An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

February

Wing Prints In The Snow

2-7-19 gray squirrel kill_U1A2844Rarely have I had the good fortune to come upon a predator dining on its prey, but in this case, luck was with me. Seconds after I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk on the ground working on something it noticed me and flew away, perching within sight so as to keep an eye on its recent kill. This sighting eliminated some of the mystery of the story written in the snow. Wing prints would have revealed that the predator was airborne, and the wingspread might have narrowed the list of potential hawks/owls that it could have been, but determining the species would have been challenging without a sighting.

Although smaller rodents (voles, mice, etc.) make up a greater percentage of a Red-tail’s diet than larger ones, Gray Squirrels (whose remains are visible and were still warm) are consumed. The large numbers of Gray Squirrels on roadsides last fall reflected a booming population which most likely has provided ample food for many predators this winter, including this hawk. Interestingly, fur from the tail had been removed prior to the bird’s directing its attention to the internal organs of the squirrel. A quick retreat by this curious naturalist hopefully allowed the Red-tail to return to its meal.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.


Adaptations For Survival

1-25-19 gray screech-owl _u1a9516Mimicry, warning coloration and camouflage are three of the many ways in which animals have adapted in order to survive.

Mimicry, when an animal looks or acts like another organism, is illustrated by the Viceroy butterfly which looks remarkably like a Monarch. Warning coloration often makes predators aware of an organism’s toxicity – Red Efts are a prime example. Camouflage, or cryptic coloration, where an animal resembles its surroundings in coloration, form or movement, is exemplified by Eastern Screech-Owls. Not only is their color pattern that of tree bark, but they often stretch upwards and freeze in an upright position, closing their eyes to prevent reflection in their eyes from announcing their presence to predators or prey.

Eastern Screech-Owls come in three color morphs, rufous (https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com/2019/01/07/eastern-screech-owls-basking/) gray, and (rarely) brown. (Thanks to Marc Beerman and Howard Muscott for photo op.)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.


Mystery Photo

2-28-18 mystery photo 049A3141Who’s the predator (scat)? Who’s the prey (tail part)?  Both are approximately 1 1/2″ long. Please post responses on blog (www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com ) under “comments.”

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.


Coyote Beds Reveal Females In Estrus

coyote bed estrus 049A3316Female coyotes have one heat, or estrus, a year, sometime between January and March. As the time approaches, mating pairs scent-mark in tandem. The female urinates and then the male usually follows suit and urinates adjacent to it. After mating, the reverse takes place, with males often urinating first and the females adding their scent afterwards.

Once estrus arrives, drops of blood are often evident in the female’s urine, but scent-marking isn’t the only place you see evidence of estrus. If you come upon a coyote bed in the snow this time of year, inspect it closely — the females’ beds often will have drops of blood in or near them (see photo). A recent discovery of a group of five coyote beds showed evidence that at least two of the beds had been occupied by adult females in estrus.

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.


New Children’s Book Released

YODEL THE YEARLING book cover for blogLast April I had the rare opportunity to observe and photograph a wild female Black Bear and her three yearlings in New Hampshire woods shortly after they had emerged from hibernation. Somewhat habituated to humans, they allowed me to sit and watch them sleep, play, mock-fight, and best of all, nurse. These activities and more are recorded in my most recent children’s book, Yodel the Yearling, which has just been released. The book contains photographs of these bears and their antics as well as the many signs that can tell you if Black Bears are inhabiting your woods! What 3 to 8-year-old doesn’t like a good bedtime bear story?

To order from the publisher, go to Naturally Curious blog (www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com) and click on Yodel the Yearling book cover on right hand side. Also available from independent bookstores and online.

 


Fisher Landing

2-21-18 fisher tracks2 IMG_0794

Although capable of climbing trees, Fishers spend most of their time on the ground under dense woodland canopy. In the winter Fishers constantly leave sign while traveling two to three miles a day in search of squirrels, shrews, mice, voles, porcupines, hares and grouse, among other things, to eat. Beds at the base of trees, small saplings bitten, rubbed and rolled on, scat and urine marking – all are quite commonly encountered when following Fisher tracks. The Fisher sign I find quite elusive and therefore very rewarding to come upon is the imprint they make when they land in the snow after jumping down from a tree they’ve climbed. (Photo: landing imprint)

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.


Woodpeckers Drumming

2-16-18 hairy woodpecker IMG_0039

As tempting as it is to refer to the drumming of a Hairy Woodpecker or a Downy Woodpecker as a sign of spring, the truth is that both males and females drum at any time of year.  However, there’s definitely an uptick at this time of year. Drumming rates are usually highest prior to nesting, lower during nesting, and increase again after young leave the nest.

Much of the drumming in late winter has to do with courtship. Woodpeckers drum to define territories, locate a mate, summon a mate and to solicit copulation, among other things. Males are already busy establishing and defending territories, so keep an ear tuned for the sound of a bill pounding repeatedly against a tree or other hard surface.

For those wishing to distinguish between Hairy and Downy Woodpecker drums, according to David Sibley the drum of a Hairy Woodpecker is extremely fast and buzzing, with at least 25 taps per second, but has long pauses of 20 seconds or more between drums. Downy Woodpeckers drum at a slower rate, only about 15 taps per second, and drum frequently, often with pauses of only a few seconds between each drum. (To hear their respective drums, go to http://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/03/identifying-downy-and-hairy-woodpeckers-by-drumming-sounds/ )  (Photo: male Hairy Woodpecker)

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.