June 11, 2015

Birds and Bees (and Toads, Oh My)

On Saturday, May 30, 2015, I brought my Therm-App to the Finger Lakes Land Trust's Spring Bird Quest at the Ellis Hollow Nature Preserve. It was a cool overcast day, which I thought would be good for thermographic wildlife detection.

After showing off the novelty of seeing squirrels and chipmunks in the woods, I found a warm spot I could not locate with binoculars, until I realized it was not a large object far away, but a tiny object much closer: it was a bee!

Like everyone else there, I'd assumed that insects were cold blooded and would not be detectable. But walk leader Mark Chao later did some web research and reported that "Various insect species, especially bees, thermoregulate. They do not maintain a high temperature all the time, but can warm themselves up quickly when they need to. A bumblebee can warm up its body from an ambient air temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit up to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit in just six minutes!" Thanks, Mark, for the information.

Further along the trail, we found a large warm area high in a tree: a short protruding limb was registering significantly warmer than the rest of the tree, and I conjectured that it might be hosting a roosting warm-blooded critter. Before long, a yellow-bellied sapsucker flew by and into an unseen cavity in that same limb! I regret not having taking better photos of this encounter, but here's one showing the warm limb in the lower-left corner, and the sapsucker perched in the next tree over:

In the visual photograph, the sapsucker is situated lower than in the thermal image, about midway in the second tree from the right. In the thermal image, the warm limb in the lower left does not look as pronounced, because the presence of the warmer sapsucker in the frame of view has shifted the upper bound of the Therm-App rendering. When the sapsucker was absent, the limb was a more prominent yellow against the darker background.

Shortly after, we found a small frog (or toad) leaping through the leaf litter, and I was curious to see its thermal signature:

Cold-blooded: that's more like it. Actually, I was a little surprised that it appeared that much colder than the surrounding leaf litter, rather than matching the ambient temperature. For what it's worth, here's a photograph of the same frog/toad (different pose).

And here are photos of a larger toad that I encountered later.

Finally, here are the bird quest participants hiking through the woods.

Many thanks to Mark Chao for leading the bird quest, and to the Finger Lakes Land Trust for all their work in conserving the natural areas for all to enjoy. Please check out Mark's blog about the month-long bird quest, of which this walk was only a small part: http://www.fllt.org/spring-bird-quest-blog-by-mark-chao/

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