An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

April

Canada Geese Nesting On Beaver Lodges

4-29-19 c. goose on beaver lodge _U1A7241If you are fortunate enough to have a beaver pond near you, you should give the lodge more than a cursory glance this time of year. It is common to find Canada Geese nesting on beaver lodges, for obvious reasons – safety from most land predators. While Common ravens have been known to raid Canada Goose nests for eggs and goslings, the overall rate of survival of the goslings of lodge-nesting geese is very high.

A Canadian study showed that ponds with beaver lodges (and therefore Beaver activity which warms the water and thaws the ice) thaw at least 11 days sooner than ponds without Beavers, allowing early access to water for Canada Geese returning for the spring nesting season. Battles between pairs of geese vying for these coveted nesting sites are not uncommon.

Canada Geese have much to thank Beavers for. Not only can geese get an early nesting start on beaver lodges, they have a relatively safe spot to incubate their eggs and raise their young.

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Crab Spiders Active

4-29-19 crab spider on trailing arbutus_U1A7395Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) is one of our earliest spring wildflowers. Sometime in April or May the creeping, leathery, evergreen leaves of this plant suddenly come alive with white or pink tubular flowers. While they are delightful to look at, their fragrance is what truly sets them apart from many other plants that flower this time of year.

Because there aren’t that many insects about this early, nor flowering plants, insect predators can have a challenging time finding prey. The pictured crab spider chose its perch wisely: bumble bees are the main pollinators of Trailing Arbutus, and queens are out scouting for food as they begin to establish their colonies.

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Muskrats Cohabit With Beavers

4-24-19 muskrat_U1A7137Muskrats, or “rats,” as they’re sometimes derogatorily called, are semi-aquatic, mostly plant-eating rodents that live in ponds, streams, lakes and marshes. During the winter they seek shelter in lodges that they build out of grasses, reeds, cattails and sticks. Muskrat lodges are much smaller than Beaver lodges, which are constructed out of mud and sizable branches, sticks, stones and mud.

In the spring Muskrats often build nests by burrowing into a stream or pond bank, which they enter under water. Muskrats are also known to set up residence in active Beaver lodges. After dining on aquatic vegetation, the pictured Muskrat made a beeline for the beaver-occupied lodge nearby, and dove under as it approached it. Beavers and Muskrats tolerate each other’s presence in the same pond (and lodge) even though they both consume much of the same vegetation. Unlike Beavers, Muskrats supplement their diet of plants with frogs, crayfish, clams, snails, and fish. It may be that when cohabiting a lodge, they may help one another keep an eye out for predators. (Photo: Muskrat eating pond vegetation)

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Belted Kingfishers Feeding

4-22-19 belted kingfisher_U1A6927If you’ve never witnessed what a Belted Kingfisher does to subdue its prey once it has caught it, you owe yourself this experience now that most bodies of water are open and kingfishers are present. Unlike many other avian fish-, frog- and crayfish-eaters, kingfishers don’t simply spear or clasp their prey with their bill and swallow. They beat the daylights out of it by pounding it repeatedly against the branch they fly to after they’ve caught something. Kingfishers will do this with their head turned sideways, and even upside down, as pictured in the photo inset. The frog in this photograph was not only stunned, it was beaten to a pulp by the time the kingfisher swallowed it. (Photo: male Belted Kingfisher with Wood Frog)

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Coltsfoot Flowering

4-22-19 coltsfoot_U1A6685Coltsfoot – a Dandelion look-alike, a harbinger of spring, and a medicinal as well as invasive plant. This early-blooming flower can quickly be distinguished from a Dandelion. Coltsfoot usually flowers and often goes to seed before its leaves appear (ignore young leaf in photo!), whereas a Dandelion’s rosette of leaves are apparent when the plant flowers. In addition, the flower stems of Coltsfoot are covered with woolly hairs and scaly bracts while Dandelion stems are smooth.

Coltsfoot, named for the shape of its leaves, is of Eurasian origin, but was introduced into North America as a medicinal plant over a century ago (for its expectorant properties). It has long since escaped culture and become a widespread weed, invasive in some cases, especially in clay and moist soils. A pioneer plant, Coltsfoot often appears in disturbed areas, and with its dense broad leaves it chokes out native plants. It’s a sun lover, though, and therefore tends to gradually disappear as trees and shrubs move in and create dense shade.

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Red Fox Kits Emerging From Den & Growing New Coat

4-15-19 red fox kit IMG_7280After spending their first five weeks under the ground, young red foxes get big and brave enough to come out and see the world for the first time. The gray coat which they have had since birth will soon be replaced by a sandy-colored coat. This second coat matches the sandy soil outside of the den and thus helps camouflage them. A third reddish coat, the adult coat and one for which they are named, grows in when they are about three months old. (Note white hind foot on this wild red fox kit.)

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Naturally Curious Erroneous Hiatus Explanation

4-22-19 male green frog IMG_8058Greetings, Naturally Curious readers. I wish to clarify yesterday’s inaccurate “Hiatus” post. I had surgery scheduled on my shoulder for next week, which would have curtailed any photographic activity and blog-writing for quite some time. The improvement in my shoulder and the thought of a spring and summer without a camera in hand have convinced me that surgery could and should be postponed, hopefully for a long time, but definitely through the summer. I was in the middle of writing a post about having to stop the blog for a while due to surgery when suddenly, after typing in just the title, the post was sent to you without my even knowing it. In the time since that happened I made my decision to put off surgery. My apologies for the confusion. Here’s to more spring discoveries, photographs and uninterrupted blog posts!

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