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Archive for December, 2018

North American River Otters Foraging For Fish

11-30-18 otter with fish_U1A2403

Whether or not North American River Otters made the original holes evident in Wednesday’s Mystery Photo, they were responsible for keeping them open by frequently poking their heads up through them for some air. Congratulations to Noel K. for being the first to correctly identify their surface holes.  This was a tricky Mystery Photo, as there were none of the usual signs of otter activity (tracks, fish remains, etc.) on the ice surrounding the holes.  This is probably because the ice was too thin to support the weight of an otter.  To find the most humorous response, scroll down on Wednesday’s Mystery Photo comments until you get to Peg Emerson’s.

These semiaquatic members of the weasel family are active year-round and while they are mainly nocturnal and crepuscular during the summer, they are frequently spotted during the day in winter.  If otters encounter open water, they rarely resist the urge to enter it and pursue resident fish.

Thanks to their webbed feet and streamlined body, otters are accomplished swimmers and divers. They are able to reach a depth of around five feet and remain submerged for up to four minutes as they hunt underwater. Top swimming speed is seven miles per hour. (They can achieve a speed of up to 18 miles per hour when running and sliding on snow or ice.)  While fish are their mainstay, these carnivores also consume frogs, snakes, turtles, insects, birds and bird eggs and the occasional mammal (mainly muskrat).  Though called “river” otters, they forage in fresh, salt and brackish waters. (Thanks to Rita and Dave Boynton for photo op.)

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Mystery Photo

12-5-18 mystery photo2 _U1A2595The icing over of ponds has begun as a result of the recent cold weather. Holes are appearing in the (thin) ice of some ponds.  How do you think these one-to-three-foot holes are formed? Responses may be submitted by going to the Naturally Curious blog site (www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com) and scrolling down to “Comments.”  The answer will be revealed on Friday, 12/7/18.

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.


Some Of My Favorite Natural History I.D. Guides

12-3-18 books IMG_5296 (002)I have a fairly extensive natural history book collection which is heavily used for research.  It occurred to me that if there’s a naturalist, or a budding naturalist, on your holiday gift-giving list, or if you would like to expand your own natural history library, you might appreciate some suggestions.  The three books I’ve chosen are not fresh off the press.  One was published 15 years ago.  But they are all in print, and each of them has solved many an identification mystery for me.

March Elbroch’s Mammal Tracks & Sign covers a wide range of categories – photographs and extensive text regarding North American mammal tracks, scat, trails and a million other signs.  David Wagner’s Caterpillars of Eastern North America has never failed me when I’ve found an unfamiliar caterpillar.  He includes photographs and information on habitat, range, common food plants and more.  And who hasn’t found a bird feather and wondered what species it came from?  In addition to Scott and McFarland’s photographs of feathers in Bird Feathers, they go into the history, structure and types of North American bird feathers.

Any one of these books would answer most identification questions in their respective fields.  If you have a naturalist in mind to give one to, you might want to subtly check to make sure these aren’t already in his or her possession.  Of course, this post was written with the assumption that the lucky person who receives your gift already has Naturally Curious and Naturally Curious Day by Day! I hear the author also writes children’s nature books for the very young (3-8).

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.