An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Archive for February, 2018

Spiders Crawling On The Snow

2-12-18 snow spider 049A2557Most adult spiders (as many as 85% of temperate zone species) are dormant during the winter, seeking shelter beneath the leaf litter. Their metabolism slows and their need for food is greatly reduced. Other species die at the end of the summer, and their eggs overwinter, protected inside silken sacs. A third, even smaller, group of spiders remains active through the winter.

Spiders’ body temperatures vary significantly, heavily influenced by their environment. Many spiders that remain active year round seek shelter in the subnivean layer between the ground and snow, where the temperature (+/-32°F.) is often warmer than the air. Occasionally, however, they do appear on the surface of the snow, where they are exposed to the wintery blasts of cold air.

Scientists don’t know exactly how these active spiders survive the cold. Some species can tolerate temperatures as low as -4° F.°. Glycerol acts as a type of anti-freeze for these arachnids, but its effect is marginal. In order to survive, some species bask in the sun and derive energy from their diet of snow fleas (a type of springtail) and other small prey, but these strategies don’t totally explain their ability to survive a New England winter. Species of spiders in the families Linyphiidae and Tetragnathidae (see photo) are often what you see crawling on top of the snow.

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.


Rolling White Pine Cone

2-9-18 white pine cone 049A2427

Leave it to NC readers to recognize yesterday’s Mystery Photo! I was impressed with the fat tire track guesses – something I would never ever recognize! With the help of the wind and a gentle slope, a White Pine cone rolled down a hill, leaving the imprint of its spirally-arranged scales in a repetitive pattern. The fall cone crop of many conifers this year was extreme, so your chances of coming across this track are great this winter.

All species of pines produce cones with scales that overlap each other like fish scales. During cold, damp weather, these scales close tight to protect the seeds within them from bad weather and hungry animals. When the weather is conducive to germination (warm and dry) the scales open, allowing seeds to escape. Even after cones fall from the tree, their scales can still open and close.

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.

.

 


Your Thoughts Are Much Appreciated

e-Greta 049A2724

Thank you to my Naturally Curious reader family for your warm responses to the news about Emma and Greta. I live alone, so my dog is a very big part of my life. I am so lucky to have both Greta and you to share my discoveries with.


Mystery Photo

2-7-18 mystery photo 049A2427

A favorite past-time of many people who traverse woods and fields in winter is deciphering the tracks that they come across. Do you know who or what made this track? (Hint: diameter = 5”)

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


A New Four-footed Companion

Bess 049A2715

As many of you may have heard, I lost my steadfast companion Emma in December. She had 14 good years, but it still seems like too short a life to me. We canoed, hiked, swam, traveled to programs and photographed together for many, many years, sharing close encounters with porcupines, moose, beavers, snowy owls and countless other creatures. You may have seen her in the background in some of my posts – wherever I went, she went. She would literally sit for hours while I photographed. I couldn’t have asked for a better friend.

I think Emma is looking out for me, as I have a 6th Labrador in my life now – her name is Greta. Her breeding days are over and the very kind breeders who owned Greta let me adopt her. She is five years old and one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known.  She is quickly learning to sit patiently while I photograph – a must for any dog I own! Now and then you may see a spot of yellow, not brown, in some of my posts!

.


Hooded Mergansers On Open Water

1-29-18 hooded mergansers2 049A2217While many of New England’s Hooded Mergansers migrate and spend the winter on the coast, they can also be found inland this far north if there is open water and a good supply of slow-moving fish, insects and crayfish. Look for this elegant duck on small open bodies of freshwater, including ponds and rivers. The males have bold black and white markings including a striking crest, or “hood.” The females are more subtly colored, but in the right light, their golden cinnamon crests can rival the males.’

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


Happy Groundhog Day !

2-2-18 woodchuck IMG_2381The Woodchuck, or Groundhog, is one lucky creature, considering past practices. The observation of “Groundhog Day” originated in the mid-1800’s, and by the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the celebration consisted of feasting on this rodent. A formalized hunt took place and participants then dined on Groundhog (which purportedly tastes like a cross between chicken and pork) and drank Groundhog punch. Since then, the Groundhog has evolved into a forecaster of weather, rather than a meal.

While New England Woodchucks are curled up in their hibernacula,  Punxsutawney Phil is busy seeing if he can see his shadow today (in which case we’re in for six more weeks of winter) or whether cloudy skies will prevent that from happening and spring is right around the corner. I’d bet on the former.

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