Posts Tagged 'mammals'

In Sweden

I particularly wanted to see some sloes, the marble-sized drupes of the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). My walking stick, which saw me around Dartmoor, is made from the storied wood of this shrubby, hedgy, sometimes-tree. There’s much legend associated with this species; and (black) magic, like, for instance, how they find a long straight piece for a walking stick… Meanwhile, Slån is the Swedish name for this source of sloe gin. The drupes are not very palatable until they’ve been soaked in gin and sugar… but we did see some young Wood Pigeons gobbling them up.I hadn’t realized that hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) or Igelkott was on the menu, so to speak, of sights. But our nighttime safari-leader Evan turned one up not two blocks from our lodgings in Skanör. The animal was bigger than expected, about the size of an American football. They bulk up for winter hibernation. After we determined it was not a rock on the lawn, the critter took shelter in a mess of rose and ivy and some kind of diptera aroused by our light. We searched again the next two nights but found no others; this source says they can forage for up to 2 km during the night.

I haven’t yet downloaded my camera camera, as opposed to my phone camera, so pictures of the Kingfisher will have to wait. One was definitely on my list of things to see (we saw two)… But here is a fine consolation prize, worth two in the camera:A Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) after being ringed (or banded, as we would say) by members of the Falsterbo Fågelstation bird observatory. This little songbird is on its way to central/southern Africa, presuming it survives the gauntlet, including the Sahara, along the way.
And then, all things being just, it will return north in the spring.

Great numbers of migrating birds fly over the Falsterbo peninsula, which sticks out like a T from the southwest corner of Sweden, during the fall. It’s the shortest distance over water to Denmark and non-pelagic birds don’t like being over the water too long. The observatory keeps a daily count of passing birds and rings a few in the lighthouse garden and the nearby Flommen reedbeds, where the warbler above was netted, ringed, sexed/aged, weighed/checked for body fat, recorded, and released.

Muskrat Dusk

This is how I first noticed this young Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) in the Bronx recently. What, I asked myself, was that? The critter, the size of a small cat, was quite unconcerned about me, although when a human father and son, who chose not to follow my example, got too close it scurried away. But it soon returned when these bothers were out of the way.The animal ate and ate and ate in a small patch, circling around, finally revealing the long rat-like tail. Most Muskrat food is aquatic vegetation, with occasional forays into freshwater clams. But clearly they have a taste for terrestrial greens, too.Thoreau, who called them musquash, had a special affinity for them. I can see why. I stood watching for a good half hour after 5pm. Another, larger specimen emerged on the short, sloping bank by the water but didn’t come into the grazing field, perhaps being wiser than the youngster.The famous tail, the source of the “rat” in “Muskrat.” Works as a fine powered rudder in the water. They are rodents, but not Rattus rats; they’re actually the sole member of their genus. They’ve been introduced to Europe and South America, both to invasive effect. Right here is where they belong.


Our only marsupial, the Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana, commonly called possum, is plenty familiar with the city. But, being nocturnal, they aren’t seen all that often. This one seems to have lingered past sunrise, at a favored food source: the garbage pails.Remember, these critters are highly resistant to rabies. If they’re snarling at you it means you’re too damn close. And they will faint from stress, the famous “playing possum” trick.


Would there were an antidote to political rabies! That most overrated of Senators, John McCain, yesterday achieved a notoriety even worse than inflicting Sarah Palin on the nation. It’s traditional not to speak ill of the dead (evidently they can’t hear you), so let me get this in now while there is still life in the old bastard.

Stop the car! Stop the car!

Get into those grasses, youngster! There are hazards all about. Sylvilagus floridanus on the verge. In this other case, stop the feet! The bunny froze right at the edge of a path. So did we. Rabbit at mid-chew.

Reading print is actively better for you than scanning a screen in terms of comprehension and memorization. It seems that we shouldn’t really separate the visual from the spatial and the physical, yet those that are doing so will inherit the world (well, briefly anyway).

Also, this one is longish for the internet, but there ya go: on the rise of globalization and how we got here.


A tremendous crashing in the wetland thickets to our left brought forth this buck. He leaped into the meadow trailing phragmites from his rack. Note that the animal is tagged [#326?]; looks like this means he was given a vasectomy in an effort to cut Staten Island’s White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population.This was at Mount Loretto State Unique Area on the weekend. Yesterday, we ran into a few more there, including this one right out in the open on the other side of the pond. Another was bedded down in the meadow not ten feet from the path. He let us walk by, but when we returned, and our eyes met, he skedaddled. And another.
Then we saw four in Clay Pit Ponds State Preserve. This one, one of a cluster of three in the cattails, looked just past fawn-hood.

Speaking of big critters, we also saw a couple of Wild Turkeys and a male Ring-necked Pheasant, and heard some Indian Peafowl, while on island.

Tree Chipper

We usually see Eastern Chipmunks on the ground, but this is your periodical reminder that they’re fine tree-climbers. That’s how they predate bird nests. This one is about 15 feet up. Cheeks bulging with chow.

May Day

Some mammals for Monday and May Day.Did you ever wonder why they, and we, are called mammals? I have to admit I never did until last week.
Linnaeus came up with the term Mammalia in 1758, from the Latin mammae, meaning the breasts. This we all know. Yet everything else Linnaeus named is based on male characteristics. His botanical system, for instance, is based on the male sex parts of plants. So why not the hairy quadrupeds and bipeds with three ear bones, fur, four-chambered hearts, etc., too? Why not John Ray’s term Pilosa (hairy animals)? Or, sticking with the milk part, the Lactantia or Sugentia, both of which mean “the suckling ones”? Therein lies a tale which I’m writing for work. We shall return to this question.

I like the return of May Day as a radical holiday. Get out there and smell the flowers while you act up.


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  • Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed, & Broad-winged dominating Chestnut Ridge and State Line Lookout hawk watches this gorgeous day. 3 hours ago
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