Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Beaver Pond

Beavers are fascinating animals, one of the few mammals (in addition to humans), that deliberately alter their environment. When beavers dam a stream they create a pond which helps to protect them from predators and enables them to ferry food and the building materials used to construct their lodge and dam, and store their winter food supply.

A beaver lodge is a hollow dome constructed of sticks and mud with underwater entrances –

Their dams are also built using sticks and mud and can be quite long (reportedly one in Canada extends over a half mile from end to end) –

Beaver ponds create habitat for wood ducks –

And green herons –

Insects –

And plants –

And turtles, frogs and more.

After finding a beaver pond at the edge of the Big Woods

that had an active colony of beavers, I decided to put a camera trap near the lodge to capture images of the beavers –

It wasn’t just beavers that appeared on camera, an opossum was there –

A mink too –

Even larger more charismatic mammals: a bobcat –

And a black bear –

Because the camera trap was aimed low enough to photograph the beavers it was too low to get photos of the whole bobcat or the whole bear – my apologies.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Beechnuts and Bear Claws

American beech is one of the prettiest trees in the forests of northeastern North America. The tree’s bark is a uniform gray – smooth on healthy trees –

Its leaves are a dark green –

And the buds sharp pointed –

Beech usually reproduces by way of root sprouts which are one of the white-tailed deer's least favored foods –

However, it does produce seed at irregular intervals of two to eight years, sometimes longer. Beech seeds are borne in hulls that usually contain two nuts. When the fruit is ripe the hull splits open and the nuts drop to the ground –

Relished by squirrels, chipmunks, wild turkeys and black bears, the nuts are three-sided and rather small –

During years when the trees produce an abundance of nuts black bears climb the trees to feast on the nutritious nuts. In the process their sharp claws dig into the smooth bark –

The scars left by bears’ claws last for many years; the marks can vary from the bright, clean cuts less than a year old –

Through marks that are several years old  –

To scars that are many years old –

Some trees, those that produce an abundance of nuts in good years, show scars from bears having climbed for beechnuts on more than one year
Where they occur together beechnuts and bear claws are intricately entwined and part of their story can be read for many decades.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Teenie Weenies

Many years ago when we went to visit my aunt and uncle on Sundays, Uncle Andy would read a story to his young nephew from the newspaper’s Sunday comics. The story was that week’s episode of the Teenie Weenies. The Teenie Weenies were people that were only two inches tall and lived under a rose bush amid a world of normal-sized objects.


The Teenie Weenies as portrayed in the comics were pure fiction, but the name has stuck in my mind for these many years. It occasionally comes to mind when I check the camera trap that’s set to capture photos of the small creatures of forest and field.

In the late fall of 2016 I’d set the camera trap to determine if southern flying squirrels still inhabited the woods around the house – some of the results are in this post.

That camera trap is still there and still recording photographs to its memory card. Apparently the flying squirrels were gone from this patch of woodland for about a year, from early March of 2017 until March 22nd of this year. Change in habitat, less food available, competition for nesting sites, disease, or …? But they're back now.

Other teenie weenies also have had their photographs taken by the camera trap, can you identify them all?

Answers to the quiz:

Brown Creeper
Brown Thrasher
Carolina Wren
Dark-eyed Junco & Carolina Wren
Carolina Wrens
Cottontail Rabbit
Dark-eyed Junco
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Chipmunk
Fox Sparrow
Gray Squirrel
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Short-tailed Shrew
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
White-footed Mouse