The water frog, the ground squirrel, and the little thrush

From Xopher Walker, back in the spring, a Colonial Williamsburg Foundation greeting card with a reproduction of a charming 1754 etching by Mark Catesby showing a “water frog” (billed as Rana aquatica) together with a purple pitcher plant:


On Catesby, from Wikipedia:

Mark Catesby (24 March 1682/83 – 23 December 1749) was an English naturalist. Between 1729 and 1747 Catesby published his Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, the first published account of the flora and fauna of North America. It included 220 plates of birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, insects, and mammals, as well as plants.

(#1 is plate 70 in Vol. II of the Natural History. A typical plate shows one creature and one plant, as in #1 and the two others I’ll show below.)

from the Williamsburg people:

In 1712 and again in 1724, British naturalist Mark Catesby traveled to the New World to study and observe the flora and fauna. For four years, he painted the birds and flowers of Virginia and the Carolinas until his return to England whereupon he taught himself to etch.

The water frog. I had a bit of trouble identifying the frog species in #1. First, Rana aquatica occurs as a synonym of Rana temporaria, the common frog; but the common frog is (1) European, not American, and (2) not a true aquatic frog, which cannot survive permanently out of water. Second, true aquatic frogs are sold as pets, but these come from Africa, not America. Finally, I found the American bullfrog:

The American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), often simply known as the bullfrog in Canada and the United States, is an aquatic frog, a member of the family Ranidae, or “true frogs”. (Wikipedia link)


Then the purple pitcher plantSarracenia purpurea, a carnivorous plant that feeds on insects.

The ground squirrel. On to a “ground squirrel”, shown with a Cornus (mastic tree):


Serious nomenclatural problems here. Californians (and other westerners) are familiar with ground squirrels, but this creature doesn’t look like the ground squirrels familiar to Californians:

The California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus [formerly Spermophilus] beecheyi), is a common and easily observed ground squirrel of the western United States and the Baja California Peninsula (Wikipedia link)

Ground squirrels live in burrows, rather than nesting in trees (they can be serious garden pests). A California ground squirrel in a characteristic pose (looking like a prairie dog):


What we have in #2 is in fact a chipmunk, the Eastern chipmunk:

The eastern chipmunk (Tamias (Tamias) striatus) is a chipmunk species found in eastern North America. It is the sole living member of the chipmunk subgenus Tamias, sometimes recognised as a separate genus. (Wikipedia link)


What’s going on here? From Wikipedia:

The ground squirrels are members of the squirrel family of rodents (Sciuridae) which generally live on or in the ground, rather than trees. The term is most often used for the medium-sized ground squirrels, as the larger ones are more commonly known as marmots (genus Marmota) [e.g., groundhogs / woodchucks] or prairie dogs, while the smaller and less bushy-tailed ground squirrels tend to be known as chipmunks.

As for the plant in #2, it’s some species of Cornus (dogwood), I’m not sure which one.

The little thrush. One more Catesby:


This shows Turdus minimus (now Catharus minimus) — the little thrush — and dahoon holly (Ilex cassine). Briefly noted:

Catharus is a genus of birds in the thrush family Turdidae. It contains the small, mostly insectivorous or omnivorous migrant thrushes of North America and the nightingale-thrushes of Central and South America. (Wikipedia link)

Ilex cassine is a holly native to the southeastern coast of North America (Wikipedia link)

Thrush lurks in holly leaves.

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