Posts Tagged 'mammals'

Boots For Scale

I wear a 9/9.5. These are rabbit prints.

There were some other curious prints in the snow on the frozen Bronx River that I could not figure out. No tail, as in a muskrat, and although rather canine-looking, (but too big for fox?) they looked too close together for coyote. Perhaps a cat whose prints, Bigfoot-style, had gotten bigger in the thaw-freeze cycle. I was too far away, unfortunately, to get pictures. Disturbingly, there were also human footprints on the ice.Found right across the street at the entrance to the park.

Look Down, Look Up

Where there’s poop…… there’s boop.

Red Squirrel Alert!

A Eurasian Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) scoping out the scene in Copenhagen’s Assistens Kirkegard (cemetery), where Søren Kierkegaard is buried. There were two; they were pretty camera shy.

This squirrel species is wide-spread across Eurasia, but is suffering in the UK from a disease introduced by imported Gray Squirrels from North America. Declines have also been noted in Ireland and Italy.


You can, I think, get most of these either by shape or name. Ek, alm, ask, are so close, and hasselThe famous escargot, Helix pomatia. Also known as Roman, Burgundy, or simply edible snail. Or, when in the Rome of the north, Snäckor. Introduced, running rampant in a slick way.Yeah, stickmygga.Damn it! Found on a trail looking drowned: Talpa europaea, the European mole. “But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, but can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty in it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties.” ~ Kenneth Grahame

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.


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