Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats

Click on arrows to show pull-down menus:


Archived-by-Date Pages

 My Local Drainage Ditch and Streams Leading from It (Durham, NC)

In my neighborhood, there is a large drainage ditch, an artificially constructed Third Fork Creek tributary, that runs along the border of a power line cut, cuts across it at a 90° angle, and runs along the other side to merge with a natural creek.   It has been an ideal place to observe a variety of animals because 1) its water is clear and stagnant, 2) the water's edge is very accessible, 3) the waterway is narrow, trapping animals and bringing them closer together and 4) the water level varies widely, both because of rainfall variations and the ditch's uneven ground level.

Backswimmers (family Notonectidae, superfamily Notonectoidea, infraorder Nepomorpha)

Common Backswimmer (Notonecta glauca, tribe Notonectini, subfamily Notonectinae), in the drainage ditch, Durham, NC, 5/18/08 Backswimmer.  This bug showed up on the edge of the dried-up drainage ditch in a heavily wooded area in Durham on 6/11/08. Backswimmer, another view of the Backswimmer on the left (retreating, in reverse), Durham, NC, 6/11/08  See other true bugs.    

Water Striders (family Gerridae, superfamily Gerroidea, infraorder Gerromorpha)

Common Water Strider (Gerris remigis [Say, 1832]) and reflection, Durham, 4/15/05. 

Water Boatmen (family Corixidae, superfamily Corixoidea, infraorder Nepomorpha)

Very tiny (about 1 mm long) Water Boatman, seen in a puddle in the otherwise VERY dried-up drainage ditch.

Crayfish (suborder Dendrobranchiata, order Decapoda, superorder Eucarida, subclass Eumalacostraca, class Malacostraca)

Stream crayfish, Durham, 5/13/05.  This inch-long crayfish appeared in a stream in my neighborhood exiting from the drainage ditch.  Note that it's pushed its tail into the sand so it's not quite visible.  The long antennae have been cropped. Crayfish, Durham, 7/2/05.  This crayfish was lying at the bottom of the drainage ditch, so it took some image enhancement to bring out the details.  It appeared to be several inches long. This small crayfish (about an inch long), a water strider, veliid bugs and other miscellaneous arthropods appeared in a small puddle, about one foot long, left behind when this (higher) part of the drainage ditch dried up during what appears to be yet another drought here.  Durham, NC, 8/11/08 This half-inch long crayfish appeared in a puddle left over from the dried-up drainage ditch.  This image has been enhanced.  Durham, 10/3/05. Drainage ditch crayfish, Durham, 5/28/06
Crayfish holes, Durham, 3/26/07.  These were located on both sides of a stream leading to the drainage ditch in which the above crayfish were found.  Crayfish created these after a long dry spell this spring.

Eastern Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus, subfamily Kinosterninae, family Kinosternidae)

Eastern Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), Durham, 6/30/05.  This turtle was underwater at the drainage ditch in my Durham neighborhood.

Frogs (and Toads) (order Anura, superorder Salientia, subclass Lissamphibia, class Amphibia, subphylum Vertebrata, phylum Chordata, kingdom Animalia, domain Eukaryota) 

Green Frog, Durham, 9/12/05.  I spotted this frog in a nearly dried up drainage ditch in my neighborhood.  In this picture, the back looks brown. Bullfrog, Durham, NC, 4/2/07.  Seen at a stream leading off a drainage ditch in my neighborhood.  It uttered a squeaky "Yap!" as it jumped in the water. Green Treefrog, Durham, 10/31/05.  This underfed frog showed up in dried-up drainage ditch during a drought.  It did move fairly fast, however. Looks like a brown Green Treefrog.  Durham, 10/18/06.  Seen in a power line cut near a drainage ditch.


Northern Water Snake, Durham, NC, 7/6/07.  About a foot long.  The water was quite shallow here, near the elbow of the drainage ditch.

Teleost Fish (infraclass Teleostei, subclass Neopterygii, class Actinopterygii, superclass Osteichthyes, subphylum Verebrata, phylum Chordata, kingdom Animalia, domain Eukarya)

To most Americans, the word "fish" really means "teleost fish."  This is the dominant infraclass of fish, and has been since the Cretaceous Period (144 to 65 million years ago).  However, there are a number of ancient species of fish on the planet, such as the strange and rarely seen Coelacanth, which comprises its own subclass.

I saw most of them in a relatively full drainage ditch and the water may have distorted their shape somewhat.

This Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) seemed to be swimming near or at the surface of the water in the drainage ditch on 6/25/05.  Josh Rose provided this ID.


Rainbow Trout, Durham, 6/30/05, in my local drainage ditch. Durham, 6/30/05 Durham, 8/5/05


Durham, 7/5/05 Durham, 7/12/05, probably same species as fish on the left. Durham, 8/1/05.  This fish had its mouth open.


Copyright © 2010-2019 by Dorothy E. Pugh.  All rights reserved.  Please contact for rights to use photos.