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Archive for October, 2010

Porcupines – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

PORCUPINES

My second encounter with a porcupine this fall occurred today. This prickly rodent, upon first seeing me, had each and every one of its 30,000 quills erect and you could hear its teeth chattering away, but it gradually seemed to understand that I meant no harm, and lowered its quills so that the length of its long guard hairs could be appreciated. Interestingly, a porcupine’s quills contain a fatty acid which acts as an antibiotic, preventing the porcupine, as well as any enemy, from getting an infection if a quill enters its body.


Wild Turkeys – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

WILD TURKEY SIGN

It stretches the imagination, I know, but apparently the digestive tracts of hen and tom turkeys differ significantly enough to give their respective scats different shapes. Hen turkey scat is often in the form of a rounded lump, whereas the scat of toms is frequently in a “J” or “I” shape. A hen turkey had passed by and left its mark in this photograph.


Burls – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

BURLS

A burl is an abnormal growth on a tree trunk or branch thought to be caused by injury, disease or some other form of stress, perhaps involving insect damage or fungi. Although we commonly see them above ground, most burls develop on the roots of trees. A burl is often filled with small knots from dormant buds, giving the grain a unique and beautiful appearance prized by wood workers.


Red-breasted Nuthatch – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

There are two species of nuthatches in New England, both of which remain here year round – the white-breasted and red-breasted. You are more likely to spot red-breasted nuthatches in coniferous woods, where they can be found moving quickly over tree trunks and branches (up, down and sideways), probing for insects under loose bark. During the winter they often join groups of chickadees, kinglets and woodpeckers. The “yank-yank” call of the red-breasted nuthatch has been likened to the sound of a tiny tin horn. During poor Canadian seed crop years, we often experience an influx, or irruption, of these plump-bodied birds flying south in search of winter food.

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH


Crayfish – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

CRAYFISH

Crayfish (“crawdads” if you live in central U.S., and “crawfish” if you live further south) are crustaceans, closely related to lobsters, crabs and shrimp. Their fifth pair of legs has evolved into pincers


Mice – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

DEERMICE

It’s that time of year again, when white-footed deermice and North American deermice (formerly white-footed mice and deer mice) are seeking shelter inside of human dwellings. While stonewalls, old burrows, tree cavities and roofed-over bird nests are inhabited by some of these small rodents, the food and shelter that houses provide are palatial in comparison. It is very hard to distinguish these two species in the field; other than skull differences, the trait used most often is their relative tail length. If the tail is less than half the total length of the mouse, it is probably a white-footed deermouse; if its tail is more than half its total length, it is most likely a North American deermouse.


NATURALLY CURIOUS, THE BOOK, IS NOW AVAILABLE!

 

Friends and blog readers, spread the word! NATURALLY CURIOUS, my month-by-month guided tour of the Northeast and the plants and animals that make the region their home, is now available for purchase at www.trafalgarbooks.com! Order now, and your book ships next week! As of Monday, NATURALLY CURIOUS will be available in bookstores–look for it, and if you don’t see it, be sure to ask for it!

Don’t forget! If you order your copy from wwwtrafalgarbooks.com BY TOMORROW, OCTOBER 15, 2010, you’ll pay only $35.00 (regular price is $39.95).


Fisher Scent Posts – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

FISHER SCENT POSTS

Fishers tend to travel along corridors when they are hunting, and where these corridors intersect each other or other trails, fishers often will mark a sapling or old stump by urinating, defecating and/or rubbing themselves on it. They revisit these scent posts on a regular basis, so that signs and scents accumulate over time. In winter, these “bulletin boards” are obvious to humans due to the fisher’s tracks, but this time of year they are much more subtle. Pictured is a branch of a dead tree that was rubbed and trampled, most likely by a fisher. A close look reveals hairs caught during the rubbing process.


Black Bear – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

BLACK BEAR SCAT

It is that time of year – signs of black bears are plentiful and include everything from tracks, trampled bushes, overturned logs and stumps, claw marks on trees and of course, scat. In preparation for the coming winter, when bears will go for at least four months without eating or drinking (or defecating), they are busy putting on a layer of fat. Records show that black bears can and occasionally do double their weight prior to entering hiberation. Acorns, beechnuts, apples, berries – they aren’t fussy. Because black bears are eating so much and so frequently, they are also producing a considerable number of scats, which vary in appearance according to what the bear has been eating. The pictured scat, found near a bird feeder (sunflower seeds are high in fats and protein), reveals the largely apple diet of its producer.


Barred Owl – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

BARRED OWL

A walk in the woods yesterday was interrupted by repeated, jarring calls from an alarmed blue jay. I surmised that this was a warning to other woodland creatures of a nearby threat, and kept my eyes looking towards the canopy. Shortly I was rewarded with the sight of a barred owl peering down at me. Although I tend to think of this bird as a predator of small creatures such as mice, voles and frogs due to the relatively small size of its talons, according to Cornell’s Birds of North America Online, barred owls consume a variety of birds up to the size of grouse, small mammals up to the size of rabbits and amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates.


Ruffed Grouse – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

RUFFED GROUSE

Other than in the spring, when male ruffed grouse make their presence known by drumming (beating their wings in front of them, creating a sound that is apparently attractive to female grouse), we depend on our eyes find these birds. This can be challenging, especially in the fall, as their cryptic coloration blends in so well with the grays, browns and blacks of the early-successional forests where they are frequently found. Look for these birds in poplars, willows and birches, where they perch in the canopy at dawn and dusk, nipping off buds to consume.


Bald Eagle – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

BAKD EAGLE

(northwestern Ontario) A bald eagle takes off as we pass below where it was perched. Lake trout and northern pike provide it with a steady source of protein.


Wolf Track – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

WOLF TRACK - A muddy patch in a logging road afforded a look at the tracks of the front foot of a wolf today. Their resemblance to domestic dog tracks is striking. The middle two toes in a wolf’s track are often parallel, whereas a dog’s are usually splayed.


Wolf Sign – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

WOLF SIGN

If you live in an area where both coyotes and wolves reside, distinguishing their scat can be challenging, as there is considerable overlap in their respective diameters. In northwestern Ontario, the area where I am currently visiting, the local wolf population is far greater than the coyote’s. In a two-hour hike today on a seldom-used logging road we came across no less than five wolf scats, all of which contained moose hair, along with large chunks of bone. All were located in the middle of the trail or at the intersection of two trails, typical locations for canine marking.