An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Animal Eyes

Shrew Eyes

shrew eyes 317Shrews have a very high metabolism and spend most of the day and night hunting for food. Subterranean worms and insects are their main prey, which means that a lot of their time is spent in tunnels, where there is little, if any, light. Consequently, shrews have little need for large eyes or excellent vision, neither of which they have.

While the sight of most shrews is probably limited to the detection of light, some species compensate by using other senses, including hearing and touch, to direct them. The Short-tailed Shrew has a well-developed repertoire of squeaks and clicks, including ultrasonic sounds, for navigation and predation. (photo: hair has been brushed aside in order to see eye slit)

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ANIMAL MOUTHS: Second Book in Children’s Series Released

5-12-15 AnimalMouthsSome of you may have seen Animal Eyes, which was the first of a series of children’s books I am writing about animal anatomy. Just as Animal Eyes took a look at the adaptive differences among different animals’ eyes, Animal Mouths describes the wide range of animal mouths. From birds to butterflies, different mouths and mouth parts are illustrated with photographs and their adaptations for different diets are discussed. Carnivores, herbivores and omnivores are included, as well as an educational section at the end of the book which provides children with photographic/textual “mix and match” activities that reinforce information presented in the main text. Available from the publisher (click on cover image to the right), independent bookstores (most will order if it’s not in stock), online and from me (from those of you nearby). This fall the third book of this series, Animal Feet, will be released.

Owls & Humans Share Trait

barred owl 194Birds have three eyelids – an upper eyelid, lower eyelid and a third semitransparent membrane called a nictitating membrane that sweeps across the eye much like a windshield wiper. This membrane keeps their eyes moist, and protects their corneas from being scratched.

In most birds, including owls, the upper and lower eyelids are used to close the eyes when sleeping, and the nictitating membrane is used for blinking. Humans close their eyes mainly by lowering the upper eyelid, where most birds do so by raising the lower lid. Owls (and a few other birds such as parrots, toucans, wrens and ostriches) are more human-like in that their upper lids are usually lowered to close their eyes. Owls also usually close their eyes, partly or entirely, when capturing and transferring prey, scratching their face, preening another owl and copulating. (Note the rows of feathers on this barred owl’s upper eyelids.)

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Newest Children’s Book Release

larger image for use as blog post-AnimalEyes

Animal Eyes is the first of a series of early childhood books on animal parts which I am currently writing (mouths, tails, feet, etc. to follow). This book takes a look at the eyes of a variety of animals and explores what their size, number, color and position tells us about the life style of animals as far-ranging as owls, flying squirrels, spiders and dragonflies. Appropriate for ages 3-8. Accompanying the text for each animal is a two-page, close-up photograph. “Animal Vision Fun Facts,” a “Match the Eye to the Animal” activity and an illustrated Glossary provide additional educational information at the end of the book.

Turkey, anyone? How Red Fox Kits Entertain Themselves

5-14-14  red fox kit with turkey feather  147This two-month-old Red Fox kit (blue eyes turn brown after the age of two months) amused itself for several minutes with this Wild Turkey tail feather – tossing it up in the air, pouncing on it, chewing it and just carrying it around to impress/taunt its litter mates. Kits are old enough to spend much of their day above ground now and their antics are entertaining, to say the least. While parents are off during the day hunting and/or getting a rest from rambunctious offspring, said offspring amuse themselves by digging, scratching themselves, chasing each other, grooming themselves and chewing on any and everything, from sticks and leaves to the remains of past meals, such as feathers and bones.

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The Eyes of Common Goldeneyes

3-31-14 lone common goldeneye on ice 380Common Goldeneyes, birds of the boreal forest, overwinter as far north as open water permits, which includes parts of northern New England most years. These birds get their common name from the color of their eyes, but their eyes don’t attain this golden color until their first winter. When they hatch, Common Goldeneye ducklings have gray-brown eyes. Their eyes turn purple-blue, then blue, then green-blue as the ducks age. By the time they are five months old, their eyes are pale green-yellow. They turn bright yellow in males and pale yellow to white in females by mid-winter.

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

A New Book for Budding Naturalists

COVER-BeaversBusyIs there a youngster in your life who might love his or her own book about beavers? My third children’s nature book, The Beavers’ Busy Year, has just been released. Having been an ardent admirer of this rodent for many, many years, it is gratifying to have had a chance to instill a love for beavers in youngsters age 3-8 with this non-fiction book. The adaptations of beavers’ noses, eyes, ears, fur, feet and tails are highlighted in the text and photographs take the reader through the seasons of the year from a beaver’s perspective. Activities at the end of the book engage children in matching photographs of various beaver signs such as tracks, scent mounds and incisor marks with written descriptions. There are also activity/informational sections on beaver tails, beavers as engineers and creators of habitat for other wildlife, and dam building. It should be available at your local bookstore, but if not, I’d greatly appreciate your letting them know about it. Thank you!


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