Russell Lands is proud to be the largest recreational developer in Alabama. But the company is also one of uncommon vision, diversity and commitment to community - whose endeavors go beyond developing fine lake homes and communities.
Naturalist Marianne has a simple project for you, just leave the light on!! Here is today’s Nature Note!
💡🛏🦋 If you have a porch light - I have a project for you! Leaving the light on after dark will attract a variety of insects, and help you learn about which nocturnal species are active around your house while you sleep! I’m looming for MOTHS! It’s not necessary, but if you’d like you can also hang a light-colored sheet near the light so make the insects landing there easier to see. Try it tonight! Moths large and small should visit your porch. There are many species of moth so it’s impossible to list them all, but this guide will help you get started identifying some: http://www.dpughphoto.com/moths.htm
If you are able to attract insects to your light, send me some pictures! 🦋
If it fits in its mouth, it just might eat it! Here’s Naturalist Marianne with today’s Nature Note!!￼￼￼
🐸 FROGS ARE HUNTERS 🐸
And the American bullfrog is our largest and most powerful! Their large jaws pose no threat to us, but are deadly to anything that fits in there...from hummingbirds to minnows to snakes: if a bullfrog can swallow it - it will! Bullfrogs will leap from the water to catch small birds and insects, and rush from the water like a soft little alligator to ambush unsuspecting small animals on land. Their eardrum (shown here - circle behind their eye) helps them hear their prey and each other, and their eyes are positioned so that they can swim submerged while looking for their next meal. Their webbed feet enable them to swim amazingly well - and every time I try to catch one I end up muddy and wet!
Bullfrogs are hunters but they are also HUNTED - a variety of other, larger predators will eat them, including snakes, turtles, wading birds, and people! Check out this video to see some bullfrog hunting action: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vhywWia6II8
Swim, run, or chomp? Here’s Naturalist Marianne with today’s Nature Note!!
😱 POWERFUL JAWS not only help a snapping turtle defend itself - they are also essential for this predator to grab and hold food. Unlike some turtles, snapping turtles cannot pull their arms and legs into their shells. The bottom part of their shell (plastron) is small and doesn’t cover the soft parts of their body. When feeling threatened, they either swim away, run away, or CHOMP to stay safe. NEVER put your hands anywhere near a snapping turtle. You see here how hard it snaps on my stick! They can also extend their neck out very far and strike.
These jaws aren’t meant for fighting however, their purpose is to snatch and hold food. Snapping turtles spend most of their life hunting in the water, and can get very large. They eat any type of animal they can swallow in Lake Martin: fish, smaller turtles, ducklings, and snakes.
There are 2 species of snapping turtle in Alabama: the common snapping turtle (shown in my video) and the alligator snapping turtle. The alligator snapping turtle is a protected species and it is illegal to have them or hurt them. Common snapping turtles are often seen far from water this time of year: either looking for a place to lay eggs or searching for a partner by seeking other water to move into.
Click here to watch a video that points out the differences between these two species of snapper: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BRrWiW1o19E
When our Naturalist Marianne says don’t touch, we probably should listen! Here is today’s Nature Note.
DON’T TOUCH BUT DON’T FEAR!
Black widow spiders have a bad reputation, but they really just want to be left alone! Check out the one I found for you and also this cool vintage video about them: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=P0VzQ35RVh4
🕷 I really enjoy old films like this and I learned something from it too: wait until you see what can happen to their egg sac!! 😨
We hope to have you join us at SpringHouse starting next weekend!
Friday, May 15th, SpringHouse will be reopening for In-House Dining. We are eager to welcome you back to our tables. During this time, we have been planning for this opportunity and feel confident that we will provide the same quality service with all necessary precautions to keep our customers and staff safe. We appreciate your patience as we navigate the latest guidelines and safety advisements.
For the time being, Dining will be by reservation only. Reservations can be made over the phone only—Please call 256.215.7080 to request a reservation. Starting May 15th...
—There will be no seating available at the Bar or
—Tables will be at least 6 feet apart
—Occupancy will be limited to maintain social
—Parties will be limited to 8 or less
—All Staff will wear gloves and face masks at all
These are just a few of the improvements being made. Look for a video from us soon with more details!
Thank you to everyone for enjoying SpringHouse from home these past two months with our curbside menu—We’ve appreciated your words of encouragement and your continued support!
Curbside will still be available this upcoming Wednesday & Thursday. We will be closed Monday the 11th, and Tuesday the 12th.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
Jelly Ear? What is it? Naturalist Marianne knows! Here is today's Nature Note.
👴🏼👂🏼 OLD MAN’S EAR and JELLY EAR are two common names for this fascinating fungus: it really does resemble an icky, gummy ear. It has folds and wrinkles, grows darker with age, and can be in varying stages of moisture or dryness depending on its age and the weather. Its Latin or binomial name: Auricularia auricula-judae, refers to Judas of the Bible. Judas died hanging from an elder tree, which is often where these “ears” are found. Although it’s quite often found growing on elder, it will occur on lots of other tree species and decaying logs and branches as well. This is the time of year to look for these ears. They provide at least 2 important services: their structure hastens the decay of the wood it’s on, and it is also eaten by a variety of Russell Forest animals including squirrels, turtles, and deer. This is one of my favorite funguses because it reminds me of both my grandpa and Biblical history. Look for these ears listening for you on your next walk in Russell Forest! 🍄
This bird hardly ever lands! What is it? Naturalist Marianne explains in today’s Nature Note!￼
Next time you’re near my Cabin, look UP and listen for the high-pitched chatter of CHIMNEY SWIFTS! These small birds nest in my chimney every year, and you can spot them throughout the summer. They are only “our birds” for the spring and summer, and will leave for South America this fall. They use their own sticky SPIT to attach a small nest to the inside of my chimney, and the babies cling to the chimney walls once they outgrow the nest and then eventually fly out of the top! And boy do they FLY! This bird HARDLY EVER LANDS except to roost at night, and stays in the air CATCHING INSECTS all day long! They cannot perch in an upright position like most birds, and must hang onto the side of something like bark on a tree or my chimney. In an area without chimneys, they will nest in caves or hollow trees. Think of all the food they must catch to use as fuel to stay in the air for HOURS all day long! I appreciate them keeping the mosquitoes away from my Cabin!
Click here to see one feed its young: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=99Dlx7V5FNI
Sometimes, things just don't CLICK, and sometimes they do! Here's Naturalist Marianne with today's Nature Note.
I love finding EYED CLICK BEETLES - and this used just about all of its defenses on me, but refused to CLICK! Check out my video and this one which shows a more cooperative clicker: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nz0NDUlqvWo 👁👁
What happens to the egg shells when baby birds are born? I bet our Naturalist Marianne knows! Take a look at today's Nature Note!
🐣 It’s exciting to find evidence of baby birds in the area! Once baby birds have hatched, the parents carry off their eggshells AND their droppings and deposit those items away from the nest area. After you watch my video, click here to see some pileated woodpecker chicks - I’ll bet you’ve heard this sound before! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LeJEqtDZt7g
The Vultures are circling…￼ Here’s our Naturalist Marianne with today’s Nature Note!!!￼
The clean up crew is on the way! 🧹
And they are NOT eagles! Review yesterday’s post to see an example of classic bald eagle flight style. Here you see a commonly confused BIG SOARING BIRD - the TURKEY VULTURE.
Vultures are scavengers - they typically eat animals that they find already dead rather than killing their own food. Just like an eagle - they soar with broad wings and can cover a lot of airspace without flapping. UNLIKE an eagle - their wings are upturned in a shallow V position. Vultures also easily attract OTHER VULTURES and are sometimes seen in large groups like this. They sometimes soar and roost (perch and rest) in great numbers.
We have 2 species of VULTURE around here - the turkey and the black vulture. Both are commonly called BUZZARDS but that is a common name and is incorrect. The word buzzard actually means HAWK and these birds are not hawks!
Vultures have a sense of smell! Many birds can’t smell a thing, but a vulture’s food could be buried under the leaves or hidden by a forest canopy so it’s important that they use their eyes and NOSE to find hidden food.
They do a very important service for us by cleaning up dead and rotting animals. Animals die every day both in the roads and in the woods. Vultures and other scavengers eat them - ensuring that they don’t continue to rot and spread germs and disease. Think about all of the ticks and maggots that vultures eat when they consume a carcass - what an important pest control agent!!
When you see vultures soaring like this, it doesn’t mean that there’s a dead animal nearby...in the mornings they seek THERMALS to get some easy lift up into the sky. A thermal is a column of warm air rising up off of the earth’s surface and the birds can ride in these air tubes like an elevator. They rise quickly in a thermal to look and smell for food without needing to spend a lot of energy flapping. You can see in the video that they have a lot of movement without putting forth a lot of effort.
They have a dirty job, but be thankful for vultures! They make the world a cleaner, better place, and ask for no payment other than the rotten meat they eat! 🤗
Look to the skies today and you will likely see a VULTURE on its way to tidy up the area around your home!
Bald Eagles! Here’s Naturalist Marianne with today’s Nature Note!!
BALD EAGLES can be identified by their size, shape, silhouette, wingbeat pattern, flight style, and hunting method. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really not: no other bird has moves like this. In this video, you see all of the typical characteristics that will help you identify a bald eagle, despite not being able to see its colors clearly.
A white head and tail indicates that a bald eagle is at least 5 years old. It could be 30! There’s no way to know other than that it take about 5 years to have a fully white head and tail, so it’s at least that old. Before age four or five, bald eagles are still just as big but are mostly dark brown all over with mottling under their wings and on their belly. Their white head and tail is fully achieved over those years. Look for those telltale signs on this bird towards the end of the video. 🦅
At the end of the video, you see the eagle drop its feet and snatch a fish off of the surface of the water. OSPREYS are our other fish-eating raptor, and they usually dive in to get their fish, rather than catching those near the surface. Bald eagles eat a lot of fish, but also a lot of turtles, and sometimes ducks and small mammals.
Using tracings of your own hands, you can make this bald eagle craft today and compare the “wingspan” of yours to others in your home. You don’t need any colored paper, as you can just color in the eagle after you’re done: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wzYNB51QkeI
Study this video, and tomorrow I will post a video of another large, soaring bird found around here that everyone confuses with eagles. You should be able to spot the differences away once you learn the eagle flight-style features shown here.
This Pancake is NOT what’s for breakfast!! Here’s Naturalist Marianne with today’s Nature Note.
🥞 MY PANCAKE JUST BLINKED!
Not suitable for breakfast at all, the spiny softshell turtle is an aquatic turtle that lives in Lake Martin. Their shells are soft and flexible, and they have long necks and a snout-like nose. They feel rubbery, and are very slippery and hard to hold. They bite when they are afraid, and can both run and swim away very fast.
These turtles can live to be over 50 years old, and you’re more likely to see them this time of year as the females leave the water to lay eggs. She may decide to travel very far from the water to do that, and this ensures that her eggs won’t get flooded like they might if she made her nest too close to water. When turtles lay eggs, they bury them and leave them - they do not stay with the nest and they never meet their babies. The young turtles take care of themselves as soon as they are hatched.
This one on the plate 🍽 is a male and is about half grown. The females will get much bigger than the males. Look for these turtles next time you’re near the water, and click here to learn more about them: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=B-FjM6zaqGA
Do the jitterbug out in Muskrat Land....... Today our Naturalist Marianne takes us to, you guessed it, Muskrat Land! Here is today's Nature Note!
NOT a beaver, NOT an otter...that’s a MUSKRAT! 😯 Muskrats are rodents that can be found all around Lake Martin. Have you ever seen one? They are most active at dawn and around dusk, so their prime time on the Lake is different than our prime time out there.
Muskrats are almost always either in or very close to the water, and you’ll usually see them swimming. 🏊🏽 They don’t stray very far from their regular hangout spots. They can stay underwater for more than 15 minutes! Their webbed feet and strong, steering tail make them powerful swimmers and they always seem busy.
Most of their activities simply include eating! They mostly eat plants, but will eat other things like snails, mussels, crayfish, and animals like that if they find one.
People use muskrats for their meat and fur. In fact, where I’m from in Maryland there is a muskrat skinning contest every year! Muskrats are native to this part of the world, and have been introduced to other countries so that they could provide meat and fur to people in those areas. Since it’s never a good idea to put animals where they’re not naturally found, some of these areas are now having problems with too many muskrats destroying vegetation and having lots of babies.
Here on Lake Martin, muskrats are a very important food item for our bald eagles, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and other predators. They eat these rodents, but there are always plenty more that remain. Look for them!
Muskrats usually are seen swimming in 6 feet of water or less, so while you’re on the Lake, look up into the sloughs - especially late in the day - and see if you can spot a muskrat’s head above the water’s surface while it swims busily away.
Click here to learn more about these critters: http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Ondatra_zibethicus/
If it’s not really a Chamaeleon, what is it? Here is Naturalist Marianne with today’s Nature Note!￼￼
COMMON NAMES are the terms we use for animals and plants that may be different from what they’re really called. For example: if a big hawk eats chickens, people might call that kind a “chicken hawk,” but there really is no such bird as a “chicken hawk.” Chicken hawk is a common name. Common names are usually used by many people (they are commonly used). They aren’t exactly WRONG, but they’re not exactly RIGHT either.
When I moved to Alabama, everyone kept saying they had CHAMELEONS in their yard - but I didn’t understand how that was possible since we don’t have true chameleons in this part of the world. Well, they were talking about this guy - the GREEN ANOLE. Chameleon is one of its common names because it can and does change color from greens to browns. It is not actually a chameleon, but many people call it that.
When I was a little girl in Maryland, we didn’t have anoles in the wild nearby. I had a green anole that came from the pet store for $7! Around here in your yard, they’re free! 🤗
Anoles are reptiles. And they are lizards. The one in the photos is a male. I can tell by his fancy chin accessory called a DEWLAP. Click here to see a video of an anole bobbing his body and flaring his dewlap in order to try to get the attention of a female that he would like to have a family with. If she likes him, they might have eggs together. Watch: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GhEmq5n6yZw
Anoles also move their body and flare their dewlap when they are doing a territorial display. That means they are trying to let another male know to stay away from the area. Sometimes they even fight! But usually no one gets hurt.
They have snapping jaws as you see in this picture, but it doesn’t hurt me. Those jaws are lethal for crickets and caterpillars, but it’s barely a pinch for us. If you catch one and it bites you, they clamp down tightly and may not let go, but don’t really hurt - just take you by surprise!
This is a lizard you can catch and handle in your own yard, and also tell the males from the females by looking to see if you can stretch out a dewlap. Look for anoles in sunny spots, climbing rocks, or hunting in the bushes. Click here for detailed info about these reptiles - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anolis_carolinensis 🦎
The ACSF was formed to address some of the collaborative issues and represent sports organizations within the city to help any sports program in any way.