another predator targeted the spider or one of the spider's prey put up a fierce fight -- because the spider was down to seven legs.

Explore some more: Spiders Evolved Spare Legs

Monday, November 10, 2014

Falling back, part two

Although the wasp kept its distance, other insects were more willing to get close to the spider in order to get a meal.  See if you can find them in the picture below.

The black-and-yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia) spider and its prey.
If they are too small to find in the picture above, this close-up should help.

Two small flies are sitting on the spider's wrapped-up prey.
The spider is clutching a prey item already wrapped in white silk -- and if you look closely on the left and top of the white package, you can see two very small flies.  These appear to be freeloader flies (Milichiidae), which are often found in the seemingly hazardous occupation of feeding on the kills of spiders and other predators.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Falling back

Spiders can be predators of wasps, but sometimes the relationship is reversed and the spider becomes the prey.  This summer I watched a dramatic encounter that unfolded too quickly for me to capture on camera.  A spider was sitting on a leaf at the end of a tree branch while a large wasp hunted nearby.  As the wasp drew near, the spider edged away and then dropped down a thread to hang in mid-air.  For a few moments, it appeared that the spider had escaped the wasp's attention -- but then the wasp struck.  I had a brief glimpse of the wasp and spider grappling each other before they plummeted to the ground.  By the time they landed, the spider was already paralyzed or dead.

Not all spiders are so easily subdued, however.  Take, for example, the black-and-yellow argiope, one of the largest orbweaver spiders in North America (along with the giant lichen spider and the golden silk spider).

A black-and-yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia) orbweaver spider.
As I was photographing this very imposing spider, a wasp came up and hovered to inspect the spider too.

A wasp approaches the orbweaver spider.
If the disparity in size wasn't already enough to discourage the wasp from taking further action, a wave of the spider's legs seemed to complete the message.

The orbweaver spider waving its legs.
The wasp retreated, leaving the spider undisturbed.