An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Archive for January, 2011

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

Have you noticed that even in the depths of January, there is a sign of spring outside your door? Male black-capped chickadees have started singing their spring song, “fee-bee,” in an attempt to claim their territory and attract a mate. This most obvious proclamation that the breeding season has begun is not, as one might think, triggered by temperature (it’s going to dip way below zero tonight), but rather by photoperiod, or day length. Longer days stimulate the production of hormones which initiate breeding behavior. Even though mating won’t take place for at least two more months, the air will continue to be filled with this most welcome of spring songs for the duration of the winter.

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.

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES SINGING


Eastern Coyote – 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.

EASTERN COYOTE BED

Like most carnivores, coyotes do not have permanent homes, other than the maternal dens in which their young are raised. However, when they rest (usually during the day in the East), they often choose to lay down on a knoll within a forest. When they do so, they leave a round depression in the snow, as they sleep in perfect circles when it is cold out, with their heads wrapped around their legs and their tails covering their noses. This impression is referred to as a bed.


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 now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

RUFFED GROUSE SHELTER

On really cold nights, if there are at least 10 inches of snow on the ground, ruffed grouse seek shelter from the cold by diving into snowbanks, where they are not only protected by the insulating blanket of snow, but camouflaged as well. Once they’ve landed, they often burrow further into the snow for even more protection, and have been known to remain there several days. When they leave these shelters, there is often a pile of scat that has accumulated during their stay.


Snowshoe Hare Form – 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.

SNOWSHOE HARE FORM

Most of us have not set eyes on a snowshoe hare, even though their range extends throughout most of New England. Snowshoe hares are, in fact, very elusive. Their brown summer coats and white winter coats allow them to be well camouflaged. In addition, snowshoe hares tend to be active at dusk, dawn and during the night, when we are not apt to be crossing paths with them. During the day, hares rest in protected areas called “forms.” Often these sheltered spots are located under low conifer branches, and, because they remain there throughout the day, snowshoe hares often leave a pile of scat in their form.


Twig I.D. – 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.

TWIG I.D.

Shrubs and trees are easily identified in the summer, when leaves are present, but the bud-bearing twigs of these woody plants are actually as distinctive, or more so, than leaves. Pictured, from left to right, are twigs from a white ash, red oak and sugar maple. Note the placement of the buds,as well as their shape and color. White ash branches, as a rule, are quite stout, and their terminal (at tip of branch) bud is fairly fat. Usually it has two lateral buds (one on either side and just below it), illustrating the opposite arrangement of its buds, and therefore its branches and leaves. A distinctive characteristic of oaks is the cluster of terminal buds – rarely do you find just one bud at the tip of a branch. Sugar maple buds are pointed and bear many scales; their branches are often a rich brown color. As you see further down the branch, the buds/branches/leaves of maples grow opposite one another, just like those of ashes.


Snowshoe Hare Sign – 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.

SNOWSHOE HARE SIGN

Snowshoe hare urine is as distinctive as, or more so than, its scat, for often it is orange, red or pinkish. This color is said to be from a pigment that was originally part of chlorophyll molecules in green plant tissues the hare consumed.


Red Fox Urine – 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.

RED FOX URINE

It’s that time of year again… red foxes are courting and their urine has acquired a musky odor, much like that of skunk spray. Male red fox urine smells particularly strong at this time, so much so that you can often detect it as you’re walking, snowshoeing or skiing where foxes have been scent marking. For the next four to six weeks this odor will permeate the woods wherever a pair of red foxes has established its breeding territory. If you look closely you can see that a red fox has marked a grass tussock in the photograph.