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“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 ( and click on the Animal Ears cover on right hand side. Also available from independent bookstores and online.


Silver Maples Beginning To Flower

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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)

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Naturally Curious Posts During The Next Few Weeks

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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.

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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 ( and click on “Comments.”

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

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Two Songbirds And A Mouse

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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.

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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 (Hint:  this photo was taken before chipmunks emerged)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to and click on the yellow “donate” button.