As part of the festive past few weeks I’ve noticed some animals also getting in the “holiday” spirit. By the time we have experienced a freeze and thaw cycle, many of the crab apples or other berries that were left on the trees have fermented. Many of us are a little too aware of the consequences from consuming fermented plant matter and actually a bird’s reactions to consuming fermented fruits are very similar to human’s-they become intoxicated. One of my early college intoxication experiences happened with a tree…… and Cedar Waxwings! While I was walking home from class (sober I might add; I was a good student!) I noticed several crab apple trees full of Cedar Waxwings. I wasn’t as familiar with my bird species or bird behavior so I attempted to get a little closer and the birds didn’t take off. So I got a little closer and still nothing. Eventually I ended up so close that I reached out and touched one of the birds that was perched on a low branch. The little Cedar Waxwing just cocked its head and blinked at me a few times. I may have been a first year biology student but I knew enough to know that that was weird!
As it turned out those strange Cedar Waxwings had gone a little overboard with the fermented crab apples and were just really really drunk. This last week I have noticed several species of birds hanging out in the trees munching on berries including American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, and even a Ring-Necked Pheasant!
If you look really closely you can see a few tiny Black-Capped Chickadees eating the crab apples right outside of the Interpretative Center!
This is the closest thing I’ve seen to a Partridge in a Pear tree-A pheasant in a High Bush Cranberry!
So maybe the phrase “party animal” isn’t so far fetched! Happy 2015 and remember, there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing and bad attitudes! 🙂
This week was a little bit disappointing…. IT WAS TOO WARM! With an average temperature of 29⁰ it was practically tropical outside. Just to give you a little comparison, last year the average temperature for the 2nd week of December was 10⁰. Regardless of the yucky warm weather I still saw some pretty amazing things and those things were owls!
Now if you’re familiar with River Bend’s programming you know that we have an OWLS (Older Wiser Livelier Seniors) program once a month and although I would also consider them full of wisdom I am talking about the feathered, silent, nocturnal type of creature.
One of our extremely amazing River Bend volunteers also happens to be an amazing birder and he took us out for an owl search and we had really good luck! We found a barred owl and a great horned owl! We accidentally scared both of them from their perches but it was still pretty awesome!
One of the coolest things about discovering where an owl perches is what the owls leave behind…their pellets!
These are two owl pellets found at River Bend. The one on the left came from a barred owl and the one on the right is a long-eared owl. Long-eared owls have a much darker, dense, and elongated pellet
So keep looking for that winter wildlife! You might find something surprising! And remember, there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing and bad attitudes! 🙂
On Monday December 1st if you had exposed skin for more than 12 minutes outside you were susceptible to frostbite! Luckily, I had very minimal skin exposed and just got a little frosty!!
Seasonal staff member Emily’s frosty eyelashes after her bike ride at River Bend
What a wonderful and perfectly Minnesotan week! Our average temperature was 17 ° but the beginning of the week had a -20° wind-chill! Gotta love Minnesota!
I got to experience the balmy -20° weather for the first time in a long time and with that cold snap I was forced to adapt! The first adaptation I made was weight gain. This was the first week that I wore ALL of my winter clothing. Which means wool socks, heavy snow boots, snow pants, winter jacket, neck gator, mittens (with hand warmers), and my rabbit fur-“can’t hear a thing” hat. I was not prepared for the amount of mass I put on when I am fully geared up for the winter. By the time I had made it to the Interpretive Center, I was tired! This got me thinking about the creatures living at River Bend that aren’t able to take off their heavy winter coats until spring.
Most humans are pretty good about knowing when to put on their winter coats (with the exception of middle schoolers who would rather be cold than “uncool”) but what triggers an animal to start growing its winter coat?? The answer is sunlight. Animals living in cold winter climates have evolved to grow thicker coats as the amount of daylight decreases. Many people would think that they are developing a thinker coat as a result from the dropping temperatures but as Minnesotans are well aware, our weather is very unpredictable. The development of a winter coat is based on sunlight rather than temperature so that the animals will be ready for any winter weather that gets thrown at us!
So put on some layers, head outside, and get to know Minnesota in all its snowy, cold glory! And remember, there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing and bad attitudes! 🙂
Amber Brossard is the Education Coordinator for River Bend Nature Center, a member supported non-profit dedicated to helping people discover, enjoy, understand and preserve the incredible natural world that surrounds us. Contact us at email@example.com or 507-332-7151.
November 15, 2014
One of the views exclusive to winter mornings
Another view of the prairie and woods in the distance. Notice the sparking snow 🙂
Spending time outside is an essential part to most people’s well-being. I am lucky in the fact that my job consists of daily outside time but I wanted more so I started walking to work. My 25 minute walk is not only a great way to start the day but it also provides me with the opportunity to see nature at its most incredible moments. I have been contemplating starting a blog to share my experiences with the community for several months but for me facing the elements on a daily basis is much less intimidating than committing myself to sitting at a computer indoors once a week.
This week’s walk contained several new experiences. With an average weekly low of 10⁰ the biggest change from last week is the snow and single digits temperatures. IT WAS GREAT!! Snow is something we really take advantage of and tend to complain about but for the handful of us that have grown to appreciate and accept Minnesota for its longest season we know that winter is something to be treasured. Besides the breathtaking beauty (and cold) that comes with winter, there is also what I like to call snow stories.
Animals aren’t able to communicate in the way humans can but their tracks easily tell stories. Snow stories tell you a little bit about what the animals are up to when we are spending our time drinking hot cocoa and sitting under blankets. This week I saw one of my favorite snow stories: The bird and the mouse.
A little rodent highway right into their hole
Another well traveled mouse path into a hole. Mice and other small rodents will spend a lot of their time digging tunnels under the snow. This protects them and also helps keep them warm.
Tunnels under the snow can’t always protect the mice. Many predatory birds (such as owls) have an excellent sense of hearing and can detect their next meal from under the snow! That is exactly what happened here. You can see the marks from the bird’s wings and the area that the mouse was grabbed from. My favorite type of snow story 🙂
Please take some time to admire this underappreciated season! Bundle up, bring a warm drink and take a little time to discover (or make) your own snow stories! And remember, there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing and bad attitudes! 🙂
Amber Brossard is the Education Program Specialist for River Bend Nature Center, a member supported non-profit dedicated to helping people discover, enjoy, understand and preserve the incredible natural world that surrounds us. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 507-332-7151.