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Posts tagged “Mice

White Baneberry Fruits Mature

8-15-13 white baneberry fruit 056All parts of the White Baneberry plant (as well as Red Baneberry) are highly toxic. The fruit, called “doll’s eyes” for obvious reasons, is the most poisonous part, known to cause respiratory paralysis and cardiac arrest in humans. It does not have this effect on all mammals, however. White-tailed deer are known to browse on baneberry, and small rodents such as mice, squirrels and voles feed on the fruit. Geometrid moth larvae (“inchworms”) burrow into the fruits and their seeds while they (the fruits) are still green. A wide variety of birds, including American Robins and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, eat the fruit, helping disperse the plants when they excrete the brown, wedge-shaped seeds (insert). Ruffed Grouse also eat the fruits, but the seeds are destroyed in the digestive process. Oddly enough, Native Americans used the juice of Red Baneberry to gargle with as well as to poison their arrows.

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Mice vs. Voles

Mice and voles are commonly lumped together, probably because the differences between them are so slight.  Both are small, furry rodents, but mice generally have large eyes, large ears and long tails (close to or greater than the length of their bodies).  Voles have smaller eyes, smaller ears (often concealed in their fur), and shorter tails.  Voles tend to be active day and night, whereas mice are mainly nocturnal. ( Meadow voles are commonly referred to as “field mice,” which tends to add to the confusion regarding these two groups of mammals!)  There are five species of mice in New England (white-footed, deer, house, meadow jumping and woodland jumping), and four species of voles (meadow, southern red-backed, rock and woodland).


Mystery Nest

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I have found several of these nests, always in winter, when leaves are gone and the nests are visible.  They have all been built in shrubs that are on the edge of cornfields, near large bodies of water.  Each nest measures approximately 12” x 12” and there is one side entrance that is about 1 ½” in diameter.  The base consists largely of grape vines cemented together with a bit of mud.  On top of this layer  there is a thick layer of leaves and at the very top are several inches of  finely-shredded plant material. Soft, shredded plant fibers and leaves line the single inner cavity.  Mice, rats or squirrels are the likely builders, but I do not know which.  If anyone has ever found one of these nests occupied, I would love to know the resident’s identity!