An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Mystery Photo

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 (www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com) 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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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 www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com. (Hint:  this photo was taken before chipmunks emerged)

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Fisher Dines On Two Flying Squirrels

3-1-18 fisher scat and flying squirrel tails 049A3138 (1)Although Coyote tracks led me to this kill site, the Coyote was only inspecting the remains of two Flying Squirrels. Fisher tracks and scat confirmed that it was the predator.

Deciphering the story in the snow was possible through a familiarity with certain details of both the predator and prey. A Flying Squirrel’s tail is distinctively flattened, and the fur on it is very light and silky. There is no mistaking it for any other animal’s. (This would be difficult to discern from a photograph!) One entire squirrel’s tail was in a depression, where the squirrel had unsuccessfully sought shelter in a tunnel it had started to dig. The second tail had been ripped into bits and pieces. The Fisher claimed its kill and/or territory by depositing its characteristically small, twisted, pointed scat at the kill site. (Not an uncommon practice of many predators.)  Always fun to be able to piece together some of the drama that occurs nightly in our woods and fields.

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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.”

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Rolling White Pine Cone

2-9-18 white pine cone 049A2427

Leave it to NC readers to recognize yesterday’s Mystery Photo! I was impressed with the fat tire track guesses – something I would never ever recognize! With the help of the wind and a gentle slope, a White Pine cone rolled down a hill, leaving the imprint of its spirally-arranged scales in a repetitive pattern. The fall cone crop of many conifers this year was extreme, so your chances of coming across this track are great this winter.

All species of pines produce cones with scales that overlap each other like fish scales. During cold, damp weather, these scales close tight to protect the seeds within them from bad weather and hungry animals. When the weather is conducive to germination (warm and dry) the scales open, allowing seeds to escape. Even after cones fall from the tree, their scales can still open and close.

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Mystery Photo

2-7-18 mystery photo 049A2427

A favorite past-time of many people who traverse woods and fields in winter is deciphering the tracks that they come across. Do you know who or what made this track? (Hint: diameter = 5”)

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.