• A sampling of ‘Naturally Curious’
    January 05,2014
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    4/19/2012 — Red fox

    kits still nursing

    When red fox kits are roughly five weeks old, not only do they begin spending time outside of their den, but they also start eating solid food and weaning begins. This mother is still nursing her young, but soon she will start discouraging them by not always giving them access to her milk through tactics such as lying on her stomach when they approach her for a meal. Within three weeks the kits will be completely weaned. 

    6/7/2013 — Male American

    bitterns calling

    American bitterns typically nest in tall, standing cattails, rushes and sedges, where they are well concealed. Like most birds, male bitterns use their voice to attract a female and stake out their territory. Dense marshes present a challenge when it comes to being heard, however. American bitterns overcome this challenge by having a very low-frequency call, which is audible at great distances in dense marsh vegetation. Once you’ve heard a bittern’s call, you’ll never forget it. It is very deep, and has three syllables — “oong-ka-choonk” — preceded by clicks and gulps. The bittern makes this call multiple times by inflating his esophagus while contorting himself quite violently. A female American bittern couldn’t help but be impressed.  

    9/16/2013 — Common green

    darners migrating

     The common green darner, Anax junius, is one of our largest dragonflies, measuring three inches long, with a four-inch wingspread.  It is strikingly colored, with a green thorax and a bright blue (male) or reddish (female) abdomen.  As if that weren’t enough to set this dragonfly apart, it is also migratory.  Common green darners migrate south from August to November, stopping over (like migrating birds) occasionally along the way, resuming flight after resting and refueling.  Thanks to radio telemetry, we now know that over a two-month migration, common green darners, each weighing about one gram, can migrate over 400 miles. 

    12/2/2013 — Beaver breath

    It’s very subtle, but in winter, especially when it is very cold outside, there is a way to tell if a beaver lodge is occupied.  The temperature inside the lodge remains relatively stable at around 34 degrees.  When snow falls, it provides added insulation, raising the interior temperature of the lodge slightly.  A layer of fat and thick fur keep beavers warmer than the air inside the lodge, plus they raise their body temperature even more by sleeping piled on top of one another.  All the moist, warm air that beavers give off through breathing and evaporation escapes through the vent in the center of the roof of the lodge. The vent’s purpose is the exchange of air; when the warm air inside the lodge rises and hits the cold air outside the lodge, it condenses and forms water vapor that is visible, indicating that there is life inside.
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