Posts Tagged 'mammals'
Tags: Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge Park, mammals
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. We also saw two other species of p-dogs, the Utah and White-tailed, on our perambulations. Desert 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.This Mule Deer (Odocoileus hermionus) fawn was in Zion Canyon itself with its mother. There were also sightings of White-tailed Deer.
Rock Squirrel (Spermophilus variegatus) seen in a number of places, including Picture Canyon east of Flagstaff. Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis) at Cedar Breaks.OK, 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.I 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.
Tags: Brooklyn, Green-Wood, mammals
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.Woodchuck. Whistlepig. Groundhog. Land beaver. Marmota monax. In Green-Wood.
I’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.It ambled about and nibbled on tender, presumably, grasses, and then hit the jackpot. Which it sat up to munch on.A crab apple.
But 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.Clearly a moraine woodchuck, not a drumlin one.
I am inordinately moved by the fate of the Aurochsen. Bos primigenius were the wild ox of Eurasia, painted by their hunters at Lascaux and elsewhere tens of thousands of years ago. These big beeves with the great horns were the ancestors of domesticated cattle, of which there are many breeds, including some with Aurochsen characteristics still, like the Maremmana, Pajuna, Maronesa, and Sayaguesa. The last Auroch died in Poland in the 17th century, tantalizingly close to the present day, at least in comparison to the other megafauna of Eurasia (and the Americas). Rambling through farmers’ fields in Dartmoor, I occasionally came across cattle face-to-face. The fields were the cows’ after all, and I was just passing through, remembering to close the gate behind me. If I got close enough, they would freeze and stare. I found myself somewhat mesmerized by them. Firstly, because I’m no farm boy and had no idea what they would do, never having been so close before; I’d passed a few notices about the birthing season, just past, and how the animals will sometimes crowd people to protect their calves. Secondly, because these creatures were much bigger than I was, a little respect was in order. And thirdly, because of their eyes. Yes, their big, soft eyes. Classic don’t-kill-the-cute-baby trick there, the big eyes.(This is the bovine equivalent of camera-flash red-eye.) Bred, worked, milked, slaughtered, sacrificed to the gods, cattle have served us well. It’s with some gall then, that we condemn them as none-to-bright, if this is indeed what we have made of them. What they certainly are is tamed, domesticated, so that they can live in the domus, the home (this was literally so in the traditional Dartmoor long house, for instance, in which the farm animals wintered below and helped warm the people above). They have been breed for thousands of years now to get the wild out of them. But what is the wild? Fear of humans? There are plenty of examples of animals with no experience of humans who walked right up to people, who then proceed to slaughter them all, as happened to numerous now extinct island species. But most animals have learned to fear us, to run, or simply to stay hidden. Survival depends on it. We are, after all, a species-cidal lot, killing well beyond our need for food and safety. Cattle, meanwhile, have been our companions for a long time now — until fairly recently, a greater proportion of us were in much greater contact with farms, and in some places still are. These passing stick figures in the fields may be associated with food, water, and shelter, all good things, on the whole, as well as, inevitably, pain. Consider the cattle prod, for instance, and read Ted Hughes, who farmed near Dartmoor in the 1970s, on “Dehorning.” And of course, the last seconds of terror in the abattoirs.
There is an effort to cross-breed cattle back to something close to the Aurochsen. Close, perhaps, but certainly not the actual thing. I don’t immediately clap my hands with wonder at this idea, as I don’t greet with awe those who talk excitedly about cloning mammoths and other extinct species from samples of DNA. De-extinction, as the groupies call it; when told that some people think it’s playing at being god, one fan says that killing off these species in the first place was playing with god. Right, so isn’t the lesson then: don’t play at being god? Cloning the mammoth means nothing without cloning the big predators that hunted them, and you may have noticed how the re-introduction of wolves has been greeted by some. Now imagine dire wolves and saber-toothed cats roaming the land. People are talking about cloning the passenger pigeon, but not, for obvious reasons, the hundreds of thousands of acres of woodlands they once thrived in. (Much woodland has regrown after the scorched-earth settlement, but it’s not at all the same.) One without the other is a sad circus freak, to be gawked and gaped at. At the back of all such talk, I hear the inevitable cash register, and the amoral notion that if it can be done, it should be done. Alexander Calder, 20th Century, a seemingly simple but very evocative limning of a shape that would be, I wager, instantly recognizable to Paleolithic humans.
Auroch is singular; Aurochses, Aurochs, and Aurochsen are all possible plurals. The word comes out of the Old High German, related to the Old English ur, origin unknown, but I would suspect a Indo-European root. Ox, too, comes forth from the word. Chauvet Cave, c. 34,000 years ago. Aurochs, rhinos, and, the great survivor, the horse.
Tags: Brooklyn, mammals, Prospect Park
Tags: birds, Central Park, insects, invertebrates, mammals
A downy woodpecker patrols the trunk of a tree, the white strip down its back almost glowing as the light turns to dark. Above, a blue jay is remarkably quiet as it works out some issues before roosting for the night. As predicted, a young raccoon ambles out from the bushes to start pulling plastic bags out of the garbage bin, one at a time, looking for wasted human food as a crowd of 50 of us watch and photograph from just feet away. It’s the long slow slide into summer twilight. The chirps are robins, snarfing the last grubs of the day. There’s a shift-change in process between the diurnal and the nocturnal animals. A big dragonfly patrols, zipping back and forth through the airborne density of the humid evening’s bugs, many attracted to the heat and chemistry of a clump of fifty humans. Bait; my calves will be dotted with mosquito bites soon. The twinkling lights of the fireflies, low to the ground suggest we could be across a harbor watching the lights of the town blinking on and off. But watch out, flashing mimics will pretend to be females of your own species, and eat you for your defensive chemistry. The film noir world of Coleoptera. In the trees, cicadas get their last licks in; they won’t rattle during the night. Not their scene. But the night chorus is already here, having been silent all day long. Carolina ground crickets stridulate, rubbing their body parts together, comb over rasp, from the bushes. Higher up, katydids, too, begin to emphatically say their name, which making them true katydids, not coneheads or angelwings, who have different sounds. You’ll hear them in street trees soon, ticking away, but the katydids like the thicker cover of the park.
And then, darkness, but in the light saturation of the city, never really dark. The bats emerge, dropping down from their daily roosts. We hear them first in an echolocator, which translates their high-frequencies for our limited hearing range. Then we see them, barely, the fast, fluttery things with unmistakable wings; flying mammals! Just a couple of them, one at a time. The bats of the Eastern U.S are beset by a fungus that wakes them from their hibernations, disorientates them, makes them sitting ducks for predators and starvation. They are beset by ignorance and popular cultural nonsense. But bats are quite awesome. Among other things, they make the world a better place for us. They are vital pollinators (of agava, for instance), and, in the northern hemisphere, insectivores of astonishing efficiency. Some can live 30 years. Twenty percent of all the mammal species in the world are bats, more than 1200 species. The smallest has a 2″ wingspan, the largest 6′, as big as an eagle.
Orbweavers are building their webs, as they do every night. Big beetles cross the path. That splash might be a night-heron aiming for a frog or a rat. It takes about a half hour for the human eye to really open up to the night, the rhodopsin blooming, as it were, to whatever light there may be. (Thank the horseshoe crabs for some of our discoveries about vision). This is an ability vary few of us ever have a chance of experiencing now in the glaring sprawl of Megalopolis. We are missing out on a whole world.
No mean forager and predator, the Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) will eat just about anything, from acorns and nuts to baby birds, from slugs to insects to carrion. Our local ones are missing out on the bonanza of the 17-year cicadas, which are concentrated in Staten Island. Central Park has seen a rapid rise of their population in the North Woods; they have few predators (the city is scant on coyotes, foxes, and fishers, etc.) other than Red-tailed hawks and the odd large owl.
Tags: birding, birds, mammals, Staten Island
A journey into the eroding underbelly of Staten Island.These were a surprise. Peacocks, screaming their haunting woman-in-peril scream on the grounds of the Seguine Mansion. Flannery O’Connor, who lived on a farm with 40 peafowl, said about the carrying voices of these birds, “To the melancholy this sound is melancholy, and to the hysterical it is hysterical.” From a block away, and not photographed, we watched a feral cat walk out into the middle of a lane of Seguine Avenue and sit there, that placid-seeming cat-sitting attitude, as a raccoon ambled across its bow. Ok, enough with Surrealism for now. Wolfe’s Pond, namesake of Wolfe’s Pond Park. Pairs of ospreys and Foster’s Terns were hunting here, and a pair of Mute Swans lorded it over everybody else. The southeastern half of the park seems to be technically closed, since Sandy, but we walked right by some Parks employees who said nothing to us; we’d come via the beach.And a rocky beach it was in places, with Laughing Gulls on it.Also a dead Northern Gannet. I wanted you to see how big this beak is.And at the other end of the hand scale, this (half) inch-worm was making its way… We saw, and heard no sign of Brood II, but our real mission here will be detailed tomorrow.
I don’t know about you, but I need a mammal break. Look at those little ears! The Eastern Chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are out and about now that things have warmed up in the Ravine, Lullwater, and Midwood. One of the hundreds of reasons to keep your dogs leashed in those parts of the park where they are supposed to be on-leash ALL the time, like the Ravine, Lullwater, and Midwood.