An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide – maryholland505@gmail.com

Archive for January, 2022

Black Bears Giving Birth

It’s hard to imagine at this time of year, but sometime between the last half of January (the full moon in January is often called the ‘bear moon’) and the first part of February Black Bears give birth to between one and five (usually two) tiny, blind, almost hairless, 9-inch long, one-half pound cubs, each about the size of a chipmunk. The cubs are totally dependent on their mother for food and warmth.

Most dens are exposed to the cold air, as they are located under fallen logs and brush, or are dug into a bank. Occasionally they are on the ground with little or no cover; in all of these locations, the mother acts like a furnace, enveloping her young and breathing on them to keep them warm. The cubs do not hibernate, but nap frequently. Like human mothers, Black Bear mothers sleep when their young sleep, and are alert when their cubs cry and let them know that they are in need of attention. (Photo: taken in March of two-month old Black Bear cubs)

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Winter Cutworms Active In Winter

One of the last things you expect to see on top of snow is a caterpillar, but it can happen.  Certain species can withstand the cold of northern New England winters and remain active throughout the colder months. Among them is the “Winter Cutworm,” or larval stage of the Large Yellow Underwing Moth (Noctua pronuba), a relatively common Noctuid (a family of moths that typically has dull forewings and pale or colorful hind wings).

These larvae actively feed on the roots and foliage of plants (grasses, weedy plants and a variety of garden vegetables) through the winter, and on warm days can appear on top of the snow.  They pupate and emerge as adults in spring and early summer. (Photo: Winter Cutworm that appears to have been caught short by a sudden drop in temperature.)


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A Note To Monthly Donors


Bobcat “Sit-down”

If you live where there is an abundance of rabbits or hares, you may have a population of Bobcats as well.  These felines are elusive and shy — setting eyes on a Bobcat is a notable event.  One must, for the most part, settle for signs of their presence and the chances of this are much greater in winter.

Bobcat signs include tracks, scrapes/scat, beds, kill sites (https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com/2021/02/19/bobcats-preying-on-rabbits-hares/) and cache sites (see https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/a-bobcats-white-tailed-deer-cache/) .  Tracks are by far the most common sign.  Occasionally you come across a protected spot where a hunting cat has sat and surveyed the area for prey (see photo). Because time was spent in the same position the details of its tracks can be well defined in the right snow conditions: four toe impressions (one slightly leading) with a large heel pad that often shows two lobes at the top and three on the bottom, and no claw marks.

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Where Do Common Loons That Breed in New England Spend The Winter?

In northern New England, Common Loons nest and raise their young on inland lakes and ponds.  By late fall, when most of the lakes have started to freeze over, the majority of loons head for the East Coast although some do overwinter on open, inland, freshwater lakes.  Loons that migrate spend the winter in their new, drabber plumage off the Northeast coast where they apparently have no problem adapting to salt water and the change of diet which that entails. 

Predominantly fish-eaters, Common Loons favor yellow perch, pumpkin seed and bluegill in addition to other species of fish, crayfish and aquatic invertebrates.  In the winter they feed primarily on flounder and herring, as well as crustaceans.  Most of their food is consumed under water, but a large fish or crustacean, such as a crab (see photo) or an occasional lobster, is usually eaten after surfacing. One adaption that serves them well in the winter is a salt gland that excretes excess salt that they ingest while feeding in the ocean. 

Just as they have territories on their breeding lakes, many wintering loons return to the same area year after year, occupying a 6-12 square mile “home range” area for the duration of the winter. Common Loons typically stay close to shore and their large size makes them relatively easy to spot. (Thanks to Susan Holland for photo opportunity.)

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