Fauna: Perimyotis subflavus

Studio portrait of a tricolored bat, National Geographic Photo Ark

Tricolored bat
Perimyotis subflavus

Tricolored bats are very small, weighing about the same as a U.S. quarter, though its wingspan can reach up to 10 inches across. Their fur is a mix of black, brown, and light brown, giving them their name. The species used to be called Eastern pipistrelle, but a 2019 DNA test showed they in fact are not related to the Pipistrellus genus. The new genus, Perimyotis, indicates its similarities with the Myotis or mouse-eared bats.

Larisa Bishop-Boros – A healthy hibernating tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus)

The first known specimen was collected in Georgia by John Eatton Le Conte, a naturalist and a captain in the United States Army Corps of Topographical Engineers. Among other locations, he was stationed in the Savannah harbor and at Ossabaw Sound. Le Conte’s tricolored bat specimen was studied and categorized by zoologist Frédéric Cuvier in 1832.

Tri-colored bat with visible WNS symptom, USFW, Darwin Brock

Males are solitary, while females can sometimes be found living in small colonies. They may take up residence in a cave but they are also found in trees, overhanging water. Scientists have also recently discovered colonies living in tree lichen (like Spanish moss), presumably because the lichen has natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-insect properties. This is especially important as the tricolored bat is susceptible to the deadly white-nose syndrome, which has killed about 70% of the population since 2006.  Though numbers have stabilized, this bat remains on the Endangered Species List as “vulnerable and threatened.”

Like most bats, this species hunts in early evening and at night, using echolocation to find its prey. It eats mainly insects like mosquitoes, moths, cicadas, and ants. It loves to hunt in areas near water, especially. It’s a very efficient hunter and is able to consume a quarter of its own weight within a half an hour.

Fauna: Acipenser brevirostrum

NOAA

Shortnose sturgeon
Acipenser brevirostrum

The shortnose sturgeon is a hefty freshwater fish that can be nearly five feet long, weigh upwards of 60 pounds, and generally live about 30 years — some females have been known to live 70 years! Though they can be found feeding in saltwater environments, they live, and spawn, entirely in coastal, freshwater rivers, including the Ogeechee.. Because of this, their survival depends on two types of healthy ecosystems. Shortnose sturgeon are currently listed on the Endangered Species List.

Native Americans fishing, John White, 1530. Public domain.

Sometimes called a ‘living fossil,’ the shortnose sturgeon has been thriving in coastal areas for millions of years. There is evidence that the species has been fished by humans for at least 4,000 years. However, overfishing contributed to a swift decline in the late 1800s. According to NOAA, In 1890, more than 7 million pounds of sturgeon were caught in that year alone. In 1920, only 23,000 pounds of sturgeon were caught.

via NY Post

Their trademark ridged back is formed by bony plates called ‘scutes,’ giving them the appearance of armor. They lack teeth but have bony plates in their esophagus which serve to crush their food. They use their barbels — sort of like fish antennae — to find insects, crustaceans, and bivalves on the ocean floor or river bottom. 

Due to their low numbers, protecting their habitat and spawning ability is crucial to the species population. Sturgeon require free flowing, unobstructed rivers and streams in order to swim upstream and spawn. They also need healthy intertidal zones to feed and rest.

Original art by Caroline Rose

Clean Halloween

During the month of October, you are challenged to participate a different kind of trick-or-treating. Put together a team of no more than 10 people and compete to collect the most trash by October 31! ORK will provide a prize to the team who collects the most trash (by weight).

RULES:

  • Make note of the location, take a photo, weigh total trash and/or recycling collected per team/individual, and send it in to info@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.
  • Trash collection must be conducted on public lands or have permission from private landowners/river landings.
  • Each team is responsible for supplying their own litter collection supplies.
  • Each team is responsible for discarding the trash/recycling collected. BONUS: Email a picture of any repurposed item or sustainable solution.
  • Teams are encouraged to include friends/family members within your “COVID bubble,” i.e. not strangers -or- use masks and/or social distancing.

Creativity is encouraged with team name and Halloween or fall costumes (must be family friendly and appropriate for outdoor activities). Team Trash Panda, anyone?

Fauna: Pandion haliaetus

Larry Stamm/Audubon Photography Awards

Western osprey
Pandion haliaetus

This large bird of prey can often be spotted in the Ogeechee watershed as they feed almost exclusively on live fish. They are adept hunters, diving in shallow waters and pulling up fish in their opposable talons. As a species they have adapted fairly well to living near human settlements. They often built sturdy nests on tall structures like telephone poles and channel markers, as well as trees overlooking waterways.

The nests are put together from sticks and other natural materials but can grow to be more than 10 feet wide over many years. Aside from breeding and nesting, ospreys are usually solitary birds. They hatch 1-4 fledglings each year and their numbers have stabilized since the ban on DDT which harmed their eggs.

Ospreys at Nest, by Jake Dingel, PGC

The birds seem to live about 15-20 years, and according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they have been known to log more than 150,000 migratory miles in their lifetime. One can spot the osprey with its mostly white coloring, especially on the underneath side of their nearly 6-foot wingspan. They sport the well-known hooked beak look of a bird of prey.

Artwork by Caroline Rose

You can watch local osprey nests on Skidaway Island. The live cameras are operated by Skidaway Audubon and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Watch baby ospreys grow up, leave the nest, and adults come home to roost, or choose clips of past highlights. 

Forest Ecology

Pinus longifolia. Public domain. Aylmer Bourke Lambert. 1803.

Activity is open to all ages and is suitable for a homeschool activity for 3-7 grade with guidance for younger grades using Georgia Performance Standards/Standards of Excellence with Science, Visual Arts & Language Arts.

Extra: Activity can be done in combination with Project Learning Tree activity “We All Need Trees” which can be adapted for PreK-6 grade in Science, Visual Arts & Language Arts.

Vocabulary:

Adaptation – How a species changes over time to help it survive in its environment
Canopy – Tallest trees in a forest; also includes animals living in that level
Decomposition – The breakdown process of organic matter through decay, rotting, animal feces
Ecology – The study of relationships between organisms and their environment
Habitat – The environment in which a species typically lives and eats
Pioneer Species – The first species to enter a new habitat
Succession – Change in different species and their community over time
Symbiosis – A biological relationship between two species
Understory – Trees and plants that live below the main canopy level of a forest

Bald cypress samples

Activity:

Go outside and find a tree in your backyard, school playground, community park, etc. Once you pick your tree, look at the different characteristics (leaf shape, size, color; bark; height, trunk width; etc.) and identify your tree. 

Once you identify your tree, take note of its habitat. Does it like shade or sun? Does it grow near the water? Is it the tallest tree around or is it in the understory? Do you notice any animals or insects on, or around, your tree? Write down as many details about your tree’s habitat as you can. Take some photos or make a drawing / painting / collage of your tree. 

Bald cypress botanical drawing. Louisiana Digital Library.

Next, do some research (computer or library) to find out more about your tree. Write a short story about your tree and include everything you saw and read about it. Include a picture of your tree or your artistic representation and send it to us: info@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

One submission will be chosen to be featured on our social media!

If you need help with identifying your tree for this activity:

Arbor Day tree identification | LeafSnap App

or email a photo of your tree or leaf to melanie@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org