Monthly Archives: May 2015

Weekly Puzzler Answer #62

cardinal-2860If you said it’s a Northern CARDINAL song, you are correct! Isn’t it lovely? They are often the first up in the mornings and the last to sing before the day ends. Next time you hear one, you’ll know who’s making it!

Click HERE for the next puzzler.


Weekly Puzzler #63

If you’ve ever been out in the woods, especially on a trail that allows horses, you might have seen this:

Did you watch and think, “Wow, that’s a lot of butterflies! What is that, that they’re ON? Melted chocolate? If you’re thinking “Jeez, that looks a lot like poop!” you would be correct. It IS poop! Which means yes, this is another puzzler featuring animal scat (–the scientific word for poop. )(check out these others here:Puzzler #12, #34)

This week’s puzzler is why do butterflies seem to like scat? Are they partial to horse poop or will any poop do? What is it about it that attracts them? (Is it the lovely SMELL? the fabulous TASTE? the soft TEXTURE? the attractive APPEARANCE?) Click HERE to see if you were right!

Have a wonderful weekend… aren’t you glad you’re not a butterfly?

10 Things You May Not Know about Rattlesnakes

 P7130439-EditIt’s unlikely rattlesnakes will make many Favorite Animal lists, but if you can put your preconceived ideas aside and look at them objectively, maybe you–like me–can come to appreciate them for the amazing–and beautiful creatures they truly are.

On my Appalachian Trail thru-hike I got to see many different kinds of snakes, including rattlesnakes. It was my first time seeing them in the wild and from these observations I can conclude that their coloring is highly variable–from yellowish with black or brown cross bands to a dark brown or black with dark cross bands. They are thick-bodied, with  black tails, and like all pit vipers, they have a triangular head and two heat-sensing pits behind their eyes.

I thought it would be fun to feature them this week, especially since I just  had them as my Weekly Puzzler. Let’s see what we can learn about Timber Rattlesnakes:

P71304251. Rattlesnakes, as you know, are venomous. But did you know that their venom is costly for them to produce so they don’t waste it? In fact, nearly half of all bites to humans contain little or no venom since rattlesnakes are not viewing us as prey or something they want to eat. These bites are commonly referred to as dry or medically insignificant bites. Of course! This in no way should be a reason for you to approach or try to pick up a rattlesnake! They ARE venomous! If you see one, the best thing you can do is give it plenty of space–just like ANY wild creature you encounter.

2. Like all venomous snakes, timber rattlesnakes have vertical pupils. Other, non-venemous snakes have round pupils.

3. Female rattlesnakes give birth to LIVE YOUNG. They carry the eggs around INSIDE of their bodies for 3 to 4 months before giving birth to live snakes, usually 4-14. This is called ovoviviparous.

P7130432-Edit4. The rattle of a rattlesnake is made from the same material as your fingernails–keratin. Each time the snake sheds it’s skin–once every 1 or 2 years– a new segment of keratin is added to the end but aging the snake this way is faulty as the rattles easily break off. They vibrate these segments against each other to produce their characteristic rattle. It is uncommon to see a rattlesnake with a rattle more than 10 segments long.

5. Rattlesnakes don’t always rattle their tails. In my time on the AT, I saw 10 rattlesnakes but only ONE rattled his tail! The rest remained silent, crawling away slowly. Rattlesnakes are not vicious or aggressive! They will usually move out of the way and try to be left alone. Other snakes–including black racers, milk snakes and hognose snakes will shake their tails in leaves to make it sound like a rattle.

6. Rattlesnakes have a long life span–from 16-22 years but don’t reach sexual maturity until they are 5 for males and 7-11 years old for females.

7. Female rattlesnakes only give birth once every 3 or 4 years so in their lifetimes, they might only give birth 2 or 3 times.

8. Rattlesnakes spend the winter underground, in a state much like hibernation, called brumation. They often do this with large numbers of other reptiles, including copperheads and black rat snakes. They might migrate 1.3 to 2.5 miles from their dens each summer.

9. Females lay scent trails to help their offspring locate their winter dens. Baby rattlesnakes have only one segment–often referred to as a button–of keratin. They shed their skins within 10 days of birth, adding a second rattle segment.

10. Timber Rattlesnake populations have declined drastically in the last 20 years. They used to be in 31 states but now are in 27 and some of those are limited to very small areas of the whole. One of the main reasons for this is malicious killing–people killing them just because they don’t like them. Please don’t do this! Rattlesnakes, and other snakes, play an important role in ecosystems, keeping rodent populations in check. Other reasons for their decline are habitat loss, illegal collection, and destruction of their denning sites.

Did I say 10? I have to add these too!

11. Like other snakes, rattlesnakes smell with their tongues–these sensitive organs collect information and translate it to an organ in the roof of their mouths. This is why when you see a snake, it constantly seems to be flicking its forked tongue in and out!

rattle-12. Rattlesnakes change their habits based on the season. In spring and fall they are more active during the day and in summer, more nocturnal.

13 Rattlesnakes are ambush hunters, waiting for prey to come to them. They eat mice, shrews, chipmunks, squirrels, lizards, amphibians, other snakes, and birds.

14. Their fangs are thin and are replaced every 3 or 4 weeks.

Please join me in protecting these interesting creatures! Leave them alone and they will likely return the favor.

Click HERE to read another post about some common snake myths.

Quote of the Week #21

I spent the holiday weekend backpacking and camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, discovering after being on the trail thirty seconds that I had neglected to put on my watch that day. And I wasn’t carrying my phone as cell reception there was notoriously spotty so why waste the weight?

Are you like me–never without a watch? Of course even if you don’t wear a watch you probably have your phone with you, thus able to check the time whenever you desire. Have you ever wondered or had the opportunity to escape time for more than a few hours? What was it like? Did you like it, or did it make you feel lost?

I admit that at first I did not like the idea of not being able to check on the time. A whole weekend without my watch! Our society is so driven by TIME that it’s hard to disconnect and imagine going about our day without it.

But I have to say it actually turned out to be very freeing. I could eat when I felt hungry, walk until I felt tired, go to sleep when my body let me know it was done for the day, wake up with the birds and the sun and plan my day according to what I wanted to do rather than what a random number suggested I “should do.” If you haven’t tried it, I highly suggest it!

Which brings me to this week’s quote:

“The bad news is: Time flies. The good news is: You’re the pilot!”

Weekly Puzzler Answer #61

The first time I ever heard this sound I was when I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. It was in the beginning of my hike and a rare moment when I was hiking with my brother. He was a few minutes ahead of me and suddenly came rushing back to say, “Come on! You’ve got to see this.” I rushed forward with him wondering the cause of the excitement.

I heard the noise first, but didn’t immediately see the source. And still, I didn’t know what it was, having never heard the sound before. At first I thought cicada–a kind of insect that makes a loud buzzing noise. But no, it wasn’t that.

rattle-When I finally saw the rattlesnake, I was thrilled because even after all of my time spent outside in the woods, I had never seen one! This one was in the middle of the trail and firmly standing his ground, making it clear we were going to have to move around him rather than the other way around.

Rattlesnakes–Crotalus horridus– are pit vipers and venomous. But contrary to popular belief, they are not usually aggressive and prefer to just be left alone. Of course since they are venomous, you should do your best to keep your distance if you see one, giving them plenty of space so they don’t feel threatened.  In my 5+ months hiking the AT I saw 10 rattlesnakes but only one of them rattled its tail. The others slowly moved away, disappearing silently in the vegetation beside the trail. Most people who get bitten by them accidentally step on them so watch where you’re going!

Their rattles are made of keratin–the same material as your fingernails. The segments of keratin fit loosely inside one another at the end of their tails. When the snake holds its tail vertically, it can vibrate the rattles to create the sound. Each time the shed their skin– roughly every 1.4 years–a new segment is added to the rattle though counting the number of rattles doesn’t necessarily tell you the age of the snake as the rattles often break off.

Do you know how long rattlesnakes live or why they are endangered in many locations? Check back next week to learn more about these fascinating animals. (And for those of you really paying attention, I did forgot to feature the chipmunk last week so I will do that one soon too.)

Here is the next puzzler.

Weekly Puzzler #62

Are you up for one more Animal Sounds Puzzler? Who is making this lovely sound? Check back next Saturday to learn the answer!

Sure to Make you Smile…

This is so wonderful I have to share! It made me smile and I bet it will make you smile too. Happy day friends!