Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Monday night I went out to fill up the bird feeders and momma raccoon and the babies were all there.  And it was light enough to get photos!!!!  Enjoy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Sly Slow Loris

I want to introduce you to another unusual primate.  There are five recognized species of the slow loris and they are found from India to Indochina.  The most unusual characteristic of this primate is that it's the only confirmed poisonous primate on the planet.  It carries a secretion in a gland on its arm and mixed with its saliva can deliver a toxic bite.  While the toxin can cause a painful swelling in humans, it is more lethal to their predators than their prey.  Hard to believe that it's a potentially dangerous animal when you see how utterly cute it is.

Source:  Animals Zone

What big eyes you have.  All the better to see you with, my dear.  Especially at night.  The slow loris is nocturnal and has an opposable thumb like other primates, but its thumb is at an angle of almost 180 degrees to the rest of its fingers. And it has a longer fourth toe.  Between the two it has an ability to grasp branches with great dexterity which is a good thing since it lives in the rainforest canopy and rarely leaves the trees.  Remind you of the mouse lemurs?  They look similar, but it is not a lemur.

It was named the slow loris because of its ability to move slowly and deliberately, but maybe they have been misnamed because they are capable of moving quickly if need be.  Their diet consists mainly of insects, fruit, flower nectar and tree gums.  They range in size from 7 to 15 inches long depending on the species.

All species are either vulnerable or endangered from both habitat loss and the illegal pet trade (just too cute for their own good).  They are also hunted for use as traditional medicine.  For a video, click here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Baby Alert 2!!!

Well, I still haven't gotten any photos of the raccoon babies.  Momma has only been bringing them out late at night when it's way too dark for a photo (at least with my camera) even with the porch light on.  I actually tried last night to sneak a shot in, but the camera wouldn't even try!  The flash kept going like crazy, but no actual click of the shutter.

BUT, tonight I got pictures of the woodchuck babies!!  Yes, Virginia, more babies.  There are three.  Last night right before dusk I noticed that there were 3 woodchucks all eating in the garden at once.  Usually they come one at a time.  As I took a closer look, I saw that two of them were much smaller than the third.  At that point I thought there were just 2 babies.  Also this morning as I was leaving I scared one of the babies that was eating in the garden and it took off lickety split like its tail was on fire!

The pictures I got aren't very good because I took them through the storm door and it was just dark enough that the flash went off, reflecting off the glass.  Also I had just taken down one of the bird feeders which requires a chair to stand on, and between the time I took the feeder down and was ready to put it back up, momma and the babies showed up and the chair is right in the way.  They went right to where the chair was to get any 'leftovers' from the bird feeder.  Here's mom with two of the babies, although in the first picture one of the babies is almost hidden by the arm of the chair.

Here are two of the babies 'grazing'.

Here is one of the babies catching the interest of a feral cat that hangs out in the neighborhood.  I know it's not too original, but we call her Miss Kitty (in honor of 'Miss Kitty' on Gunsmoke).  A few minutes later Miss Kitty had her back end going ready to jump on the baby, but the baby looked up and gave her a dirty look.  Miss Kitty changed her mind.

And a few minutes after that, the baby woodchuck changed its mind and headed for the backyard and the safety of the hole under my shed.  Hopefully, more photos to come.

Update:  This all actually happened on Tuesday night.  Wednesday morning I heard some scuffling going out outside my bedroom window and looked out to see three babies come out of the hole under my shed one by one, but then a FOURTH baby came around the corner of the shed.  It was a little darker than the rest.  (There are a total of four holes on three different sides of my shed.)  Then I saw one of the feral cats starting to go after one of the babies.  Think it was just playing, but the babies weren't so sure.  Heard an alarm call from the other side of the shed and all the babies started running.  Then momma woodchuck emerged from the hole and stood guard to make sure all the babies got safely back in the hole.  She gave the cat a look that said, 'You better not mess with MY kids!'.

Then Wednesday evening I saw momma woodchuck take off when she saw momma raccoon approaching.  One of the babies got caught between the side of the house and momma raccoon who was just interested in eating the cat food that was out.  The baby's most direct path back to the shed was blocked by the raccoon.  Thinking it was cornered, the baby charged the raccoon!  Momma raccoon looked at the baby as if to say, 'What's your problem?'  Probably if the raccoon hadn't been so used to eating cat food, baby would have become dinner.  The raccoon then moved to another pile of cat food and the baby was able to get back to the hole under the shed.

Just love watching the drama unfold!  It could keep me entertained all day long!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Furtive Foxes

A while back I was driving along the river not too far from where I live and suddenly saw a fox cross the road.  I was not in the country, but in a residential area and not far from downtown Pawtucket.  I was very surprised, but maybe I shouldn't have been because like the opossums and raccoons foxes are very opportunistic and adaptable animals.  In fact the red fox is the most widely distributed of all the fox species and lives across North America, Central America, Europe and Asia.

Photo by Joel Sartore   Source:  National Geographic

A fox's diet consists of rodents, birds, fish, snakes, grasses, fruit, and insects.  In other words, just about anything.  And, of course, a fox is not above scavenging in garbage or eating pet food left outside.  Although the red fox is generally a reddish color, its coat can have many color variations including gray, blackish-brown and silver.

There are about 12 species of true foxes, along with subspecies within those 12.  Some of the more unusual species of fox includes Ruppell's fox found in the Middle East and North Africa...

Blanford's fox found in the Middle East...

Source:  Wikipedia

and the Corsac fox found in the central steppes of Asia.

Source:  Wikipedia

The smallest fox is the Fennac fox found in Sahara regions of Northern Africa.  It is also adapted to survive without water if necessary, acquiring the moisture it needs from its food.  Like many desert species it is nocturnal, sleeping during the heat of the day and hunting at night when it's cooler.

Source:  Wikipedia

And perhaps the most unusual looking of them all, the more wolf-like Tibetan sand fox, which lives in the higher elevations of the Tibetan Plateau in Nepal, India and China.

You may have noticed that the desert species and those that live in rockier terrain have lighter colored coats to blend in better with their surroundings.  In Native American stories, the coyote is known as the trickster, but the fox is known as the trickster's twin or younger brother, also known for its resourcefulness and sly ways.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Baby Alert!!!

Last night I was watching out the kitchen window and saw that my raccoon was there.  Then I noticed movement to the right of her and saw that there was a second raccoon.  I went to the door to look out and get a better view and was thrilled to see that the second raccoon was a baby!  I quietly opened the door and went out on my steps.  Either I disturbed them or mama had just finished eating because she started walking away going between my house and my shed with baby waddling right behind.  I followed their progress past my second shed, over my neighbor's chain link fence and up a big tree.  I was surprised that mom didn't pick the youngster up and carry it back up the tree, but baby seemed to have no problem - going right up the tree with mom beside it.  Then mom stretched out across a branch and baby kept going a little higher.  As I watched there was more movement and I realized that there was a second baby!  I watched for a while as the youngsters wrestled and played with mom still resting on a branch with little concern for the toddlers.

The tree where the raccoons live is behind my backyard in my neighbor's yard.  Part of the trunk is hollow.

See the hole right above the roof of the shed?  Here's a closer look.

I'll be trying to get some baby photos and hope to put them up Monday or Tuesday.

Sunday morning update:  I waited patiently with my camera last night, but momma came by herself while there was still some light.  Then around 11:00/11:30 pm mom came back with THREE babies.  They are adorable, but of course it was too dark to get pictures.  I'll keep trying.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Majestic Markhor

Have you ever heard of markhor?  I hadn't, but now that I know what it is I'm a bit in awe.  A markhor is the largest member of the goat family.  I'm used to seeing (on occasion) bighorn sheep in Colorado, but markhor are even more impressive and a reason why it is Pakistan's national animal.  Look at the horns on this guy.  Certainly wouldn't want to run into him in a dark alley!

Source:  Pakistan Paedia

Markhor are found in the Middle East and males can weigh up to 240 pounds and have horns up to 64 inches long.  And as you can see, the females are much smaller than the males, and although they also have horns they are on a much more diminutive scale.  They also have much shorter coats.  Markhor are grazers during the summer and browsers during the winter living at higher elevations in mountainous terrain.  But the males certainly do look distinguished, and somewhat wise.

Source:  Wikipedia

There are several subspecies of markhor, all of them endangered, some critically endangered.  They are hunted both for their meat and their horns.  Would definitely rather see those horns on live markhor, not dead ones.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Celestial Sea Creatures

What swims in the ocean, is named after an insect, but is really a snail?  A sea butterfly.  Also called a flapping snail, most species have either lost their shell altogether or else their shell is so thin it's transparent.  A land snail moves on a single 'foot', but the sea butterfly's 'foot' has evolved into two large lobes that resemble wings which is where it got its name.  It either floats with the currents or flaps its 'wings' so that it looks like its flying through the water creating a very ethereal image.

As beautiful as this mollusk seems, it is also one of the most abundant creatures in the sea and is hunted and eaten by fish, sea birds, whales, and even their sister sea slugs.  In the TV program I was watching, it was referred to as 'the potato chip of the ocean'!  That just ruined the whole image, didn't it??

Source:  Wikipedia

The sea butterfly is a plankton eater and casts a mucous net to catch its dinner.  I know, now you're totally disillusioned.  As great as these photos are, they're very deceptive because the sea butterfly is about the size of a bean!  Maybe I should have done this post on April Fool's Day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cat Tales

"Hey, Tanya, any birds or squirrels out there?"

"Don't see anything at the moment."

"It's so exciting when a bird lands on the porch railing.  Oh look, there's a starling on the shepherd's hook."

"Oh, Pugsley, you missed it!"

"This watching for birds stuff is wearing me out;  I need a nap."
"You're right, let's rest."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Confessions of an Amateur Gardener

If you read my 'Wishing for Wisteria' post, you might remember that I pruned my wisteria last fall hoping that maybe in the spring I would finally get some flowers (it has never bloomed).  I even bought several trellis screens for it to grow on.  Well, all spring I was afraid I had killed it because there was no sign of life whatsoever.  (In a way I was almost glad that it wasn't coming back because as much as I love it, it is rather invasive.)  It looked like some strange looking fork sticking out of the ground.  I had even gone to several garden centers looking for a vine to replace it, but hadn't found what I really wanted. 

Good thing because a few days ago I noticed that there were finally some leaves sprouting.  Still no blooms, but at least it's not dead!  And once they appeared the leaves have grown very quickly.

Maybe I'll get some flowers NEXT year!  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Sounds of Silence

I was reading something the other day that struck me - the phrase a person wrote about 'loving nature where there is no noise'.  And I thought to myself, 'There IS no such thing!'  Unless you're in a vacuum there is sound.  There might not be the drone of traffic and horns honking or cell phones ringing and people talking, but even in a secluded forest there are things to hear.  Like leaves rustling in the breeze, birds singing, squirrels chattering, and bees buzzing.  So this post is about some of the sounds of nature.

Around my house I don't hear a lot of traffic.  In my yard, between the caw of crows, the raspy squawks of the starlings, the 'jaying' of the bluejays, the cooing of pigeons, the chirps of the sparrows, and the occasional honking of geese as they fly over, it can be down right noisy just from the birds.

This is another sound you might hear in your backyard - the eerie coos of a mourning dove.  

Source:  Wikipedia

Or the hum of a hummingbird's wings.  (I saw my first hummingbird on Sunday.)

Source:  Mad Gene

And what summer evening is complete without the buzz of cicadas?  Do you know how they make it or what one looks like?  Check this out.

Or perhaps the lovely bass of a bullfrog singing.

Source:  Wikipedia

In my post about the raccoons I said that sometimes I hear them rather than see them.  Here is a cub calling for mom.  Imagine what a racket they could produce when there are FIVE youngsters.

How about something a little more exotic?  Like the song of a humpback whale.  Did you know only males sing and every whale's song is different?  Did you know that their songs change and evolve?  To take a listen, click here.

Source:  Wikipedia

Friends of mine just returned from a trip to Nicaragua and Panama.  On one side trip they saw howler monkeys.  If you've ever heard one, you'd know they are aptly named.   Click here for a unique experience.

Source:  Wikipedia

To hear the braying of a very hungry sea lion, click here.  Didn't know sea lions can bray?  Well, maybe not bray, but that's the first word I thought of when I heard it.  And it is pretty funny even though it's at a zoo and not in the wild.

Source:  Wikipedia

And some animals communicate with sounds we can't even hear.  An elephant trumpeting is the most familiar sound we equate with elephants, but their language is actually very complex.  Elephants use low frequency rumbles or infrasound to communicate over long distances.  For a quick video, click here.  Maybe that really is the ultimate sound of silence.

Source:  Wikipedia

Right now I'm listening to a cricket chirping.  What do you hear where you are?  Hope you've enjoyed the concert.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pretty Poison

Some of the smallest and most striking frogs in the world are the poison dart frogs.  They occur in almost every color warning predators of their toxic skin.  Take a bite of me if you dare!  Over 175 species of poison dart frogs are found in Central and South American rainforests, freshwater marshes, lakes and swamps, as well as moist savannas and wet grasslands.  Some species are more toxic than others; the most poisonous is the Golden Poison Frog found in coastal Columbia.  It carries enough toxins to kill 10,000 mice and humans have died just by touching it, the epitome of the phrase 'small but deadly'.

Source:  Wikipedia

Poison dart frogs may only be an inch or two long and weigh just a few ounces. When raised in captivity they don't develop the toxic skin.  The theory is that in captivity the frogs eat different food than they would eat in the wild.  The toxins that collect in the skin come from prey items such as ants, centipedes and mites.  Some species live in family groups of six or more.

Strawberry poison frog   Source:  Wikipedia

Most poison dart frogs are good parents.  The male guards and waters the eggs until they hatch.  Then the females carry the tadpoles on her back to a water location, feeding them with her unfertilized eggs.

Dyeing poison dart frog  Source:  Wikipedia

The real confusion comes when one species can be 10 or 15 different colors and/or patterns and color combinations.  This is also a dyeing poison dart frog.

And so is this.

Source:  Frog Forum

Maybe that's why this one is just identified as a blue poison dart frog.

Look at the diversity of their colors and patterns.

Source:  Animal Planet

Source:  Science Ray

 Source:  African Memories

 Source:  Wikipedia

Nearly all the poison dart frogs are endangered.  It would be a shame to lose these little jewels of the rainforest.