Posts Tagged 'mammals'

Woodchuck

Marmota monaxWho doesn’t need some whistlepig every once and a while? Marmota monaxOld-ivory yellow teeth and all: a defining characteristic of the Rodentia are their pairs of continuously growing upper and lower incisors.Marmota monaxGnaw, gnaw!

George Bird Grinnell and Others

gbgI went up to Woodlawn Cemetery to visit the grave of Herman Melville, and I stumbled upon George Bird Grinnell. Grinnell was born in Brooklyn and tutored by Lucy Bakewell Audubon, widow of John James, at the Audubon home in upper Manhattan. He started the first Audubon organization, believing the name should live on. Bird Grinnell, who was born with that name, was an influential editor of the magazine Forest & Stream, campaigning for national parks, respect for Native Americans, saving the bison, and protecting birds from the slaughter of the millenary trade (one of fashion’s many dark hours). This headstone is modest, by the way, but the family obelisk is pretty imposing (it is a competitive neighborhood; the robber barons flocked to Woodlawn in their effort to perpetuate their names after death).Patricia CroninPatricia Cronin’s stunning “Memorial to a Marriage.” Stunning because this is rather good, and because it depicts two women, Cronin and her wife (a little disconcertingly, they’re both still alive), and you know how often you see sculptures of actual women (non-symbolic), and how often you see sculptures of women lovers. Also, chipmunks, who are all over the cemetery, have burrowed underneath it, which means it has natural history value, too. It’s not as shiny as certain parts of Victor Noir, but give it time… Quercus albaA sprawling old White Oak (Quercus alba), one of the city’s Great Trees, said to be the oldest in the cemetery, but I couldn’t find any dates associated with it. Woodlawn opened in 1863.Procyon lotorA scratchy clambering sound on a tree turned out to be this youngish Raccoon (Procyon lotor) who had clearly just been in the lake. The last time I was in Woodlawn, some 19 years ago (!), I saw a Coyote. QuercusAnd Melville? I’m planning a group walk from his birthplace in lower Manhattan to his death place (26th St.) to his final “resting” place here, c. 17 miles, and wanted to be sure of the destination. The whole unhappy gang is there, with a cenotaph (marker without a body) for Stanwix, who was buried in California. Next to the family plot is a fine oak, Black, I think (Q. velutina), with huge leaves.Gleditsia triacanthosSpine of a Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos); postulated as defense against now-extinct giant herbivores. Sure could do a number on a mammal. Speaking of which:furIt was darker than it looks here, with some white, so I thought skunk.

Adios, Texas

Buteo swainsoniTalk about “road-side hawks”! A Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). Loooong wings. Didn’t look like there was anything on the road, yet the bird must have been attracted to something before oncoming traffic flushed it (we, of course, had already pulled off to the side of the road).Parabuteo unicinctusAnother roadie, the Harris’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), telcom-poll percher par excellence. Those shoulders!Falco femoralisAn Aplomado Falcon nest (Falco femoralis). There is actually a bird in there, but she can’t really seen here. Note the cactus that has grown around the nest. Another bird, probably the male of the pair, was seen another day devouring something to shreds in the distance. I wish I’d gotten a closer look at this spectacular bird, which like many another falcon, was once highly endangered.Petrochelidon pyrrhonotaCliff Swallow colony (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) on one of the bridges over the Rio Grande. The birds have expanded their range thanks to that most unlikely of ecosystem enhancements, highway bridges.Myocastor coypusNutria (Myocastor coypus) or Coypu, the invasive “river rat,” a term that doesn’t suggest their roly-poly beaver-size.Spermophilus mexicanusMexican Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus mexicanus). Pictured, like more than one life-form on this trip, through the window of the van.Amazilia yucatanensisOr, in this case, slightly out-of-focus, because you know those hummingbirds, they don’t wait on us. But you do get the red bill and nominal belly of this male Buff-bellied (Amazilia yucatanensis).Pitangus sulphuratusGreat Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus), a bird I really appreciated.

Three Mammals on an Early Spring Day

Sciurus carolinensisEastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis).Tamias striatusEastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus).Procyon lotorRaccoon (Procyon lotor).Procyon lotorTail-grooming (de-fleaing?).

In the Spartina

rat2They seemed to be taking whole reeds, perhaps to line their nests in the rocks. Rats can be awfully finicky about their nests. ratRattus rattus, baby. Updated: Evidently actually Rattus norvegicus. See comments.

Mammals, Too

We were pretty much surrounded by a Gunnison’s Prairie Dog colony, and heard them call from the meadow across the stream. A couple were sitting upright in the distance. Then a herd of Elk (Cervus elaphus) charged across the colony, surprisingly quiet, through the stream and into the misty meadow beyond. Cervus elaphusWe also saw two other species of p-dogs, the Utah and White-tailed, on our perambulations. Ovis canadensis nelsoniDesert Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) in Zion National Park. This one was sitting right above the road and was soon joined by a small flock.Ovis canadensis nelsoniOdocoileus hermionusThis Mule Deer (Odocoileus hermionus) fawn was in Zion Canyon itself with its mother. There were also sightings of White-tailed Deer.
Spermophilus variegatusRock Squirrel (Spermophilus variegatus) seen in a number of places, including Picture Canyon east of Flagstaff. Spermophilus lateralisGolden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis) at Cedar Breaks.m6OK, I’m still confused by all the chipmunks and ground squirrels that are found out there, so let’s just enjoy this one, photographed on Bright Angel Point, North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We had an interesting experience with a Coyote (Canis latrans), which we scared from the road. The wild dog circled our van at a good distance twice — it was a very empty road — running hard and looking at “us,” — the van, that is — all the time, trying perhaps to figure out if it/we were dangerous, before returning to the last bits of a road kill which it had been scavenging. Gory, stretched viscera.

But perhaps the highlight of the mammal action was this Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata). Sorry about the auto-focus; hard to observe and document at the same time.Mustela frenataI heard a strange abbreviated squeal and then saw this long lean animal bounding down along the edge of a concrete path, with something in its mouth. It ran off the path. I shouted to my travel companions “Ferret, or something!” or something like that, and then I saw the weasel again ducking under some rocks. It started to shoot, snake might be a better word, back and forth under this rock and then closer and closer and closer to the path again. I surmised it had dropped its prey and wanted to return to it, a half dozen humans be damned. I bid everyone still. It did get closer and closer, and finally, rooting around in some tall grass, it emerged, with the prey — which looked ratty. The weasel was two-toned, tan on top and creamy below, with a black tip to the tail.

Homeboy Mammal

First glance on rounding the corner of a shady tree: I thought this was a hairy cat on the loose. I mean, a big, low-slung hairball, one of those Persians who’s been to Paris, if you know what I mean.Marmota monaxWoodchuck. Whistlepig. Groundhog. Land beaver. Marmota monax. In Green-Wood.
Marmota monaxI’ve seen them there before, but this was my closest, most extended view. Note those rodent teeth: these animals are the largest members of the ground squirrel family in the East.Marmota monaxIt ambled about and nibbled on tender, presumably, grasses, and then hit the jackpot. Which it sat up to munch on.wc5A crab apple.
appleBut left a little. (How many apples would a woodchuck chuck… oh, never mind.) The animal took another apple and ambled over to the shadow of a bush.Marmota monaxClearly a moraine woodchuck, not a drumlin one.


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