The Guest Request Fest

Critter Radio Logo v3Well, hel-loooo to all you birds, bugs and beasties out there in Critter Land. You’re tuned to KRTR 99.9 FM, Critter Radio. I’m Opal White, that’s right, white hot and bright. So glad you could join me tonight for the Guest Request Fest.

Yes, boys and gulls, it’s time for you loyal listeners to let us know what you want to hear. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate! Call, text or tweet now with your requests. Miss Opal will make all your dreams take flight, that’s right.

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3540acsWe’ll start right in on the ground floor, shall we? Master Grasshopper brings our first entreaty of the hour: “Kung Fu Fighting”.

150711_PA Nockamixon Cliffs_1293acsThe butterfly brigade chimes in with this weighty wish from slim Ms. Tiger Swallowtail. She’s an edgy sort of dame, that’s right. Her fave tune? “Edge of Seventeen”.

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3502acsFor a Red-spotted Purple, what could be more appropriate than “Blue On Black”? How apt.

150722_DE Bombay Hook_1761aWell, what have we here – a twin tweet! A pair of lookalikes indeed, the Monarch…

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3764acs… and the Viceroy.

Monarchs taste bad, Viceroys don’t, but most butterfly gourmets will shun both. Viceroys are big copycats, and more than once that has saved their silly little – oh, excuse me, family show, that’s right.

Let’s get back to their song, “Me and My Shadow”, shall we?

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3705acsIs that the phone ringing? Yes, I think it is. And who have we here? Why it’s the Rev. Green Frog, he of the roly-poly peepers. What dark secrets have been confessed to the good preacher?

He wants to hear “Your Lying Eyes”.

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3628acsOn the other side of town, someone is lonely tonight. Jeremiah Bullfrog feels he’s lost his only friend. Here’s a little ditty for his melancholy blues as he contemplates the vastness of the pond – “It’s Not Easy Being Green”.

Miss Opal could cheer up this sprite, that’s right.

150804_PA HNWR Dragonfly_3428acsMr. Pondhawk has a request…

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3557acs…and wait, we’ve got Mrs. Pondhawk on the other line. What a lovely couple – they’ve both asked for that romantic oldie, “I Got You Babe”.

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3675acsWe have time for one more rhythmic requisition, and it comes tonight from a croaker immersed in self reflection. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, how true!

Oh, my, my, Miss Opal hears her theme song; it’s always too soon to leave you. Another splendiferous edition of the musical petition, the Guest Request Fest, has come to a close.

Until next time, I’m Opal White, that’s right, white hot and bright, and this is KRTR 99.9 FM, Critter Radio. I bid you farewell with Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, like me, doing it “My Way”.

150804_PA HNWR Great Egret_3208 acs“Egrets, I’ve had a few…”


140821_Bartrams Garden_8021acsOnce upon a time, there was a handsome frog. He sat upon the edge of a pond, waiting. But not for the kiss of a human lassie to change him into a human prince, for he was happy and proud to be a bullfrog. So proud that he soon burst into robust song. His skillful bellowing quickly drew a pretty female frog to him. All around him that spring, frogs and toads were staging similar little romantic dramas in ponds and bogs throughout the land.

140409_Tyler_8623 FrogspawnNot long after, little clumps of clear jelly filled with dark spots began to appear. Eggs! Thousands of them. This is the frogspawn of the wood frog, and the tadpoles-to-be are already visible.

140416_Tyler Toadspawn & Tadpoles_8961 acsToads lay their eggs not in round masses, but long strings. When the tadpoles emerge, they will consume the gelatinous casing for the nutrients it holds.

140423_Tyler Frog Bog_0969 acsIn spring and early summer, tadpoles are everywhere, swimming above the leaves left behind the prior fall…

140503_Mt Cuba_6509Harassing a fish who has no interest in them as a snack…

140416_Tyler Tadpoles_9041 acsAnd just doing what tadpoles do, eating and growing. Tadpoles are exclusively aquatic, and breathe through gills like fish. Dinner is algae and water plants. The length of time frogs and toads spend in the tadpole stage varies according to the species; in bullfrogs it may be up to two years. Eventually tadpoles begin the amazing transformation from aquatic larvae to terrestrial adult. Legs appear, and then arms. Their bodies change shape, the tail shortens, and gills are replaced by lungs.

140809_Bartrams Garden_7524acsBehold the froglet. Not yet fully mature, but no longer a tadpole, this youngster can breathe air and move about on land. He’s still got that tail, though.

140821_Bartrams Garden_8078acsYoung bullfrog, finding shade from the hot August sun in the lily pads. The tail has been absorbed into his body, and he’s fully mature, but he will continue to grow in size. Adult bullfrogs rest during the day, and hunt at night. Anything they can catch becomes prey – insects, fish, birds, even small mammals.

140821_Bartrams Garden_7983acsThe small pond is home to a surprisingly tame group of young bullfrogs. The presence of humans with cameras doesn’t seem to bother them much. Bullfrogs will remain near water much of the time, as they must keep their skin moist.

140813_Tyler_7665aAnother pond finds a green frog amidst the cattails. Green frogs are also primarily aquatic. See the ridges running along the frog’s back? That’s the best way to tell green frogs from bullfrogs; the latter lack these dorsolateral ridges.

FUN FACT: The roundish circle behind the frog’s eye is the tympanum, an external “ear” of sorts. It transmits sound to the frog’s inner ear. In females, the tympanum is about the same size as the eye; in males it’s twice as big. An easy way to tell the boys from the girls!

140810_Mineral Hill_7643acsA wood frog sports a robber’s mask as he lingers on the leaves scattered across the forest floor. Wood frogs live in low moist woodlands and forested swamps. In the winter they migrate to nearby uplands, returning in the spring to the vernal pools, to search out a mate and begin the cycle anew.


HNWR_7534acs2 There is a moment during the approach of a summer thunderstorm when nature teeters on a razor’s edge. To the east, the sky is a brilliant blue; to the west, dark storm clouds boil. In between, just for an instant, everything stops. The wind dies, squirrels go still, birds cease their chattering. The air is thick with tension, quivering with electricity and the promise of the storm to come. Soon enough the wind will rise and the heavens open. But in this serene snippet of time, Nature is hushed, holding her breath… waiting.

Early spring is equally on the cusp, at the meeting place of seasons. The frantic weeks when the trees and plants explode with flowers and new greenery are the future. The winter coat of brown the land still wears is the past. But now the sky is blue, and the sun is warm. On days such as these, it seems that humans and wildlife alike are filled with anticipation. Waiting.

Buds Magnolia_7861acsYoung spring buds of the magnolia dream of being flowers. The first bee of the season dreams of the flowers to be. Waiting.

Tyler Flowers_7646acsTyler Frogspawn_7677a Promise in a jelly filling floats in vernal bogs and pools. These are the eggs of the wood frog. Each dark spot holds the potential of a tadpole, each tadpole the hope of a frog.

Tyler Frog Wood_7753acsMale wood frogs, having passed the winter in a state of frozen animation, are alive and looking for love. Waiting.

FUN FACT: Wood frogs make antifreeze! They survive the winter by freezing, their metabolism shutting down and their hearts stopping. A special antifreeze substance they manufacture limits the freezing of their cells, although ice does form in between the cells. When the weather warms up, they thaw out and go in search of mates.

Tyler Flowers_7620aTyler Flowers_7609a Early blooming flowers like snowdrops, crocus, and winter aconite bring a welcome splash of color to a drab landscape. For them, the wait is over; this is their time to shine.

Nest Box Day 1_7793acs A new home has been constructed, in hopes of attracting a feathered family. Waiting.

Flowers Scilla_7823aCali_7901acsA sleepy dog in the sunshine waits for nothing, content to be in the moment.

3 HNWR Tree Swallow_5543 ASCold winds and rain will interrupt our reverie soon enough. The fullness of spring is yet over the horizon. For now, it is enough to join other creatures in the sun, listen to the liquid trill of the northern cardinal and watch the tree swallows twitter on their nest boxes. For now, in this still, quiet moment, Nature holds her breath, dreaming, anticipating…

Waiting.Flowers Crocus_7814acs

Salt Marsh Safari

Cape May Skimmer Egret_6493 a The day started quietly, with a drive through mist-shrouded farms and forests tinged with early fall color. The calendar said “October”, but by the time we arrived at the dock, the day was already doing a fine imitation of summer. We were here on Cape May Harbor for the Salt Marsh Safari, a two-hour tour on the 40-foot Skimmer through the back bays of Cape May. Before we even got on the boat, we had some great looks at Snowy Egrets (above.)Cape May Skimmer_6484 a

Cape May Skimmer Peep_6823 a FUN FACT: Here’s a Semipalmated Sandpiper. A big name for a little bird! Its feet have short webs between the toes, hence the name. The holes in the mud are made by crabs, a few of which we’ll meet in an upcoming post.

Cape May Skimmer Tri Color_6638 aSome of those aboard were veterans of springtime Skimmer trips, and reported that there weren’t nearly as many birds this go-round. It didn’t bother me, as I still saw two life birds this trip. Quality over quantity! Here’s the first lifer, Tri-colored Heron.

Cape May Skimmer_6525 aThese are not the Skimmer, but a couple of fishing boats anchored along the harbor.

Speaking of fishing, a couple of times our captains scooped up marine life with a bucket for us to examine. There were sea urchins, shrimp, crabs, and a sea star at least six inches across. We also found a couple of large whelks. Most people know these for the empty shells found on the beach, but they are actually snails. Every time the captain tickled the soft creature inside the shell, it fired back with a jet of water.

Cape May Skimmer_6969 a Here’s the second life bird, Whimbrel. The captain brought the boat in for a really close view. Being on a boat has its advantages. As does that long downturned bill, for the Whimbrel. It’s perfect for digging yummy tidbits out of the mud.Cape May Skimmer_6986 a

Shameless plug: if you’re in the Cape May area and want to learn about the wildlife of the marshes, or just want a relaxing boat ride, check out the Skimmer. The captains are friendly and really know their stuff.

Cape May Point SP Duck_7099 a After lunch, we went for a land-based trek through Cape May Point State Park. With marshes, ponds and forests, there’s always a lot to see here. As the afternoon wore on, the unseasonable heat was getting to animals and humans alike. A couple of Mallards found a nice patch of shade.

Cape May Point SP Frog_7292 aA Green Frog knew how to keep cool.

Cape May Point SP Butterfly_7315 a Seaside Goldenrod was in bloom everywhere, and attracting lots of butterflies and bees. This bee is loaded with pollen. Cape May Point SP Bee_7020 a

Cape May Point SP Night-heron_7207 a Here’s the Bird of the Afternoon. This is a juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron. We found him at the base of a footbridge crossing a small stream. He couldn’t have been more than ten feet away, and he barely budged the whole time we were taking his portrait.

It may have felt like summer, but the golden hues hint at autumn to come. What better way to spend a glorious fall day than soaking it all up in Cape May.Cape May Skimmer_6731 a

Coming up: Migration Meanderings

The Critter Radio Sports Update

HNWR Painted Turtle_6615 aHey, hey, hey sports fans! This is Shelly Zuppa with your sports update here on KRTR 99.9 FM – Critter Radio. Today we have a real treat for all you sports fans – live coverage of yesterday’s hotly contested Herp Swamp Hockey match. Nothing like the timely coverage you’ll get here on Critter Radio! Let’s throw it over to our play-by-play announcer.

Hi, folks, I’m Myrtle Turtle the Dapper Snapper, and welcome to the Marsh Arena. For the Herp Swamp Hockey novices out there, let’s review the game. The league is restricted to herps – reptiles and amphibians, in other words. No fish, no fowl. No rules, no referees, no holds barred. Four teams for all the marbles, competing on land and in water.

HNWR_5624 a Looks like we’re all set for the match to start. The crowd is trembling with anticipation…

HNWR_9701 a…as their favorite players from the Tinicum Turtles take the field.

CM Higbee Beach_9885 aRight off the bat, the Higbee Beach Fence Lizards take the offensive by going on defense. These guys would lead the league if the game were Freeze Tag. At the first whiff of an opponent, they become motionless. “If I don’t move – you can’t see me!” is their battle cry.

HNWR Snake_7379 ACSThe strategy must have worked, because we can see they’ve got this Garter Snake player from Serpents United on the rocks.

HNWR Bullfrog_7722 ASMeanwhile, this American Bullfrog is mired deep in his own zone. Maybe water polo is more his game.

HNWR Tadpoles_5187 aHalftime entertainment keeps to the water with a nice display of synchronized swimming by three baby fish. Yes, folks, there’s nothing we Snapping Turtles like better than a good fish fry. Or three…

Tinicum_6389 Alt 2 AS OrigBack to the action, these Painted Turtles from Heinz seem to have been benched. The Tinicum Turtles try to overwhelm other teams with sheer numbers, but spend most of the game sunning themselves on the sidelines. It’s enough to make a fellow turtle weep.

CM Higbee Beach_9945 aWait, folks, what’s this… There’s a Spider Crab on the field and creeping away with the ball… Oh my gosh, we have a streaker! Don’t look, Ethel!

CMPSP Snake_9767 aThe Cape May fan contingent is not happy with this turn of events, as a Ribbon Snake shows his displeasure.

HNWR_2233 aWith time running out, Serpents United have taken a risky strategy by sending a Garter Snake player deep into the opposition’s Thistle to try to score. It’s a highly unusual place for a snake – but…

CM Higbee Beach_9942 aYES! He scores!


And the Serpents take the match!

Well, folks, it’s all over but the shouting. This Horseshoe Crab spectator seems overwhelmed with emotion. What an exciting game!

The rematch is bound to be a barn-burner. Be sure to tune in again to catch all the action right here on KRTR Critter Radio.

Blimp_3787 a copyI’m Myrtle Turtle the Dapper Snapper from the Marsh Arena – good night!

Aerial coverage provided by the Goodyear Blimp.

FUN FACT: Most crabs that walk on land do so sideways, but the Spider Crab usually goes forward. It’s particularly fond of draping itself with all sorts of adornments, including living sea plants, bits of shell and other oddities. Presumably this is for concealment, but maybe the crab’s just really fashion forward!

Coming up: Independence Day: Wissahickon Wanderings