An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

WELCOME TO A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY THROUGH THE FIELDS, WOODS, AND MARSHES OF NEW ENGLAND

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my award-winning book NATURALLY CURIOUS

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Black Bears Scent Marking

4-20-18 black bear biteIn the Northeast, Black Bears typically emerge from their dens in April and mate sometime between mid-May and late June. Prior to mating, Black Bears of all ages and both sexes announce their presence to other bears by rubbing their scent on marking trees (maintaining several on their territory). These “trees” often include utility poles, such as the one pictured. While most of the marking is done by mature males during the mating season, this week’s storm provided proof that scent marking actually resumes in April soon after bears come out of hibernation.

Scent marking can include a bear’s rubbing its shoulders and neck against the tree/pole as well as clawing and biting the tree. Claw marks are usually quite shallow, but incisor bites are deep enough that pieces of bark and wood are sometimes pulled out.  This photograph shows where a Black Bear stood on its hind feet and with its head sideways, grabbed the pole with its mouth open and closed its jaws, scraping a horizontal groove across the pole as its upper and lower canine teeth came together.  The height of the bite was about six feet.

Fresh bear signs indicate that it’s time to bring bird feeders in (either permanently or, at the very least, at night), in order to avoid creating “nuisance” bears,  thereby putting the bears’ lives at risk.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com  and click on the yellow “donate” button.

 

 

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Downy Woodpeckers Nest-building

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Downy Woodpeckers are beginning to scout for potential nest sites, preferring the dead stubs of a living or dead tree. Both sexes have been observed selecting the nest site, although females do so more commonly. Just because you see a Downy Woodpecker pecking at a site, however, doesn’t mean it will end up nesting there, as excavation is often started at several sites before one is chosen.

When a potential nest site is decided upon by either sex, it often drums to inform its mate, and its mate often flies to the site and taps or drums in response. It takes about 16 days for both male and female to excavate a cavity. A round entrance hole of roughly 1 ¼” in diameter can make it hard for an egg-bearing female to squeeze into the nest. Egg-laying begins anywhere from one to ten days after the completion of the nest cavity, and three to eight eggs are laid, one per day, usually before 10 a.m.. (Photo: male Downy Woodpecker excavating nesting hole)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com  and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Beavers Up and Out

4-16-18 beaver l 690Although most of the Northeast is snow-free, parts of northern New England still have a while to go before bare ground is visible. Most beaver ponds, however, are open and the beavers have been taking advantage of their ability to access fresh food after a long winter of water-logged woody plants. While this particular beaver is dining on bark, most beavers head for any green plants, buds, grasses, etc. that are poking their heads above the ground. A particular beaver delicacy this time of year are the leaves and blossoms of skunk cabbage.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Eight Years of Your Support

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I want to take a moment to acknowledge the magnanimous spirit of Naturally Curious readers. You have supported me and my family multiple times — by donating to Sadie’s family’s future, supporting my blog and helping me replace my camera. I am truly indebted to you, and I will do my very best to continue to provide you with insight into the events and natural phenomena that we are all privilege to throughout the year. Thank you so much for your continued support of my work and my family. Naturally Curious is a joint effort – you are an integral part of this endeavor – your questions and comments, your continued loyalty and your financial support. I am so grateful to begin the 8th year of this blog with you. (Photo: Spring Peeper, Pseudacris crucifer)

Big Night!

4-13-18 amphibsA magical migration awaits all who take note of the first rainy spring day (in the 40’s) when the rain continues into the night. Last night these conditions resulted in what herpetologists refer to as “Big Night.” While snow still covers parts of the forest, there is ample bare ground that has warmed up enough to waken hibernating frogs and salamanders at this time of year. As if silently communicating with each other, thousands and thousands of these amphibians emerge from their subterranean hibernacula on the very same night and migrate en masse to their ancestral breeding pools, known as vernal pools. They avoid the lethal sun by travelling at night, in the rain. Unfortunately, many die, as they often must cross hazardous roads in order to reach the pool where they breed every year. If you are driving in these conditions, please keep an eye out for these jaywalkers and try to avoid them. Roads can quickly become slick with their squashed bodies.

How many Spring Peepers, Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders can you find in this photograph taken on Big Night? (There are six.)  Thanks to the unbelievable generosity of Naturally Curious readers, this photograph was taken with my new camera and lens.  I cannot tell you how deeply touched I am by your kindness and generosity.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Lily Piper Brown Arrives!

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To my Naturally Curious family,

As you know, I’ve been away attending the birth of my beautiful granddaughter. She took her time in coming, but three days ago my daughter Sadie delivered her daughter, Lily Piper. Otis has a sister, and we all have joy in our hearts! I was so honored to be asked to be present during the birth, and it was one of the most incredible and emotional experiences of my life.

While I was at Sadie’s I kept my camera and lenses in my car so they would be handy both to photograph my grandchildren and to also photograph the nesting woodpeckers down the road from Sadie’s house. Sadly, on the third or fourth day of my visit my camera and five lenses were stolen from my car! Blog photos for the next week or two may well be from previous years as it will be a little while before I can replace the camera and lenses. Rest assured I will insure the new ones now that I have learned the hard way that not everywhere is as trustworthy as Vermont!

Thank you (in advance) for your patience this week, as I catch up before returning to help Sadie. If I don’t answer your emails promptly (or answer them twice) please understand that I am still just a bit overwhelmed.  Naturally Curious posts will resume next week. However, over the next few weeks I will still be making trips down to help Sadie from time to time, so I may still miss a posting or be a bit late. Bear with me, please, and I will do everything I can to see that Naturally Curious posts resume a regular schedule as soon as possible. With a little luck, the snow will soon be gone and Greta and I can go exploring the woods for signs of spring with a new camera!

A Rare Privilege

4-6-18 four black bears 636-RecoveredThe hours I spent with this ursine family were some of the most special hours of my life.  It’s possible, and probably likely, that because they lived relatively close to human habitation, they were cognizant of the fact that I meant them no harm.  Regardless, they allowed me to observe their natural behavior, and that is a priceless gift to anyone, particularly a naturalist.

Black Bears are not  the monsters Goldilocks would have you believe. Offensive attacks are very rare — aggressive displays are much more an expression of their fear than anything else.  Chattering of jaws, false charges and the like are just that — bravado. Even when it comes to defending their young, they are very reluctant to be aggressive — that is much more likely with Grizzly Bears, which are not found in the Northeast. If not encouraged to become a nuisance by the presence and easy access of human lures such as garbage and bird seed, Black Bears can coexist with humans with little to no conflict.

If you’ve enjoyed the photographs of this family of bears, you (or your very young friends) might enjoy my recently-released children’s book, Yodel the Yearling, in which many of these photos plus others appear .

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

 

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