An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Archive for March, 2018

Exploring With Senses

4-6-18 black bear yearling on back 1058The yearlings were constantly engaged in exploration and play that makes use of all of their senses – playing with sticks, needles and anything else they can find to manipulate with their huge paws, chewing saplings, smelling everything from chewed sticks to each other’s scat, clawing, biting and rubbing on tree trunks, and even approaching me in order to see exactly who and what I am. (Several times I had to shoo one of them away, for fear their mother might object to its close proximity to me.) Some of this exploration serves as the beginning of scent-marking that they will use to communicate with other bears their entire lives, while some of it appears to be just plain fun.

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.


Tolerant Black Bear Mothers

3-28-17 black bears playing 1368

The yearlings continually challenge their mother’s patience as well as each other’s to see just how much will be tolerated. They climb on, bite, claw and test their mother in much the same manner as toddlers do their (human) mothers. At the same time, when she demands that they follow her instructions, such as climbing a tree when danger approaches, they immediately obey. (Photo: mother bear (lying down) indulging her playful yearling)

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.

 


Black Bears Emerging From Hibernation

3-26-18 black bears sleeping 1545

A year ago, in April 2017, while following Black Bear tracks in New Hampshire, I had the good fortune to encounter the bears themselves. Because Black Bears have started coming out of hibernation (April is when most do so) I felt it was timely to share some of my photographs and observations of that encounter. (I did not do so a year ago for fear of bringing attention to and thereby disturbing these bears.)  As I followed the bear tracks, I eventually came upon a refuge, or “babysitter,” tree – where bears rest and cubs/yearlings take refuge when their mother goes off foraging or when she senses danger. I had read about such trees, but never discovered one myself. It was very recognizable — a very large White Pine surrounded on the ground by bear scat and gnawed saplings – fresh signs that bears frequented this area. At the base of the tree were several large “bowls” or indentations in the pine needles that looked as if large animals might have bedded down repeatedly in them, forming nests.

I continued tracking, eventually turning around to head back to where I entered the woods. On my return I passed by the babysitter tree again. To my utter delight I discovered a mother bear with her three yearlings fast asleep in the beds at the base of the tree. It was snowing lightly, and I surmised that this family had recently emerged from their deep winter’s sleep and was still a bit groggy. (Adult males are the first to emerge; females with cubs are the last.) While the yearlings slept on, the mother opened her eyes and decided to tolerate my presence for the next couple of hours. In Naturally Curious posts this week and next, I will share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with you as well as the behavioral observations I made.

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.


Bald Eagles On Eggs

3-19-18 bald eagle2 049A4432

Thanks in large part to the Vermont Bald Eagle Restoration Initiative, seeing eagles in Vermont is not all that unusual these days, even in winter. The open water of Lake Champlain (as well as ice fishermen and White-tailed Deer carcasses in other parts of the state) allow them to survive here during our coldest months. Vermont’s mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey documented 84 eagles in January, 2018.

Equally as encouraging is the growing breeding population of eagles in this state. This past year 21 adult Bald Eagle pairs successfully produced 35 young in Vermont. The return of eagles to their nest site is always a much- anticipated event, which often coincides with the opening up of the Connecticut River for at least one pair that nests on its banks (see photo).

Eggs have been laid and eagles (both male and female) are engaged in incubating them for the next month.  One can’t help but be impressed by their perseverance — recently they endured three Nor’easters in 10 days while incubating their eggs (note snow on rim of nest)!

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.


“Animal Ears” Released

Animal Ears

The fifth book in my children’s series on Animal Adaptations, Animal Ears, has just been released. Like Animal Eyes, Mouths, Tails and Legs, this book introduces the reader to the diversity of design and use of one part of their body. Ears are used to find prey, escape predators and locate a mate, sometimes in total darkness. See how birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects detect sound in very different ways. The entire Animal Adaptation series is geared to three to eight-year-olds. Activities are included in each book. To order from the publisher, go to the Naturally Curious blog (www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com) and click on the Animal Ears cover on right hand side. Also available from independent bookstores and online.


Silver Maples Beginning To Flower

3-19-18 silver maple male flowers 049A4484

Early in spring, often in March, long before trees begin to leaf out, the swollen red buds of Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) begin to open, revealing the flowers within.  Typically, most of the buds on a given tree bloom at the same time; in fact, if there are several Silver Maples in an area, they will usually all flower within days of each other. Most of the flowers on any given tree are of the same gender, so there are male and female trees.

The flowers of maples are wind-pollinated and lack petals (which would hinder dissemination of the pollen).  Therefore, the flowers are not large and flashy, and often escape notice. Flowering before leaves emerge also enhances pollen dispersal. The flowers are generally either male or female. If you look closely at the male flowers, what you will see are bundles of stamens, sometimes red and sometimes yellowish-green, tipped with yellow pollen.  Female flowers have reddish clusters of pistils forming clumps of bristly little balls along the branches. The pistils develop petal-like extensions at the tips called stigmas, which are receptors for the pollen. (Photo: Silver Maple buds opening; inset = male Silver Maple flowers)

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.

 

 


Naturally Curious Posts During The Next Few Weeks

100 ppi-6.2x4.2 luna otis love _H6A2634

I’m writing this post to let Naturally Curious readers know that there may be days in the coming weeks when my Naturally Curious posts don’t appear at their usual early morning time, or perhaps, even at all. I am going to make every effort to not have this happen, but I will often be posting away from home, and not being technologically gifted, I may well have computer-related (or other) issues.

The reason for my being away from home is that my daughter Sadie, who lost her husband last July, discovered a month later that she was pregnant with their baby. The baby is due in two weeks, and I will be with her and Otis and the baby for much of the next month or so. I will keep the blog going during this time, but there may be glitches for which I wanted to apologize in advance! Thank you so much for your patience, understanding and support over the past year and during this time. (Photo: Otis with doting grandmother)


Tom Turkeys Strutting Their Stuff

3-19-18 wild turkey IMG_7081Congratulations to Penny Jessop, who submitted the first correct Mystery Photo answer!

In the Northeast, male Wild Turkeys begin gobbling and strutting in late February. Their courtship ritual usually starts before females are receptive, and continues into late March and early April, when mating typically takes place.

At this time of year males are bedecked with blue wattles (flap of skin on throat) and snoods (fleshy piece of skin that hangs over beak), and bright red major caruncles (bulbous, fleshy growths at the bottom of the turkey’s throat). Displaying these adornments while slowly gliding around a female, the male fans his tail, lowers his wings with the primaries dragging on the ground/snow (these primary wing feathers are responsible for the parallel lines either side of the trail of tracks), elevates the feathers on his back and throws his head backward the female. If she is receptive, she lowers herself and crouches on the ground, signaling to the male that he may mount her.

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.


Mystery Photo

3-14-18 mystery photo2 063This is one of my favorite late winter/early spring animal signs. So much so that readers who have been following Naturally Curious for four or more years may well recollect who made this two-foot-wide trail of tracks in the woods. To respond, please go to my blog (www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com) and click on “Comments.”

On another note, my apologies for the lack of a post Monday. Computer malfunction prevented me from posting.

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.


Two Songbirds And A Mouse

3-9-18 mystery photo2 049A1842

Two different kinds of signs — droppings and incisor marks – reveal the inhabitants of a woodshed during a very cold spell. The partially-eaten, shelled acorns have tiny grooves in them (difficult to see well in photo, my apologies), made by the incisors of a very small rodent, likely a White-footed Mouse or a Deer Mouse (the animals, much less their signs, are extremely difficult to tell apart, even if both species are sitting in front of you).

The two remaining signs are droppings from birds that sought shelter overnight inside the shed. Mourning Doves have very distinctive scat — individual round droppings, each about 1/4″ in diameter, consisting of coils of dark, solid waste which sometimes have a dollop of white uric acid on top.

The third and last sign is also bird droppings, but unlike the Mourning Dove’s, these are white and log-like. If you’ve been inundated with Dark-eyed Juncos this winter, you should be able to find these on the ground where they congregate.

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.

 


Mystery Photo

1-10-18 mystery photo 049A1842Recently at least three creatures found food and/or shelter in my woodshed. Can you identify any of the three from the signs they left behind? Please enter responses by clicking on “Comments” at the bottom of this post on my blog at www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com. (Hint:  this photo was taken before chipmunks emerged)

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.

 


First Emerald Ash Borer Evidence Found in Vermont

3-5-18 emerald ash borer tunnels commonpence.co2 EABTunnels

It was only a matter of time before Vermont joined New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York as a host of the Emerald Ash Borer in the Northeast. This past week, the first evidence of an Emerald Ash Borer infestation was found in Orange, Vermont, bringing the number of states infected by this beetle to 32.  The consensus is that the range of the Emerald Ash Borer has expanded rapidly due to the transportation of firewood from infested areas. On its own, the Emerald Ash Borer might spread one or two miles annually – far less than has been the case.

Other than seeing the Emerald Ash Borer itself (either the adult or the inner bark-eating larva) you can detect its presence by 1/8-inch-wide, D-shaped holes in ash bark and by S-shaped tunnels under the bark (see photo).

The insect does the most damage in its larval form, when it chews meandering tunnels through the inner bark of an otherwise healthy tree, depriving the tree over time of the means to transport water and nutrients. The Emerald Ash Borer affects all species of ash and once infected, trees usually die within a year or two.

The ash is the third important North American tree to succumb to blight over the last century, following the American Chestnut, and the American Elm. About one percent of ash populations survive infestations; these trees could indicate genetic tolerance which could hold hope for the future.  (Photos: public domain)

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.


Naturally Curious (the book) Is Going Out Of Print

e-NatCurioCoverMedalI just wanted to let readers know that the publisher of Naturally Curious has decided to let the print version of Naturally Curious go out of print and is planning on releasing an ebook version in May. If you wish to have a hard copy of this book, now is probably the time to get one!


Fisher Dines On Two Flying Squirrels

3-1-18 fisher scat and flying squirrel tails 049A3138 (1)Although Coyote tracks led me to this kill site, the Coyote was only inspecting the remains of two Flying Squirrels. Fisher tracks and scat confirmed that it was the predator.

Deciphering the story in the snow was possible through a familiarity with certain details of both the predator and prey. A Flying Squirrel’s tail is distinctively flattened, and the fur on it is very light and silky. There is no mistaking it for any other animal’s. (This would be difficult to discern from a photograph!) One entire squirrel’s tail was in a depression, where the squirrel had unsuccessfully sought shelter in a tunnel it had started to dig. The second tail had been ripped into bits and pieces. The Fisher claimed its kill and/or territory by depositing its characteristically small, twisted, pointed scat at the kill site. (Not an uncommon practice of many predators.)  Always fun to be able to piece together some of the drama that occurs nightly in our woods and fields.

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.