Category Archives: Fauna

Orange Orb Weaver

Walking out to greet the UPS man, I almost stepped on this little critter. Reminded me of a pumpkin.

Wikipedia reports:

Araneus marmoreus, commonly called the marbled orb-weaver, is a species of spider belonging to the family Araneidae. It has a Holarctic distribution.

Araneus marmoreus is found throughout all of Canada to Alaska, the northern Rockies, from North Dakota to Texas, and then east to the Atlantic, as well as in Europe. It is one of the showiest orbweavers.

Walking Stick

From a distance, it looked at first like a piece of grass, or maybe pine needles that had blown against the wall and stuck.

Closer inspection revealed movement – it is a bug – a walking stick!

Wikipedia reports:

The Phasmatodea (also known as Phasmida or Phasmatoptera) are an order of insects, whose members are variously known as stick insects in Europe and Australasia; stick-bugs, walking sticks or bug sticks in the United States and Canada; or as phasmids, ghost insects or leaf insects (generally the family Phylliidae). The group’s name is derived from the Ancient Greek φάσμα phasma, meaning an apparition or phantom, referring to the resemblance of many species to sticks or leaves. Their natural camouflage makes them difficult for predators to detect, but many species have a secondary line of defence in the form of startle displays, spines or toxic secretions. The genus Phobaeticus includes the world’s longest insects.

Members of the order are found in all continents except Antarctica, but they are most abundant in the tropics and subtropics. They are herbivorous with many species living unobtrusively in the tree canopy. They have a hemimetabolous life cycle with three stages: eggs, nymphs and adults. Many phasmids are parthenogenic, and do not require fertilised eggs for female offspring to be produced. In hotter climates, they may breed all year round; in more temperate regions, the females lay eggs in the autumn before dying, and the new generation hatches out in the spring. Some species have wings and can disperse by flying, while others are more restricted.

Great Egret

This time of year, I try to keep an eye on this pond alongside the road. Depending upon the time of day, it is often covered with lily pads.

It’s not uncommon to see Blue Herons fishing for dinner in the early evening.

Earlier this week, instead of the more familiar blue grey plumage of the Heron, this brilliant white fellow stood patiently waiting for someone tasty to swim within the range of his lightening quick beak.

 

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology www.allaboutbirds.org website reports:

The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in many a North American wetland. Slightly smaller and more svelte than a Great Blue Heron, these are still large birds with impressive wingspans. They hunt in classic heron fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to capture fish with a deadly jab of their yellow bill. Great Egrets were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumes in the late nineteenth century, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds.

Black Squirrel

Grey squirrels frequent the yard. It’s always nice to see their big fluffy tails. It’s not uncommon to see squirrels with near hairless tails especially in town, where they dine on lead wires or flashing. 

A couple of years ago, red squirrels chewed their way into the garden shed and wreaked havoc gnawing and nesting nearly everywhere!

This handsome fellow is the first black squirrel I’ve ever noticed in the yard. I hope that he is well behaved, and visits often!

Wikipedia reports:

The black squirrel occurs as a “melanistic” subgroup of both the eastern gray squirrel and the fox squirrel. Their habitat extends throughout the Midwestern United States, in some areas of the Northeastern United States, eastern Canada, and also in the United Kingdom. The overall population of black squirrels is small when compared to that of the gray squirrel. The black fur color can occur naturally as a mutation in populations of gray squirrels, but it is rare. The rarity of the black squirrel has caused many people to admire them, and the black squirrels enjoy great affection in some places as mascots. In several U.S. states, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom, black squirrels have been introduced into the wild in the hope of increasing their numbers.

Porcupine

porcupine

Saw this fellow feeding on some still green tinged grass, exposed by recent warm weather.

Odd thing, this patch of snow was near the top of Elk Mountain! Last year, a muskrat spent several weeks wintering just a few feet from where this porcupine was spotted.

Though sickness could have brought him out amongst people in the daylight, it is not unusual to see many different critters high on The Hill.

Sick or not, we gave this guy a wide berth as he enjoyed some rare late December sun rays, filling his belly with a taste of summer.

What goes up…


what_goes_up

Just as “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”, it’s said that “you can lead a cow up stairs, but it’s afraid to walk down stairs, and so, never will”. I know of one neighbor who often keeps new calves in her dining room the first few days of their lives without mishap, but no steps or ups and downs are involved there.

“A crane or tractor, and sometimes, a bullet.” was the grim response when I asked how the situation was resolved if some prankster actually succeeded in leading a cow up a flight of stairs. So, it’s probably best that the anecdote not be tested.

Passing by the huddle of girls above reminded me of this peculiarity of the bovine mind. For many minutes, the cows remained frozen along the bank. The calves, who blindly followed their elders, found themselves stranded half way up the slope when standing room ran out at the top.

One could almost imagine their thoughts:

“I know we must have gotten up here somehow because we are up here now. I think we were eating a nice patch of grass when all of a sudden we were up here, but I just can’t remember right now….”

“If only, oh, if only, if just one of us could figure out how to get down, we could all figure it out, and we’d be saved !”

I’m not sure whether it was memory, intelligence, or perhaps the fluttering of a nearby butterfly that drew one of the girl’s attention to another nearby patch of green along the top of the bank that spread out to the meadow below.

Whether by intelligence, or observation, one brave bossy stepped toward that grass patch that gently led down the slope. The herd followed and was saved from being stranded forever on the dirt bank.

Oh Happy Day!

DSC_0006

 

 

Playdate

playdate

These young mothers tend their fawns under mid-summer afternoon skies.

Just born, these babies are not much bigger than Dog, and not nearly as old and wise.

Still unacquainted with the dangers of roads and humans, it’s best they stay with mother for a while yet.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

While driving slowly along Crystal Lake recently, we spotted this fellow (males have a red stripe on the cheek) flying from tree to tree along the shore.

Though rare, his kin has visited our backyard before, but this fellow was particularly memorable as his brilliant crest contrasted the silver grey of a rainy evening.

Not much later,  a bald eagle, worried by two large crows, flashed his head and tail brilliant white, just outside the dining room window.

Always good to “drop a gear” while wandering about the area. It is truly wonderful what becomes noticeable simply by reducing one’s pace.