Jun 132014


Every week I am amazed by the number of great new iNaturalist observations that are submitted to the DFW Urban Wildlife project. We now have a total of 84 participating members, who have provided over 3100 urban wildlife observations, representing 365 different species. That is really amazing, I think! Together we are building a complete and detailed record of the wide variety of wildlife living in and around the Dallas/Fort Worth area!

Below you will find our three favorite submissions for the past seven days. Remember that “favorite” in this case can mean a whole host of different things. When selecting featured images we will be looking for examples of rare or unique wildlife, interesting behaviors or situations, and great photography and compositions.

American Beaver

American Beaver by kg280. Click the image to see the observation details in iNaturalist.

The American Beaver can be difficult to observe and even harder to photograph. Beavers do most of their business at night, and are therefore best observed at dawn and dusk. Unfortunately, the light at those times is rarely optimal for photography. Beavers also tend to be secretive and will disappear quickly when they see you coming. In spite these challenges, kg280 was able to record this excellent image.

Beavers are industrious animals. They can completely transform a landscape in a very short amount of time. Pond creation via dam building is what these rodents are best known for. The process often involves the felling of many trees, but Beavers are adaptable and can make use of whatever dam building resources their habitat provides. In urban areas dam construction is often done with nothing more than reeds and packed mud.

Once the dam is constructed and the pond begins to fill, the Beavers next begin clearing vegetation from around the perimeter. This action increases the amount of open water and enhances the Beavers’ security.

Beavers can sometimes become a nuisance in urban areas, especially when they begin taking down expensive ornamental trees or when their ponds begin to create water related issues. There are many ways to deal with troublesome beavers. One strategy is to paint vulnerable trees with a concoction of specialized paint and sand. This so called “Beaver Paint” is design to discourage Beavers from gnawing on the treated tree trunks. Other solutions, like Gator Bags or wire mesh are said to work as well.

Beavers are inspired to build and maintain their dams by the sounds of running water. One technique for discourage Beavers from building dams in unwanted places is to install a drain pipe that the overfill empties out UNDER water downstream. This effectively muffles the sound of running water at the dam so the Beavers do not feel compelled to work to stop up the flow.

In places where these measures are not deemed appropriate, trapping will be used as an option. Some trappers will then make an effort to relocate the captured animals to more suitable habitat in a rural area. Unfortunately, the success rate for relocating animals is generally very low. A sizable percentage of released Beavers are unable to adapt to their new environment in time to survive.

The usual outcome for trapped Beavers—especially those captured by municipal animal control—is that they are euthanized. This of course is a temporary fix, as it is generally only a short time before the captured animal’s absence is filled by a new family of Beavers. The trinity River and its many tributaries ensure that we will have an almost limitless supply of Beavers making their way into our cities and neighborhoods.

Nice work, kg280! Click here to see all iNaturalist submissions by kg280.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron by zoogal1961. Click the image to see the observation details in iNaturalist.

Tricolored Herons are intriguing birds. They are becoming more and more common in the metroplex, but are still rarely seen. Several pairs attempted to breed last year at the University of Texas South Western Medical Center Rookery near downtown Dallas. The results were mixed. The Tricolored Herons were often forced to surrender their nesting sites to more assertive species of birds.

I did my best to follows the efforts of some of these Tricolored Herons. In one case, the Tricolored Herons were forced from their chosen nesting site by White Ibises—a rare bird in its own right. You can read my account of these events by following my serialization beginning here: Tricolored Heron – UTSWMC Nest

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about these unique birds:

The tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor) formerly known in North America as the Louisiana heron, is a small heron. It is a resident breeder from the Gulf states of the USA and northern Mexico south through Central America and the Caribbean to central Brazil and Peru. There is some post-breeding dispersal to well north of the nesting range.

Tricolored heron’s breeding habitat is sub-tropical swamps. It nests in colonies, often with other herons, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs. In each clutch, 3–7 eggs are typically laid.

This species measures from 56 to 76 cm (22 to 30 in) long, and has a wingspan of 96 cm (38 in). The slightly larger male heron weighs 415 g (14.6 oz) on average, while the female averages 334 g (11.8 oz).[3] It is a medium-large, long-legged, long-necked heron with a long pointed yellowish or greyish bill with a black tip. The legs and feet are dark.

Adults have a blue-grey head, neck, back and upperwings, with a white line along the neck. The belly is white. In breeding plumage, they have long blue filamentous plumes on the head and neck, and buff ones on the back.

Tricolored heron stalks its prey in shallow or deeper water, often running as it does so. It eats fish, crustaceans, reptiles, and insects.

Another great find, zoogal1961! Click here to see all iNaturalist submissions by zoogal1961.


Walnut Sphinx Moth by josephbyrne42. Click the image to see the observation details in iNaturalist.

This stunningly unusual looking moth is know as a Walnut Spinx (Amorpha juglandis). I have never seen one of these moths before, and it is always a pleasure to be introduced to a previously unknown taxon living in the metroplex!

Here is how Wikipedia describes this curious moth:

The Walnut Sphinx (Amorpha juglandis) is a moth of the family Sphingidae. It is native to North America, where it is distributed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains in Canada and the United States.

The wingspan is 45–75 mm. The adult moth is nocturnal, active mainly during the early hours of the night.

The caterpillar feeds on alder (Alnus), hickory (Carya), hazelnut (Corylus), beech (Fagus), walnut (Juglans), and hop-hornbeam (Ostrya) species. When attacked by a bird, the caterpillar produces a high-pitched whistle by expelling air from pair of spiracles in its abdomen. This antipredator adaptation may startle the bird, which may then reject the caterpillar.

Thanks for sharing this with us, josephbyrne42! Click here to see all iNaturalist submissions by josephbyrne42.

Thanks to everyone for their continued contributions to the DFW Urban Wildlife iNaturalist Project. We value each and every submission we get! If you would like to contribute, its easy to do. Just follow the link below, create an account and start uploading your observations and photographs. Be sure to add them to the DFW Urban Wildlife project so that everyone will be able to see them. We look forward to seeing what you have to share!


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