To all those interested in the natural world. Please add your sightings.

In the woods we return to reason and faith-Emerson


Thursday, January 24, 2013

mystery in East Dummerston

Tracking in my woods yesterday I saw in the distance all these tracks.  I approached and I found this animal dead and partially eaten.  I wasn't sure it was a wild animal or a cat until I counted it's toes and there were five on each foot, so I knew it wasn't a cat, but a raccoon.  The process of figuring what is going on is the name of the game.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Utah Eurasian Collared-Dove

1.23.13     Sub-freezing temperatures are starting to feel normal, and today's high of 26 degrees seems almost spring-like!   We've been observing "some kind of dove" for a while, but today it stayed under the feeder long enough to get some really definitive views.  The Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), according to David Sibley, was introduced to the Bahamas in 1974 from Europe and Asia and has expanded its range northward and westward.  It apparently is a hardy bird, having survived recent temperatures. 
         The Short-eared Owl that I reported on a few weeks ago has continued to visit its rock ledge shelter on the northeast porch.  Dissection of two pellets revealed lots of mouse hair, bits of dried vegetative matter, and one object (at 30x magnification) that looked a whole lot like a tick.  I swept up after him this morning; the one pellet crumbled to dust and didn't allow any close inspection.  However, the quantity of scat would indicate that it is finding plenty to eat!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) lends a bit of green to the winter woods. Wintercreeper is an introduced species; an aggressive escape. There are many cultivated varieties, at least two of which grow wild in my neighborhood. Left to its own devices this species will climb and eventually shade out and kill the tree that supports it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

This slender green spider (probably one of the orb weavers) was stiff and cold when I found it atop the snow. However, in the warmth of my kitchen it quickly revived!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New tree species found in Dummerston

 This is a leaf from chestnut oak found in East Dummerston. As far as John Anderson knows, this is the first sighting in Dummerston.  It would be unusual for this species to be so far North.  The tree I found it on is probably at least 50 years old.  I will check with other experts to confirm my finding.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Utah 1.14.13

Utah weather contrasts dramatically with Dummerston's today.  John writes about 50 degree temperatures; in Morgan, UT it was -18 this morning, with a high of +10.   The Mountain Cottontail that lives in this neighborhood, finds shelter in gaps in the stone walls and  bounds around the house near the foundation where the snow is most shallow.  On the past few mornings and evenings just at dusk, it feeds underneath the bird feeders.   This little gray rabbit with rather short ears is the smallest of cottontails; its tail is gray above with white underneath. 

The Magpie often stops by just at sunrise; the American Kestrel looks at least double its summer size in its downy parka with head barely sticking out as it assumes his watch atop the leader of a Blue Spruce.  Ice is closing in on a lone Mallard that still paddles at the inlet of the local waterhole where Mule deer can be seen before the sun appears.   Recently, we watched a young Mule deer walk directly to the house where it lay down touching the foundation.  By looking closely, we could see the  long "mule" ears at the bottom of the window. 
That rare January combination of temperatures near 50 degrees F and dry ground on some south facing exposures made it possible to find a few grouse locusts (Family tetrigidae) today.
This one was basking on dead leaves along the wood's edge in my field, and was warm enough to make several 12 to 18 inch leaps before pausing as if posing for this picture.
Many insects and spiders were moving down in among the leaves and pine needles where temperatures were perhaps as much as 20 degrees higher than the 50 degrees registered in the air.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

This worm was crawling atop the snow in my backyard today. (Perhaps to escape the water saturated ground?)
Usually I let nature take its course but - feeling omnipotent - I moved this hapless critter to a patch of bare, thawed, less saturated ground.
A worm atop the snow probably has little to no chance of escaping the notice of hungry birds, or of reaching safe unsaturated ground, but even a slight chance of survival must have seemed better than the alternatives. Snow must be a horribly hostile environment for a worm to choose…

Friday, January 11, 2013

Despite water which might be best described as "liquid ice" this female Common Merganser fished contentedly in the West River today.
Meanwhile flocks of robins and bluebirds ate winterberries (Black alder fruit) along the shore.
black alder (Ilex verticillate) is a member of the Holly family and its beautiful scarlet-red berries remain on the stem long after the leaves fall.