Blogs

Fitz Clarke, citizen scientist and a superb photographer, has documented the insects, birds and flowers at the site over the last years. We are privileged to feature many of his photographs in the Blogs section of this website, under the rubric Bringing Nature Home. Go there to see A Visual Smorgasbord of Bugs at the Sparrow Field, A Wasp and a Beetle and Aphids and Mole Crickets meet their Predators: Photos Tell All, and many more entries.

His latest addition is Project Monarch Health, about the ongoing work at the Sparrow Field in collaboration with UGA to study this butterfly.

Lights, Cameras, OWLs

Click Here to view the Savannah Morning News article

Click Here for the You Tube video

Monarch Butterfly Project at The Landings Entering Its 7th Year

By Fitz Clarke, Citizen Scientist

Fitz MonarchsIn 2008- 2009, I became interested in the Monarch butterfly that I was observing in small numbers at the Landing’s Sparrow Field and about the island, mainly within the yard of Landing’s resident Sandra Wolf whose side and rear yard contained large amounts of the Milkweed species, Tropical or Mexican Milkweed(Asclepias curassavica).  I became a contributor to the Annenberg Learner Foundation “Monarch Journey North,” reporting and documenting by photographs the Monarch sightings here at the Landings, Skidaway Island, Savannah, Chatham County, GA.

During this period I became aware of Project Monarch Health and the research being conducted by Dr Sonia Altizier into a protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha)(OE), an obligate protozoan parasite responsible for the deaths of the Monarch butterfly . Read more

Pied-Billed Grebe and the Bluegill – Dec 13

On Tuesday, 13 December, 12:53pm I observed a lone “Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), located along that narrow portion of brackish lagoon # 15, just east of the Marshwood # 7 (?) green/sand trap adjacent to water) The lagoon extends from North Landings way North (across from Dog park) to the Marshwood driving range. I was photographing this water bird with my 400mm lens draped across my bean bag, resting atop my golf cart steering wheel when it dove, surfaced app 8 yards distant with what first appeared to be a massive amount of green/slimy vegetation. I crept forward in my golf cart blind, drawing parallel as It turned towards me. I observed what appeared to be an extremely large member of the sunfish family. Luckily it was so engrossed in an attempt to ingest this prize that for the next five minutes I was able to digitally document the ordeal.

The fish, was subsequently identified as a “Bluegill’ (Lepomis macrochirus), aka Brim/ Brem by island residents Hank Scheeringa, confirmed by Caryl Warner, both experienced Landing’s lagoon fishermen. Caryl advised it appeared to be at least 7.5″ in length. The Bluegill is normally thought to be located in fresh water; however they…”can tolerate 1.8% salinity”. ( note to self-`check with Sean Burgess, The Landing’s Environmental Coordinator.” the average salinity of this lagoon). The question then is how did this large Bluegill ( sharp fins and bones) pass through the jaws of the Grebe. ( see below photos #’s 3,5 and 11- note how the jaws hinge)

This fascinatingly small,13 1/2″ long water bird has large lobed toed webb feet. The legs are short and moved far aft, arranged together to make this bird a fast and strong swimmer. I have arranged the thee images together to address the huge propulsion machines (feet), quite a creation!!! We are fortunate that the Pied-billed Grebe winters over here on Skidaway, mostly on our brackish lagoons, yet you will find them also on the fresh water ones, to a lesser degree. Their diet consist of “aquatic insects, also snails, fish, frogs, incidental aquatic vegetation.”

On, 22 November, while observing three Grebes napping and preening ( cleaning, rearranging, and oiling of the feathers with the bill) I noted one floated diagonally over to a feather, picked it up and swallowed it. It continued to preen and swallow more feathers. I also observed one of the other Grebes to also ingest its feathers. I thought this action to be most interesting. Thankfully contained in my library is a copy, ” The Birder’s Handbook”, a field guide to the natural history of North American Birds, by Paul R. Ehrlich, David Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye. They point out that fifty percent of the stomach contents of a Pied-billed Grebe may be feathers. Apparently the action of the gizzard is insufficient to crush the bones of the fish that are swallowed. “The feather balls are thought to protect the stomach by padding the sharp fish bones and slowing down the process of digestion so that the bones dissolve rather than pass into the intestine.” Subsequent to photographing and edited the below images I have a real appreciating of the evolution of this species, an efficient water bird.

You may have previously observed a few of the below Grebe images; however, I have again included them to assist in the telling the story of this wonderful little water bird ( I have never observed it on land), now sharing our island lagoons while over wintering.

Regards,
Fitz

An Eagle and a Mink kind of Day

Saturday was a fine locate day. It began with an early morning Eagle, a late afternoon Mink and  Monarch butterflies mid-afternoon.

Regards, 
Fitz

A Visual Smorgasbord of Bugs at the Sparrow Field

This past month has been an ideal time to see appealing insects feeding from the shallow nectar sources at The Landing’s Sparrow Field Pollinator Berm. These 14 images are but a few of the many species of bees, wasp and flies. ( When you add the butterflies/skippers, you recognize what a rich visual smorgasbord we have here.)

I believe the colors on these bugs can be described in one word — “beautiful.”

Aphids and Mole Crickets meet their Predators: Photos Tell All

SEE IT FOR YOURSELF!

Among the many insects nectaring the flowering plants to be observed along the 133-yard Pollinator Friendly Sparrow Field berm are several species that play an important part in the natural order to be found at the Sparrow Field.

For instance the Syrphid Fly, Pseudodoros clavatus, male on Dill in 8/15/2011 photo, when in the larvae stage this very small hover fly is an aggressive predator of the aphids found on our Milkweed. Those plants were specifically planted for the migrating Monarch and visiting Queen butterfly. Note the compound eyes of the Syrphid Fly meet at the top in the male — they do not touch in the female.

Read more

It’s Official: Dragonfly identified at the Sparrow Field

Dr. Dennis P. Paulson, the top official of The Dragonfly Society of the Americas: Odonata Central, hosts the official website of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas and in June 2011 confirmed a Chatham County addition to the Odanata check list.

Identification came from a 2009 photograph taken at The Landings Sparrow Field by Kirk Rogers. Fitz Clarke first submitted the photo to Giff Beaton, author of the Odonata bible of Georgia, “Dragonflies & Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast.”

The Taper-tailed Darner, Comphaeschna antilope was captured by Kirk, with his tripod mounted 600mm lens, in the beak of a female Purple Martin, just prior to serving it to her chicks on the Sparrow Field gourd rack.

Fitz adds, “I wish to acknowledge the efforts of our volunteers who maintain (monitor) the Sparrow Field’s 16-gourd rack. We go through a lot of bird poop each year to provide the Purple Martins a location to raise their young — 79

fledged this year, 2011. Our visiting Purple Martins in turn provide a wonderful ‘Biological Pest Control’ as relates to the mosquitoes.”

Ladybugs vs Aphids – Aug 1

This year at the Landings, Skidaway Island, Sparrow Field, “Pollinator Friendly Area” we have had an infestation of “Aphids” on our main “Monarch and Queen” Milkweed host-plant, Asclepias curassivica. The migrating Monarch relies upon the various Milkweed Species to survive. We consider our Sparrow Field berm Milkweed plots to be ” Pony Express Way Stations,”

Catherine Olivier, Skidaway Islands resident, and Sparrow Field berm volunteer addressed the aphid problem by ordering 4500 Convergent Lady Beetles, Hippodamia convergens”. They were released yesterday, 7/30/2011, upon the Milkweed plants arranged along the 75 yard ” Pollinator Friendly Area” berm.

I invite you to visit the Sparrow Field where there are a visual assortment of treasures to be located, photographed, and viewed”.

Some Photos by Fitz around the Island – July 25

Birds at the Sparrow Field – July 16

Today, 7/16/2011, I was following up on the report by Pat Wolters, our island’s resident “Bird Rehabilitator” that she had released a juvenile ” Eastern Kingbird” at the Sparrow Field, The Landings, Skidaway Island, Chatham County, Georgia.

I spotted what I believe was the juvenile bird in company with an adult “Eastern Kingbird.” They were perched, both seeking insects, flying out and back to a limb on the small group of Sweetgum trees, back left of the field, within the path that circles the field.

As I approached they flushed; however, two yellow breasted birds stood out within the swaying Sweetgum limbs. I was successful in acquiring three digital images of two female, “Orchard Orioles.” I originally believed them to be, ” Blue-winged Warblers”; however, Diana Churchill, a friend and former President of Ogeechee Audubon set me straight. She provided the identification as female “Orchard Orioles”. Diana further advised, ” Orchard Orioles nest here and are regulars on Skidaway.”

Shortly thereafter I captured a juvenile “Blue-gray Gnatcatcher” near the pump house, back right of the field.

The recent rain measured 8.5 inches at the Sparrow Field. It has brought forth the many blooming nectar and butterfly host-plants. We have bush-hogged the field and cut the grass at the base of the 75-yard ” Pollinator Friendly Area” on the berm.

I would invite you to visit the field in your golf cart or vehicle. There are so many different species of birds, butterflies, bees, wasp and additional insects to enjoy. 

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