Monday, March 31, 2014

A Day in the Sun

When you've been couped-up all winter in a hut made out of cattails and mud it's great to get out of the house, swim the kinks out in the warming water, let the sun warm your fur and munch on some recently thawed cattail roots. Who needs Spring Break in Florida when you've got Spring Break-UP on a Fox Island Pond.
"All I want is a little privacy and the paparazzi is in my face!"

MUSKRAT (Ondatra zibethicus)
Photos taken at Fox Island Park Nature Center Pond

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Skunked - finally!!

Symplocarpus foetidus - Eastern Skunk Cabbage
Fox Island Co. Park - trail "E"

The Vernal Equinox has past, the Red Winged Blackbirds have arrived and the Skunk Cabbage is up at Fox Island and Metea County Parks.  Forget the weather forecast and forget what's going outside - spring is here!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

OPOSSUM-the Marsupial, the Myth, the Legend.

The Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana, is pretty low on our list of "Most Adored" and loved North American mammals. This only North American representative of order Marsupial has adapted over several million years to survive in our northern United States climate. An omnivore that includes snakes in it's diet has also developed a resistance to snake venom and is 8 times less likely to carry the rabies virus than woodland canines.  As a marsupial, the female carries her hairless, sightless newborn in her pouch for about 2 months until the honeybee sized babies are able to come out and cling to the mother's fur while she searches for food and shelter.  A litter of these little "Joeys" averages 9-10 young. Commonly known as simply "possum" the opossum has one of the shortest lifespans for mammals their size.  A three year old possum is a very rare occurrence and automobiles are one of the main causes of possum deaths.  Opossums are often pictured sleeping hanging by their hairless tail, which they do not do, and carrying their babies which are hanging on their mother's tail which is also a myth.  As opossums extend their range into the northern United States and southern Canada  their hairless tail and toes are always subject to frostbite.
"Playing possum" is a reflex reaction that the opossum displays as a reaction to a threat.  It is an involuntary response also known as "tonic immobility.  Opossums have 50 teeth, more than any other land mammal, and will eat a wide variety of food including bird eggs and dead animals.
The hind feet of the opossum have 4 clawed toes and 1 nail-less opposable thumb which aids its ability to hold onto branches.

Hairy? Downy?

It's not always easy to describe the subtle differences between Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers.   The larger size and longer bill of the bird on the left shows it's a Hairy Woodpecker.  The Hairy's bill is roughly the same length as it's head.  The Downy Woodpecker's bill is much shorter in relation to it's head.  The red patch on the Hairy shows it is a male and the absence of the patch on the Downy shows it is a female.