We’ve all seen them on our pets’ faces and on squirrels and other rodents, rabbits, beavers, walruses, and some other mammals. Until recently, I didn’t give whiskers much thought. Then I learned they’re not just facial hair… and they’re not always on faces.
Continue reading “More than a Mustache”
Tufted Titmice are fearless little critters.
I’ve seen them squabble with much larger birds. They don’t hesitate to steal leaves from occupied squirrel dens. Yesterday, I watched one Tufted Titmouse gather nest material. Her method doubled my respect for these birds’ pluck.
People sometimes toss hair outside, hoping birds will use it in their nests. Some birds forage fur from roadkill. But the Tufted Titmouse has another source for nest material. She harvests hair from sleeping animals. Dogs, squirrels, and raccoons are common targets.
Yesterday, I saw this seemingly reckless bird behavior with my own eyes.
Continue reading “One Plucky Bird”
Ungainly, clumsy, and cumbrous.
A raccoon exits our broken tree, and those three words come to mind. The animal’s slow, lumbering descent is unlike a nimble raccoon I watched three years ago.
This year’s raccoon has been climbing in and out of what’s been a nesting snag for woodpeckers, wood ducks, starlings, and squirrels. The snag is like a high-rise condo, with more than a dozen visible cavity entrances. Judging from the creatures’ in-and-out behavior, I believe many of the cavities are discrete–they don’t interconnect. The upper cavity, where the raccoon catches its 40 winks, doesn’t offer much shelter. Here’s what I mean:
Considering that broken top, I’ve assumed this is a raccoon snoozing spot and not the den of a nesting female.
But then… there’s that cumbrous descent. The animal’s gait is increasingly labored, and it reminds me of my own ponderous waddle decades ago, when my babies neared full term.
Is my masked neighbor a nesting mama, after all? Continue reading “Slumber, Lumber Raccoon”
A dozen doors and a skylight.
That’s the approximate count of cavity entrances in the old, broken snag outside my window. I love that ugly remnant of a tree! It brings a daily wildlife show to my front-row seat.
The tree has been occupied by Pileated Woodpeckers, nesting squirrels, Wood Ducks, European Starlings, and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers—several of them simultaneously.
This nesting season, I watched Juliet Squirrel quiver from her balcony in this tree, as she was courted by a Romeo. Soon after, I watched Juliet pad the cavity with leaves, a sure sign she’s expecting. I was looking forward to watching Juliet’s kits take tentative (and comical) first steps outside the cavity.
And then another creature exercised squatter’s rights.
Continue reading “Squatter’s Rights”
Snaggy—that’s a technical term I just made up to describe our wooded backyard.
Our little forest has a lovely sprinkling of snags, the forestry term for standing dead and dying trees. I became a snag advocate (a snagvocate?) soon after moving into our home in the woods. In defense of the dead tree, I’ve convinced Bert that we should remove dead wood only as needed to keep our view of the lake below, and to protect the house from hazard in a storm. Otherwise, we leave the dead trees alone.
And oh, the rewards for benign neglect!
Read more and see the video
Circus acrobats have nothing on Mama Raccoon
When a raccoon nested in one of our snags, I was surprised to see how often she left her kits alone in their tree cavity. Mama departed five or six times daily during daylight hours, and she probably made a few nighttime trips. She was surely hungry and thirsty from nursing her babes.
Mama was cautious, too. Well, cautious like a high-wire walker.
Read more and see the video
For ten years, it was the squirrel tree.
Squirrels popping in and out of holes like whack-a-mole, minus the whacking. Chase scenes straight out of Disney—squirrel nose chasing squirrel tail, three and sometimes four in a line, circling the trunk and diving into this hole or that one. This was nature’s comedy routine.
And then a mama raccoon exercised squatter’s rights.
read more and see the video