Aug 072014


There were so many great new iNaturalist observations submitted to the DFW Urban Wildlife project over this past month. Participation has been fantastic, and it was really difficult to pick which three to recognize this time around.

The effort as a whole continues to grow at an astounding rate. We now have over 100 participating members, who have provided nearly 5000 urban wildlife observations, representing 417 different species. That is really an extraordinary set of accomplishments! I am truly stunned to see those kind of numbers! 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 30 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.

Bobcat by mduross


Bobcat by mduross. Click the image to see the observation details in iNaturalist.

I really love this picture of a backyard Bobcat family from the Plano area. There are five other great pictures in the set as well. I’ve said it before and I will say it again now—Bobcats are very special animals. They are highly intelligent and capable of an amazing range of emotional engagement.

It is a bit counterintuitive, and many people are surprised to hear that Bobcats enter our cities and towns because they want to be there. I have found Bobcats in nearly every neighborhood in which I have searched for them. They are everywhere in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Urbanized areas provide these medium-sized carnivores with and abundance of food and water. Man-made structures create sturdy and reliable denning sites. As is the case with many city-dwelling animals, urban bobcats often live longer lives than their rural cousins. The behavior of many of these cats moderates with the abundances provided by city living, as might be expected.

Bobcats living around our homes and offices prefer to hunt and feed on small mammals such as rats, cottontail rabbits, and squirrels. If you have these animals in your community, then you probably have Bobcats as well!

People have little to fear from Bobcats, but some folks do become concerned about their small pets and children. Bobcat attacks on people—even children—are virtually unheard of. There is some legitimate concern where pets are involved. Bobcats are opportunistic predators, and if they sense a vulnerability they may target a cat or small dog. Fortunately, there are a few common sense steps that can be taken to minimize the risk.

With an open mind, Bobcats can prove to be an fascinating addition to any community. More information about urban Bobcats and strategies for accommodating them can be found here: DFW Wildlife Coalition – BOBCAT (Felis Rufus)

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

Common Merganser by annikaml


Common Merganser by annikaml. Click the image to see the observation details in iNaturalist.

The Common Merganser is not that common in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. These birds rare winter visitors to North Texas. Seeing one here is a real treat even for our most experienced birders. This great of a female merganser comes to us from annikaml, who has recently shared a number of pictures with us that she took earlier in the year.

Here is how Wikipedia describes the always interesting Common merganser:

The common merganser (North American) or goosander (Eurasian) (Mergus merganser) is a large duck, of rivers and lakes of forested areas of Europe, northern and central Asia, and North America. It eats fish and nests in holes in trees.

It is 58–72 cm (23–28 in) long with a 78–97 cm (31–38 in) wingspan, and a weight of 0.9–2.1 kg (2.0–4.6 lb); males average slightly larger than females but with some overlap. Like other species in the genus Mergus, it has a crest of longer head feathers, but these usually lie smoothly rounded behind the head, not normally forming an erect crest. Adult males in breeding plumage are easily distinguished, the body white with a variable salmon-pink tinge, the head black with an iridescent green gloss, the rump and tail grey, and the wings largely white on the inner half, black on the outer half. Females, and males in “eclipse” (non-breeding plumage, July to October) are largely grey, with a reddish-brown head, white chin, and white secondary feathers on the wing. Juveniles (both sexes) are similar to adult females but also show a short black-edged white stripe between the eye and bill. The bill and legs are red to brownish-red, brightest on adult males, dullest on juveniles.

The species is a partial migrant, with birds moving away from areas where rivers and major lakes freeze in the winter, but resident where waters remain open. Eastern North American birds move south in small groups to the United States wherever ice free conditions exist on lakes and rivers; on the milder Pacific coast, they are permanent residents. Scandinavian and Russian birds also migrate southwards, but western European birds, and a few in Japan, are largely resident. In some populations, the males also show distinct moult migration, leaving the breeding areas as soon as the young hatch to spend the summer (June to September) elsewhere. Notably, most of the western European male population migrates north to estuaries in Finnmark in northern Norway (principally Tanafjord) to moult, leaving the females to care for the ducklings. Much smaller numbers of males also use estuaries in eastern Scotland as a moulting area

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

Eastern Red Bat by phlank


Eastern Red Bat by phlank. Click the image to see the observation details in iNaturalist.

Bats are fast moving, erratic flyers, and are most active when light is low or nonexistent. Combined, these factors make photographing bats in flight is an almost impossible task. Phlank did a fantastic job of overcoming the obstacles to get this and five other pictures of an Eastern Red Bat near Grapevine Lake.

Of particular note is the small tear in the bat’s left wing. This is a great illustration of the costs vs benefits of the various solutions different types of animals have incorporated to solve the same types of problems. When a bird is injured like this the damage is usually localized to just a feather or two. Each year the bird will drop its old flight feather and grow new ones—essentially getting a brand new pair of wings annually. That’s quite an advantage for a flying creature to have.

The bat on the other hand has no way to repair or regenerate the damage done to its wings. Fortunately in this case the injure does not appear to have a large impact on the bat’s ability to fly, but if this tear had been just a little more severe it might have left this bat flightless and doomed.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the intriguing Eastern Red Bat:

This is a medium-sized Vespertilionid, averaging weights of 9.5-14 g and measurements of 112.3 mm in total length. Adults are usually dimorphic: males have red hair while females are chestnut-colored with whitish frosting on the tips of the fur.

Like most vespertilionids, eastern red bats are insectivorous. Moths (Lepidoptera) form the majority of the diet, but red bats also prey heavily on beetles (Coleoptera), flies (Diptera), and other insects. Echolocation calls have low minimum frequencies, but calls are highly variable ranging from (35–50 kHz). Eastern red bats are best suited for foraging in open spaces due to their body size, wing shape, and echolocation call structure. However, red bats are frequently captured by researchers foraging over narrow streams and roads

Mating likely occurs in late summer or autumn and the sperm is stored in the female’s reproductive tract until spring when ovulation and fertilization occurs. In June, females usually give birth to three or four young and then roost with their young until they are weaned. Males roost alone throughout the Summer. High temperature demands associated with gestation and rearing young may limit the northern range for reproductive females. Eastern red bats often roost amongst live or dead leaves on the branches of live hardwood trees, but have also been found using loblolly pine trees in pine plantations.

In late summer, eastern red bats from the northern parts of the range may migrate south for the winter, although little is known about migration routes or overwintering range. In winter, red bats forage for insects on warm nights and even warm days. On warm days during the winter, red bats enter torpor while roosting in the canopy of hardwood or coniferous trees, but during cold bouts they crawl underneath dead leaf litter on the ground and use their furred tail as a blanket.

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

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!


  2 Responses to “DFW Urban Wildlife iNaturalist Project – Favorites”

  1. Chris, I would be on the lookout for Common Megranser along wooded creeks and rivers year round. They nest on the Red Slough Wildlife Area in SE Oklahoma about 5 miles from the Red River and only about 140 miles from Dallas.

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