Posts Tagged 'mammals'

Squirrels

Sciurus carolinensisSciurus carolinensis.Sciurus carolinensis

Drey

dreyA large clump of leaves in the branches of a tree is often mistaken for a bird nest. It’s actually a drey, or squirrel nest. More specifically, it’s a summer nest. Winter will find them squirreled away in warmer, sturdier spots, like your attic.
Quiscalus quisculaThis Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), helping to perpetuate the impression that this is a bird’s nest, was rooting around in the leaves, which had no doubt attracted various invertebrates over the months.

My Shorter OED and Webster’s 3rd both throw up their hands on the origins of “drey,” which may also be spelled “dray.” The OED has it going back to the early 17th century. Also, it should be noted that, given English’s often multipurpose flexibility, there are no other definitions for the word.

Update: I am in error. See comments. THere is another definition for dray.

Chestnuts

Castanea dentataAmerican Chestnuts (Castanea dentata). Be careful handling these burrs, or pods: the spines are v. sharp! Castanea dentataMost of the nuts produced by these young trees are scrawny, undeveloped things, quite fibrous inside, but they still seem to disappear into the maws of the squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis).Sciurus carolinensisThis one was vocally displeased with my poaching of the two plumpest nuts.

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?).


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