I’m re-posting this photo of an American Toad in the yard. It was just hiding in the grass and didn’t mind that I took a photo of it. This is the dark green color phase, the other color phase is dark brown.
Tag Archives: animals
Book Review: Audubon Eastern Birds
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region by John Bull and John Farrand Jr., is a really nice field guide for getting an overview of the kinds of birds you are seeing in your backyard or at parks. There is an explanation of the range maps and types of birds at the beginning, and there are beautiful color pictures of the birds in a special section, organized by type of bird and color. I especially liked the section on owls. They also show both male and female birds when they have different coloring. The next section is a section of bird descriptions and range maps that correspond to the bird photos. There is also a description of their calls, but sometimes it can be a little hard to transcribe bird songs. You just have to make sure that you keep the page numbers straight, because the number of the “plates”, (photos of the birds), are different from the page numbers of the bird descriptions, and you just need to make sure you have the right number, or you’ll turn to the wrong page. All in all, I think this is an excellent book, but I would like it if the descriptions of the birds were more detailed. There is also an Audubon Western Birds book as well.
I am re-posting this as a belated Groundhog Day post:
Groundhogs, Woodchucks, and Marmots
Woodchucks, otherwise known as Groundhogs, are actually a type of Marmot. Woodchucks and Marmots are classified as rodents, in the same family as squirrels, and actually look rather like large, roly-poly squirrels. The Woodchuck is a solitary animal that lives mainly in the eastern and central states, Canada, and part of Alaska. They can weigh from 4.5 – 14 pounds. Marmots are generally more sociable and some of them live in colonies and/or hibernate together. They live mainly in the mountainous western U.S., Canada, and Alaska, and can weigh from 5 – 20 pounds. There are many different kinds of Marmots, such as the Yellow-bellied Marmot, the Hoary Marmot, and the Olympic Marmot. Woodchucks and Marmots eat different types of grass, green plants, and fruit. Because of their special diet, they are not able to find food in the winter, as they do not store food like squirrels and do not eat twigs and buds like rabbits do. Instead they hibernate for many months at a time, up to half the year, depending on location. Even though some people do not like the holes in the ground that Woodchucks make, their digging activities can actually be beneficial to farmers, because it aerates the soil.
The fact that the Woodchuck is not found in the West, as well as the fact that the winters there are usually warmer, are probably at least part of the reason why Groundhog Day is more popular in the East. Groundhog Day (February 2nd) is roughly halfway between winter and spring. Legend has it that the Groundhog will emerge from its burrow on this day and if it sees its shadow (sunny weather), the Groundhog will become scared and run back in its burrow, therefore predicting six more weeks of winter. However, if it does not see its shadow (cloudy weather), it will stay outside and there will be an early spring. There are many regional weather-predicting Groundhogs across the U.S. and Canada. For instance, every year Woody the Woodchuck gives her annual prediction at the Howell Nature Center in Howell, Michigan. The problem is, they are only accurate about half the time or less, since it is hard to see how the weather on Feb 2 would really impact a weather pattern six weeks in the future. Another issue is that in much of their range, they are still hibernating and would not be coming out of their burrows until March or April, on account of their being nothing for them to eat. However, it does not stop people from having a lot of fun on Groundhog Day. One of the best things is it gives some publicity to a rather shy animal that not a whole lot of people see, since Woodchucks and Marmots usually run to their burrows at the first sign of disturbance.
Here are some websites to visit:
For more information on Woodchucks:
For more information on the history of Groundhog Day, as well as a list of weather-predicting Groundhogs throughout the U.S. and Canada:
For more information on the Yellow-bellied Marmot:
For more information on Woody the Woodchuck:
John O. Whitaker, Jr., National Audubon Society Guide to North American Mammals (New York: Chanticleer Press, 1996).
I am reposting a couple of photos from last year. The first one is a photo of a Red Squirrel, and the second one is an Eastern Chipmunk. We get these animals a lot where I live. The Red Squirrel prefers pinecones while the chipmunk prefers acorns.
I took this photo of a Painted Turtle several years ago in Traverse City. It is the state reptile of Michigan. A lot of people don’t know that in addition to a state bird, there is also a state reptile. This is one of the most common turtles throughout Michigan. This photo was taken near a small pond, as turtles need to spend time around water.
This is a picture I took a few years ago of a Leopard Frog on Big Bear Lake in Michigan. This is only the second time I have seen this frog. It was just sunning itself by the lake as I was walking by, and I just happened to see it. It is quite a striking frog, but I think the spots probably work well as camouflage.
Book Review: Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow
by Louise R. Forrest, illustrations by Denise Casey
This is a little late in the season, but we just got a bunch of snow last week, so it is still relevant. This is a nicely laid out book that contains information about all of the mammals in North America, and also their track patterns. It could also be used as a way to track animals in sand or mud as well. The text is accompanied by beautiful drawings, and there is an introduction at the beginning of every section that covers information on that family of animals. Also at the beginning is a very detailed introduction on the different track patterns that are formed in the snow.
Reference: Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow, Louise R. Forrest, Stackpole Books: Mechanicsburg, PA, 1988
Spring Wildlife Sightings
Recently four female deer walked through our yard and into the woods. It was nice to see them after the winter. I also have been seeing a group of about fifteen wild turkeys. Even when it was snowing, they were there walking through the snow. Also, there was a male wild turkey in the woods that was making the gobble, gobble noise at dawn and dusk, like a rooster. I think that it was doing this to mark its territory. We have recently gotten several inches of snow, so it does not quite look like spring yet.
This is a photo I took a couple of years ago of a Red Squirrel on a white pine tree. Red Squirrels prefer white pine trees to other trees because they like the pine nuts. As you can see, they are not really red, but are more of a reddish-brown. They are also very active and like to chatter a lot. I have more information on them here: https://studiobluespruce.wordpress.com/2014/10/04/red-squirrels/
This is a Mallard Duck on Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, MI. It was a calm and peaceful day in the early evening, and I just saw this duck sitting in the water, and thought it would make a good picture.
This is a picture I took a few years ago of a hairy woodpecker pecking on a tree in Michigan. They like to get the insects from under the bark. You can see some of these pieces of bark on the snow. They are delightful birds that will make a sharp “Peeeek!” sound if they are startled. They are similar in markings to the Downy Woodpecker, but they are larger.
This is a photo I took last year in Michigan of an Eastern Chipmunk in a Rhododendron bush. They gather many seeds, nuts and fruit in preparation for their winter sleep. It is not a real hibernation though, because they wake up periodically to eat from their store of food. They do have a somewhat lower body temperature when they sleep, however. There are many different regional chipmunks in different areas across the country. It can be rather hard to tell them apart. I reviewed a guidebook last year, The Audubon Guide to Mammals, that has a section that covers different kinds of chipmunks.
For the past couple of months, we have been having a flock of Wild Turkeys in the area that includes females, males, and some younger turkeys. It is a large flock, probably about twenty turkeys in all. Usually the flock around here consists of female turkeys and their young, so it was a surprise to see so many males. The males are about twice as large as the females, and they fan their rear feathers some, so it is easy to tell which ones they are. The turkeys spend a lot of time in the woods looking for things to eat under the leaves (probably insects and larvae). Even if you can’t see them, you can tell they are there, because they make scratching and clucking noises. They are very peaceful birds, and very enjoyable to watch.
This is a picture of large brown butterfly with eyespots, called the Northern Pearly Eye. It is found in Michigan and other Great Lake states in the summer months. It is rather hard to tell apart from other little brown butterflies with eyespots, so consult a book, such as Butterflies of the Northwoods.
Book Review: Reptiles and Amphibians of Michigan
This is a field guide to the many reptiles and amphibians of Michigan. The pictures are really beautiful, and the version I have also comes with a CD of frog and toad songs that you can use to aid your identification. There are different chapters for turtles, snakes, lizards, salamanders, and frogs and toads. There are also interesting introductions to all of these animals, showing how they are an integral part of the ecosystem. All in all, I found this to be quite an informative book, one that would even be useful to people outside of Michigan, since a lot of these animals appear in other states as well. I learned about quite a few animals I had never heard of before. At first it might appear that Michigan is not the best environment for these animals, since they are cold-blooded, but they all hibernate for the winter (which is detailed in the book), so it works out fine. Some of these animals have unusual names, such as the Queen Snake and the Eastern Hognose Snake. Others have an unusual appearance, such as the Blue-spotted Salamander and the Northern Leopard Frog. Also of interest is that the Painted Turtle is the Michigan State Reptile.
Reference: Reptiles and Amphibians of Michigan Field Guide, Stan Tekiela, Adventure Publications, Inc., Cambridge MA: 2004
This is a photo I took of a black squirrel with an unusual white tail. There were two squirrels like this that were coming around for over a year, but I don’t see them anymore. By the way, the black squirrel is really a variation of the gray squirrel, but is often found farther north.
This is a photo of an American Toad hiding in the grass in the yard. It is a very large toad, and darker in color. Their color can range from brown to dark green, depending on the temperature. They can live for several years. There is another toad that is less common, called the Fowler’s Toad.
This is a photo of a toad that decided to make it’s home in a small flower pot. It is in the flower pot at left, and it came back to the same flower pot for many days.
These were photos that I took few years ago of a white-tailed female deer and her fawns. The pictures are a bit blurry because the deer were moving at the time.
This is a photo of a Rosy Maple Moth that I found resting on a wall near my house during the daytime. It had a fuzzy yellow head, pink and yellow wings, and rose-colored feet. This has definitely been the most unusual moth I have ever seen. Soon after I took the photo, it flew away.