I’m Sharon, and I’m so glad you stopped by!
Nature For My Soul
- I am Sharon Mammoser, author of this blog and lover of all things WILD. Welcome! I hope you enjoy your visit and come back again soon. Happy Trails!
- ► 2017 (57)
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- Photo Challenge #11
- 1 Minute Meditation: River Time
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #153
- Weekly Puzzler #154: Spiral Fern
- Photo Challenge #10
- 1 Minute Meditation: Pond Time
- Weekly Puzzler #153: Tall White Flower Above Waxy Leaves
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #152
- Photo Challenge #9
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #151
- Weekly Puzzler #152: What BIG Eyes You Have!
- Quote of the Week #82
- One Minute Meditation: N.A.'s Largest Rodent: The Beaver
- Weekly Puzzler #151: Really looooonngg "Tail"
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- ► May (19)
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- Weekly Puzzler Answer #149
- Weekly Puzzler #150: Sharp Claws and Big Eyes
- One Minute Meditation:Falling Water
- Weekly Photo Challenge #7
- Special Invitation: Blue Ghost & Moth Viewing Party!
- Weekly Puzzler #149: Will Dance for Food
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- Weekly Photo Challenge #6
- How Wolves Change Rivers
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #147
- Weekly Puzzler #148: A Bird That Uses a Lure
- 1 Minute Meditation: Time Lapse
- Weekly Photo Challenge #5
- What Ants and Farmers Have in Common
- Weekly Puzzler #147: Handsome Red-eyed Bird
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- Quote of the Week #81
- Check Out These Nesting Birds. Live!
- ► April (18)
- Weekly Puzzler #146: Another Mimic
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #145
- Weekly Photo Challenge #4
- 1 Minute Meditation: Water Art
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #144
- Weekly Puzzler #145: Name that Bird!
- Happy Earth Day!
- Weekly Photo Challenge #3
- One Minute Meditation: Spring Rains Fill Stream
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #143
- Weekly Puzzler #144: Bubbling Song
- Weekly Photo Challenge Theme #2
- Quote of the Week #80
- He Cleans...Then He Dances! Watch this Amazing Bird.
- Weekly Puzzler #143: Spring Greens
- It's Spring...Have You Done This Yet?
- Weekly Photo Challenge #1
- Hello Again!
- ► 2016 (157)
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- Weekly Puzzler #139:Tangerine-Sized Nuts
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #138
- Quote of the Week #79
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #137
- Weekly Puzzler #138: More RED Berries!
- Quote of the Week #78
- Weekly Puzzler #137: Tight Red Cluster of Berries
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #136
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #135
- Weekly Puzzler #136: Red Berries
- Quote of the Week #77: Some Quotes about Leadership and the Power of One
- ► October (15)
- The Creatures of Halloween...10 Things You Might Not Know
- Weekly Puzzler #135: Bats and Rum?
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #134
- Quote of the Week #76
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #133
- Weekly Puzzler #134: Green Fruit & Purple Flower
- Weekly Puzzler #133: The Better Nose
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #132
- Quote of the Week #75
- Weekly Puzzler #132: Perfect Camouflage
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #131
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Sandhill Cranes
- Quote of the Week #74
- Weekly Puzzler #131: Red-crested Bird
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- ► September (11)
- Weekly Puzzler #130: Metallic Jewel
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #129
- 10 Things That May Surprise you about Turkey Vultures
- Quote of the Week #73
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #128
- Weekly Puzzler #129:Another Long-Necked Bird
- 10 Amazing Things about Ospreys
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #127
- Weekly Puzzler #128: Riding the Wind!
- Weekly Puzzler #127: Large Bird with "Elbows"
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #126
- ► August (12)
- Quote of the Week #72
- 10 Things You May Not Know about White Pelicans
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #125
- Weekly Puzzler #126: Another Striking White and Black Bird
- Quote of the Week #71
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Swallow-tailed Kites
- Weekly Puzzler #125: White and Black
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #124
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #123
- Weekly Puzzler #124:Forked Tail
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- Weekly Puzzler #123: Naked Tail!
- ► July (15)
- Weekly Puzzler #122: Large, Flat Tail
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #121
- Weekly Puzzler #121:Skinny Blue Worm?
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #120
- What do you Know about Spiders? Test Your Spider IQ
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #119
- Weekly Puzzler #120: Damselfly Hitchhikers
- On Those Hot Summer Days, Don't Forget...
- Quote of the Week #70
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #118
- Weekly Puzzler #119: Winged Giant
- Do You See What I See?
- Quote of the Week #69
- Weekly Puzzler #118: Mini Tunnels in a Row
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- ► June (13)
- Quote of the Week #68
- Weekly Puzzler #117: Foster Parents...but Not by Choice!
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #116
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Damselflies
- Quote of the Week #67
- Weekly Puzzler #116: Who Says Drink Your Tea
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- Quote of the Week #65
- ► May (14)
- Weekly Puzzler #113
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #112
- Amazed By My Dog's Ability to do This
- Quote of the Week #64
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #111
- Weekly Puzzler #112
- Quote of the Week #63
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #110
- Weekly Puzzler #111: Nature's Needles
- 10 Things That Might Surprise you about Ring-Necked Pheasants
- A Shout Out to Moms Everywhere!
- Weekly Puzzler #110: Another Mystery "Ball"
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #109
- Quote of the Week #62
- ► April (15)
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #108
- Weekly Puzzler #109: Who Says Churrrr, churrr?
- Quote of the Week #61
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #107
- Weekly Puzzler #108: Colorful Feathers
- Earth Day Inspiration, Plus 5 Ways to Help our Planet
- Quote of the Week #60
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #106
- Weekly Puzzler #107: Shades of Purple
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Prairie Chickens
- Weekly Puzzler #106: Unusual-Shaped Leaf
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- Quote of the Week #59
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #104
- Weekly Puzzler #105: Name That Trillium!
- ► March (17)
- Quote of the Week #58
- Ten Things That May Amaze You About Frogs & Toads
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #103
- Weekly Puzzler #104: Yellow Petals and Spotted Leaves
- If You're NOT Doing This, You May Be the Cause of Hummingbird Deaths: 8 Things You Need to Know
- Quote of the Week #57
- 10 Things You Might Not Know About Salamanders
- Weekly Puzzler #103: Painted Flower Petals
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #102
- Quote of the Week #57: Spring Fever
- Weekly Puzzler #102: A Truck Backing Up?
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- Quote of the Week #56
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #100
- Weekly Puzzler #101: Mysterious "Ball" on the Forest Floor
- 10 Things You Might Not Know about Beech Trees
- Quote of the Week #55
- ► February (13)
- Weekly Puzzler #100
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #99
- Quote of the Week #54
- Weekly Puzzler #99
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- 10 Things You May Not Know About Spotted Salamanders
- Weekly Puzzler #98
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- Quote of the Week #53
- Weekly Puzzler #97
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #96
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Wolves
- Is Spring Coming Soon?
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- Weekly Puzzler #89
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #88
- 10 Things You Might Not Know about Wild Turkeys
- Quote of the Week #45
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #87
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- Weekly Puzzler #87
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Dolphins
- Quote of the Week #44
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #85
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- Quote of the Week #43
- What do Yeast, Mold and Mushrooms have in Common?
- ► October (17)
- Weekly Puzzler #85
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #84
- What do Bananas, Tequila, Figs and Chocolate have in Common?
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #83
- Weekly Puzzler #84
- Quote of the Week #42
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Loons
- Weekly Puzzler #83
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #82
- The Bird that Can Change its Mind
- Quote of the Week #41
- Weekly Puzzler #82
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #81
- Quote of the Week #40
- Have you Noticed?
- Weekly Puzzler #81
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #80
- ► September (16)
- Quote of the Week #39
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #79
- Weekly Puzzler #80
- Quote of the Week #38
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #78
- Weekly Puzzler #79
- Monarch Day at The NC Arboretum!
- Quote of the Week #37
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #77
- Weekly Puzzler #78
- Why You Should Refuse to use This Product!
- Quote of the Week #36
- Weekly Puzzler #77
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #76
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Butterflies
- Quote of the Week #35
- ► August (17)
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #75
- Weekly Puzzler #76
- Nature For Your Soul
- Quote of the Week #34
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #74
- Weekly Puzzler #75
- Quote of the Week #33
- Sure to Make You Smile!
- Weekly Puzzler #74
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #73
- Quote of the Week #32
- Weekly Puzzler #73
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #72
- Hummingbirds Get Crazy!
- Quote of the Week #31
- Weekly Puzzler #72
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #71
- ► July (18)
- Soul Food
- Quote of the Week #30
- Weekly Puzzler #71
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #70
- Quote of the Week #29
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #69
- Weekly Puzzler #70
- 10 Things That May Surprise You about Goldfinches
- Quote of the Week #28
- 10 Facts About Great Blue Herons
- Weekly Puzzler #69
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #68
- Hidden Drama on an Ordinary Morning
- New Meaning for the word Redneck
- Quote of the Week #27
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #67
- Weekly Puzzler #68
- A Thought to Start the New Month
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- Quote of the Week #26
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #66
- Weekly Puzzler #67
- Quote of the Week #25
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #65
- Weekly Puzzler #66
- 10 Things That Might Surprise you About Ladybugs
- Top 10 Ways to Determine if Someone is a Thru-hiker
- Quote of the Week #24
- Weekly Puzzler #65
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #64
- 10 Things You Didn't Know about Fireflies
- Can There be a Soundless Music?
- Quote of the Week #23
- Weekly Puzzler #64
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #63
- 4 Things We Can Learn from Carolina Wrens
- Quote of the Week #22
- ► May (20)
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #62
- Weekly Puzzler #63
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Rattlesnakes
- Quote of the Week #21
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #61
- Weekly Puzzler #62
- Sure to Make you Smile...
- Quote of the Week #20
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #60
- Weekly Puzzler #61
- Safe Sex? Not for this Insect.
- Quote of the Week #19
- Happy Mother's Day!
- Weekly Puzzler #60
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #59
- Training a Cat to Walk on a Leash?
- 3 MORE Things You Would Stop Doing if you Knew the Consequences
- Weekly Quote #18
- Weekly Puzzler #59
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- ► April (22)
- What is the Relationship Between Sapsuckers and Hummingbirds?
- Quote of the Week #17
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #57
- Weekly Puzzler #58
- Awakened at 3AM By Guess Who?
- Moth Quiz Answers
- Moth Quiz--Is What You Know Fact or Fiction?
- See What Had My Heart RACING Recently
- Ten Things You May Not Know About Honey Bees
- Quote of the Week #16
- Weekly Puzzler #57
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #56
- Quote of the Week #15
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #55
- Weekly Puzzler #56
- 3 Things You WOULD STOP DOING if You Knew the Sometimes DEADLY Consequences
- Guess Who I Saw at the Pond Last Night
- Quote of the Week #14
- Weekly Puzzler #55
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #54
- What's Special About NA's Largest Woodpecker?
- If You Love Hummingbirds, Do This Soon!
- ► March (19)
- Quote of the Week #13
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #53
- Weekly Puzzler # 54
- More About Earthworms--Are They Good or Bad?
- Quote of the Week #12
- Welcome Spring! A One Minute Movie
- Weekly Puzzler #53
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #52
- 5 Sayings You've Probably Heard... but Did You Know They're False?
- 10 Earthworm Facts that may Surprise You
- Quote of the Week #11
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #51
- Weekly Puzzler #52
- 7 Positive Things about Rainy Days
- Quote of the Week #10
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #50
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- Quote of the Week #9
- Ten Things You Didn't Know about Red-shouldered Hawks
- ► February (17)
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #49
- Weekly Puzzler #50
- Quote of the Week #8
- 10 Facts About the N.A. Owl with the Most Varied Diet
- Weekly Puzzler #49
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #48
- The Bird with the Tiny Body but Large Brain
- Quote of the Week #7
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #47
- Weekly Puzzler #48
- If You Love BIRDS, Here is Something You Can Do This Valentine's Weekend
- 10 Things You Didn't know about Opossums
- Quote of the Week #6
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #46
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- Quote of the Week #5
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Today's Famous Animal (The Groundhog)
- ► January (18)
- Weekly Puzzler Answer # 45
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- Quote of the Week #4
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #44
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- How to Get Free Therapy
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- Weekly Puzzler Answer # 43
- Weekly Puzzler #44
- What to do for a Stunned Bird that has crashed into a Window
- The Mammal with the White Chin
- Quote of the Week #2
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #42
- Weekly Puzzler #43
- How a Plant Can Help you Decide What to Wear
- Quote of the Week #1
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #41
- Weekly Puzzler #42
- ► 2014 (202)
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- The Playful River Otter
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #40
- Weekly Puzzler #41
- What is luck?
- A Gift for Mother Nature: 7 Small Changes that make a BIG Difference
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #39
- Weekly Puzzler #40
- 5 Things to Remember This Holiday
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #38
- Weekly Puzzler #39
- How to Attract More Birds to Your Yard
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- Weekly Puzzler Answer #37
- Weekly Puzzler #38
- ► November (17)
- Weekly Puzzler #37
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #36
- What's the FASTEST Growing Tissue of Any Mammal?
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #35
- Weekly Puzzler #36
- Wow! National Geographic Outside of my Window!
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #34
- Weekly Puzzler #35
- Friday Gift
- Glorious Day on the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Nature's Master Engineer: 10 Things You Might Not Know about Beavers
- Weekly Puzzler #34
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #33
- Not Your Average Evening....
- The Halloween Gift
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #32
- Weekly Puzzler #33
- ► October (17)
- Answers to the Halloween Quiz
- Creatures of Halloween QUIZ
- An Amazing Discovery
- A Lesson From a Deer...
- What NA Bird Makes the Biggest Nest?
- Weekly Puzzler #32
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #31
- Do This Today!
- Kayaking on the French Broad
- What Makes This Insect Amazing and Why it's inTrouble
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- What This Tree Can Teach
- Weekly Puzzler #29
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- ► September (14)
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #27
- Weekly Puzzler #28
- Schedule this regularly
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #26
- Weekly Puzzler # 27
- What is Rejuvenating, Cheap and Awe-Inspiring?
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #25
- Weekly Puzzler #26
- Find this Each Day...
- 10 Things You May Not Know about Copperheads?
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #24
- Weekly Puzzler # 25
- Have the Courage to do this...
- A Wading Bird with a 6 Foot Wingspan
- ► August (20)
- Weekly Puzzler #24
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #23
- Wisdom for your Wednesday: August 27th
- Ten Cool Things about Snakes
- Weekly Puzzler #23
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- The Big-Eyed Curious Spider with the Bizarre Dance
- What's Hiding in the Grass?
- What Inspires You to Skip?
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #21
- Weekly Puzzler #22
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #20
- Why the Monarch Butterfly is in Trouble
- How You Can Help the Monarch Butterfly
- Weekly Puzzler # 21
- Miniature Worlds Tempt Me...
- A Collection Everyone Should Have
- What Bird has a Barbed Tongue and Loves Ants?
- Weekly Puzzler #20
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #19
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- What Animal on Earth has the Fastest Metabolism? 10 Things You Might Not Know about Hummingbirds
- Ways to Attract Hummingbirds
- Weekly Puzzler #15
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #14
- What is it about Summer?
- Can you Spread the Poison Ivy Rash?
- Do Dragonflies Sting or Bite?
- Weekly Puzzler #14
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- If you love animals, Please don't do this!
- Unpleasant jobs
- How to Be Rich
- What do Black Bears NOT do all winter?
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #12
- Weekly Puzzler #13
- The Future
- What Salamander Turns Bright Orange as a Teenager?
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- Weekly Puzzler Answer # 11
- Being Different
- Eastern Bluebird
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- Weekly Puzzler #11
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #10
- Alone Time
- What to do if you encounter a turtle crossing the road
- Spiders in Focus
- What Amazing Ability do Female Box Turtles Have? 10 Things You May Not Know
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #9
- Weekly Puzzler #10
- Which Female Butterfly has Two Forms?
- Spy Camera Captures Hatching Eggs!
- Weekly Puzzler #9
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #8
- Look What I Found along the Blue Ridge Parkway!
- Afraid of Snakes? Read this...
- Which Snake Resembles a King Cobra?
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #7
- Is a Daddy Long Legs a Spider?
- Weekly Puzzler #8
- Magic Comes to a Backyard Near You
- What is a Fairy Shrimp?
- Weekly Puzzler #7
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #6
- Ah ha! So that's Why My Female Bluebird is not Incubating...
- Will Mama Bird Abandon the Nest if you Touch it?
- ► April (23)
- Finding Beauty in my own Backyard
- Does Touching a Toad Give you Warts?
- Why are Ants on Peony Buds?
- Spy Camera Shows All!
- Weekly Puzzler #6
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #5
- Do Male Praying Mantises get Eaten after Mating?
- Why I Love Rainy Days
- Weekly Puzzler #5
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- Extra Clean Raccoons?
- Outside on April 14th
- Do Raccoons Really Wash Their Food?
- Woo Hoo, Guess Who's Back!
- Stop doing this
- Weekly Puzzler #4
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #3
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- Outside on April 3rd
- 10 Things you may not know about Dandelions
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- Can You Find the Frog?
- Joyful Herald of Spring
- 10 Things You Didn't Know about Spring Peepers
- Weekly Puzzler Answer #1
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- What is Beauty?
- What I Learned about Barred Owls
- Weekly Puzzler #1: What are these?
- Get your feeders ready!
- Guess What I Found At the Pond Today...
- Who Cooks For You?
- Photos from Corkscrew Sanctuary
- Corkscrew Sanctuary
- We all have them...
- Dad was right...
- Note to self:
- Just like Janet Jackson...
- Life Partner
- ► February (16)
- Spider Myths Debunked! 10 Things You May Not Know about Spiders
- How I know that Spring is Here!
- What DOES the Fox Say?
- What's that Quacking Sound?
- Are you Stuck in a Rut?
- Words of Wisdom for Future AT Thru-Hikers
- Introducing the RED FOX
- Are Bats Blind?: 10 Things That Might Surprise You
- Introducing the BOBCAT
- 5 Ways to Help Bats
- Two Ways to Attract Moths to Your Yard
- Comparing the JMT to the AT
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Tag Archives: creature feature
I think ospreys are amazing birds and love to watch them dive into a body of water and come up with a giant fish. I am always amazed when they lift off from the water and fly off, carrying a fish with their sharp talons. Did you notice the fish is always facing the same way as the osprey? What must that fish be thinking!
Let’s look at these interesting birds and see what we can learn.
1. Ospreys are often called fish hawks or fish eagles and it’s easy to see why when you watch them for any length of time. They eat a lot of fish! And are very skillful hunters–catching fish about 50-80% of the time. 99% of their diet is fish. The rest might be animals such as small reptiles and amphibians, rodents, small birds and rabbits.
2. Ospreys are found on every continent except Antarctica.
3. Ospreys are 21-23 inches long with a wingspan of 5.9 feet.
4. Like owls, ospreys have two toes facing forward and two toes facing backwards, rather than the 3 and 1 arrangement of most other birds. This allow them to snag their prey in water and then hold it in flight.
5 Another interesting thing about their feet is that their talons have backward facing scales that act like the barbs on a fish hook. These help the osprey hold the wiggly fish in flight.
6. Ospreys will catch their prey and then move to a safe place to feed–this might be a pole, tree top, branch, roof, etc.
7. Ospreys build nests at the top of dead trees, though they will readily build a nest on human-made structures such as utility poles, artificial platforms, and other structures. Females lay 2-4 eggs and then incubate them for 5 weeks.
8. Chicks do not hatch all at once and the first one out has the greatest chance for survival. Both the male and the female take part in the raising of the chicks.
9. Can you imagine learning to fly if you’re and osprey? Have you ever seen their nests? They are SO HIGH up! The chicks have never flown before, but must take off on their own and hope for a good flight. They learn to fly when they are 7-8 weeks old.
10. Ospreys are long-lived birds, able to live more than 20 years. However, most live between 7-10 years in the wild.
White pelicans in a large group soaring through the sky is a pretty amazing sight. They seem like they never have to flap their wings at all, just riding the thermals, high above the earth. There is so much about them that is interesting… so let’s get started.
1. First off, white pelicans have one of the largest wingspans of any North American bird. At 9 feet, this is impressive!
2. You can probably guess that white pelicans eat fish, but did you know that they sometimes work together to herd fish to more shallow water where they can feast on them more easily?
3. From the time an egg hatches til the chick leaves the nest and becomes independent, the parents provide roughly 150 POUNDS of food!
4. White pelicans are pretty accomplished thieves, stealing from other pelicans and cormorants so they don’t have to do the work themselves.
5. Have you ever looked closely at a pelican and noticed an odd projection on its bill? When I was in Kansas last winter, it seemed like all of the white pelicans we were seeing had this weird bump on the upper mandible near the tip of the bill. I wondered about it, thinking it was some kind of genetic deformity. After all, I had seen white pelicans before that did not have this hump. But research showed that they have this odd bump during the breeding season–apparently, it makes them more attractive to prospective mates! Go figure. Interestingly, this is called a nuptial tubercle and it will fall off after the breeding season.
6. White pelicans breed on islands in shallow wetlands with many other birds, including other white pelicans and also cormorants.
7. Unlike brown pelicans that fly high above the water and then dive down into the water to catch their prey, white pelicans get their food by feeding from the water surface, dipping their beaks into the water to snag fish and other aquatic animals.
8. White pelicans are one of the heaviest flying birds in the world. An average white pelican weighs between 7 – 20 pounds.
9. Females lay 1-3 eggs in a slight depression in the ground. Both the male and female will incubate the eggs–not the way other birds do, but with their giant orange feet! Eggs hatch in about a month and usually, only one will survive to leave the nest. Chicks leave the nest–fledge–when they are about 10 weeks old.
10. Except for the fact that males are slightly larger than females, the two appear identical.
Last week’s puzzler was a swallow-tailed kite–a bird I suspect some readers may never have seen or even heard of. That’s because it is not common in most of the United States.
Have you ever had the pleasure of watching a swallow-tailed kite soar in the sky above you? It is quite a sight to see as these beautiful birds are so graceful.
Let’s look at a few interesting things about these birds:
- Before 1900 these birds could be found in 21 states, their range extending from Florida and the Gulf Coast states all the way up to Minnesota. These days you can find them in only a handful of states– Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas and Florida. Their range also includes Central and South America and the west Indies.
- Some swallow-tailed kites spend summers breeding in North America and then migrate to northern South America. Florida has the highest population of kites and you can see them there only from March-September.
- Swallow-tailed kites are the largest species of kite in America. They can be 19-24 inches long, which includes their forked tail that is 12-15 inches long. They have a wingspan of 50 inches.
- Swallow-tailed kites eat almost all of their food on the wing. Have you ever watched a dragonfly in flight? If so then you know what amazing flyers they are, twisting and turning and darting about so quickly that it’s hard to imagine anything ever being able to catch them. But swallow-tailed kites do! They chase them and then snag them in mid-air! (the same way dragonflies catch their prey!) Also on their menu are butterflies, beetles,bees, wasps, other insects, frogs, lizards, snakes, small birds and less often, bats, fruit and small fish.
- They also drink while they are flying! To do this they glide low above the body of water and open their beaks.
- They build nests high in dead trees–often a 100 feet from the ground! They often nest in loose colonies with other kites, usually by water.
- Both males and females incubate and feed the growing babies. Their incubation is 28-30 days–a long time if you’re a bird used to soaring through the sky! Chicks leave the nest to take their first flight at around 40 days after hatching.
- Have you ever heard of obligate siblicide? Me either, but in studying this bird I came across this term. Many females lay two eggs. The one that hatches first often kills the other one so it can have all of the food and attention from its parents. Talk about extreme! But in nature, it’s just another adaptation that equals success.
Mating for kites (and many other birds) is a SUPER QUICK affair! I was in Florida a couple of years ago in early spring and was watching some swallow-tailed kites wheel around in the sky. All of a sudden one landed on the top of a very tall dead tree, then another quickly landed there too–on top of the first one! They were together for less than 30 seconds, and then both flew off. A bit later a kite flew overhead with a stick, obviously ready to build a nest. Talk about a quick courtship!
- Males and females look similar.
If you’re saying, “Damselfly? What the heck is a damselfly?”…read on!
Recently I featured a damselfly nymph as one of my Weekly Puzzlers. If you don’t know much about this insect, here’s your chance to learn a bit more! (Continue all the way to the end to watch some fabulous videos)
Many people who see a damselfly think it is just a little dragonfly, but this is not true. The two ARE related, in that they both belong to the order Odonata, meaning “toothed ones.” In this order there are 5000+ different species, with roughly a third of them being damselflies. Both have an extendable hinged lower lip called a labium that they can shoot out like a dart to grab unsuspecting prey.
Here’s how you can tell the two apart:
First, damselflies are smaller and more delicate-looking– less stocky–and they fly less swiftly.
Second, when at rest most damselflies hold their wings above their bodies rather than spread out to the sides, as do dragonflies.
Lastly, the eyes of dragonflies meet on the tops of their heads –in damselflies they are widely spread and not touching.
Here are some facts about damselflies:
1. They have been on earth for more than 300 million years! That’s a long time. Wow, what a successful group of insects! They were here long before the birds. Some Odonata had a wingspan of 30 inches–as big as a hawk!
2. Like their bigger cousins, damselflies are FABULOUS hunters, both as nymphs and adults. As adults, they grab prey in mid-air, using their legs like a basket to catch it. In the water, as nymphs, they are also fierce predators, catching other aquatic invertebrates like mosquito larva, mayfly nymphs and isopods.
3. Just like dragonflies, they cannot walk with their 6 legs. Instead they use them for catching prey and for perching when at rest. If you look closely at their legs you will notice they are covered with small, sharp-looking bristles. These help in trapping prey in mid-air.
4. Damselflies are found throughout the world, everywhere except Antarctica. And, they can be found in just about every color of the rainbow, from turquoise, blue, green, purple, brown and gold. Which color is your favorite?
5. Both males and females have a long abdomen with 10 segments. Both also have clasping organs at the ends of their abdomen. Have you ever been kayaking or fishing and seen two damselflies locked together and flying around? Ever wondered about this? Yes, damselfly mating is quite interesting, especially for the female. First, the male clasps her behind the head with special claspers at the end of his abdomen, fitting into the space perfectly–like a key in a lock. Then the female bends her body upward to grasp the male with her clasping organs at the end of her abdomen. Before transferring his sperm to her, he scoops out any remaining sperm of rival damselflies. Sometimes you can see them flying around in this tandem position, known as the “wheel position.” It looks a bit like a heart, the way their bodies bend towards each other.
6. Damselflies (like dragonflies) DO have antenna. They are just so short most people never notice them.
7. Damselflies have many nicknames, including damsels, bog dancers and devil’s darning needles. This last one especially might give cause for alarm, but not to worry, these insects are harmless and do not sting or bite–unless of course you are a mosquito, fly, or other insect.
8. A cool fact that I just learned recently is that the female of many species of damselflies actually goes UNDER water to lay her eggs! She crawls down the stem of some submerged vegetation and will cut small holes in the plant stem where she will lay her eggs. All the while down there she is able to breathe because of oxygen surrounding her body and wings. When she is done, she travels back to the surface and then must be able to take off again into the air. Many damselflies become fish food during these tense moments.
9. Their eggs hatch in 1-3 weeks and will stay in the water as nymphs for 2 months up to 3 years, depending on the species. They will go through 15 molts before finally crawling up a plant stem or rock and emerging from their nymphal skin as an adult with wings. This is an amazing thing to witness! I have seen it a few times in my lifetime, and am always blow away by it. Next time I see it, I will make a point to film it so I can feature it here on my blog! Have you ever been lucky enough to witness this?
10. As nymphs they have 3 feathery-looking appendages at the ends of their bodies–these are their gills. Dragonfly nymphs have internal gills.
Hope you’re having a fabulous day! See you again soon.
Check out this video of a damselfly emerging as an adult! WOW, spectacular! Nature is so amazing! (Whether it happens in Scotland or the US, the process is the same! Don’t let the location turn you away)
Here’s a video from the BBC on damselfly mating:
Have you ever seen a ring-necked pheasant? Did you get a good, close-up look at it? Was it a striking male or one of the duller females?
The first time I ever saw a live, wild ringed-neck pheasant was when I was a teenager, out exploring the wild land around my house in western New York. Of course, as was my custom, I had my trusty camera with me–a Minolta back then that I had saved up for with my babysitting money. It was land I knew well, having visited many times before. Even then I had an intimacy with the land, knew things about it from hours and hours of unstructured time wandering freely. I knew where the turkeys hung out, where I was likely to see an owl, where the fox regularly left his scat, what flowers bloomed in the forest and where the best place to see deer was. I spent many hours learning the land and always hoping to see something exciting.
On this day I first heard the pheasant–though as the time I didn’t know what it was–and then I saw a male running across an open area. I practiced the art of stalking, hoping to get a decent photo but of course back then I did not have a very strong telephoto lens and so although I got pictures, the bird is just a tiny speck in the frame, visible only if you study it closely.
Since then I have learned more about this bird and have gotten a chance to see some in the wild. On my recent trip to Nebraska I was blessed with the good fortune of seeing some close enough for some full-frame shots (of course the 600mm lens helped too!)
Let’s see what we can learn about this colorful game bird:
1. Ring-necked pheasants are NOT native to the US. Instead they were brought here from Asia in the 1880’s. Now they can be found throughout the northern US and Canada where there are open fields and weedy roadsides.
2. Males have spectacular plumage that can be different colors according to how the light hits it–from purple to blue, green, teal, red and everything in between. Females are a dull brown, of course so they can blend into their surroundings when they are nesting. They are 20-36 inches long, including their long tail. They weigh 2-3 pounds.
3. Speaking of nesting–this is done on the ground. Females use their bodies to create a small depression in the ground, surrounded by tall vegetation. She will line the nest with feathers from her breast as well as fine twigs, grass, corn husks and other soft materials.
4. She lays a clutch of 7-15 olive-brown to blue-gray eggs and will incubate them for 23-28 days.
5. When the chicks hatch they are already covered in down, and their eyes are open. Amazingly, they leave the nest right away, following mom and learning to feed themselves. They can fly at 12 days but will stay with mom for 10-12 weeks before heading out on their own.
6. Females will sometimes lay their eggs in the nests of another grassland bird–called a prairie chicken (Read more about these HERE). The pheasant eggs typically hatch before the chicken eggs and then the female prairie chickens feed those babies rather than their own, often causing their own to die.
7. Ring-necked pheasants take dust baths to remove oil, dirt, parasites, dead skin cells, old feathers, and the sheaths of new feathers.
8. Like other members of the grouse family, pheasants have powerful breast muscles–have you ever been walking in a field or in the woods and heard one of these birds? They shoot out of the brush with a loud burst of noise and then veer off at a high speed–sometimes as much as 40 miles per hour! Have you ever seen or heard this?
9. Ring-necked pheasants have a diet that changes throughout the year–much like many other birds that don’t migrate. In spring and summer they feed on insects, spiders, earthworms, snails and other invertebrates, as well as fresh greenery. In fall and winter they eat seeds, grasses, roots, fruit, nuts, leaves and insects when they find them.
10. Ring-necked pheasants do not migrate or hibernate but stay active. During extreme winter weather, pheasants can go up to two weeks without feeding by reducing their metabolism and energy requirements.
Safe to say before this recent trip to Nebraska I knew nothing about the animal called a prairie chicken! So maybe you are like me and this will all be new.
Last week I wrote a brief post about a bird called a prairie chicken. If you live in the midwest, you may have seen or heard of this bird. If you live elsewhere but travel through the midwest in the spring, you may want to consider stopping in to see their unique mating dance, which takes place every morning and evening for about 4-6 weeks. It is incredible!
Before traveling to Nebraska and seeing these birds, I knew nothing about them. But now I know a lot! Here are some things I learned about greater prairie chickens:
1.Greater prairie chickens are found only in the United States and only in a few places, many of which are on private land. In much of their original range they are extinct or endangered. There are thought to be about 459,000 remaining prairie chickens. They need open grassland with grass 10-18 inches long for roosting and nesting in. They are found in Kansas, Nebrasaka, Oklahoma, and scattered areas in Wisconsin, Illinois and Colorado.
2. Have you ever visited those states during winter? If so you know it is pretty cold! But even so, prairie chickens do not migrate. Instead, they dig into the snow, creating horizontal tunnels which insulate them from the freezing temperatures. They have feathers on their legs and feet which helps to keep them warm. Like many other animals, they change their diet in winter, becoming herbivores.
3. The rest of the year prairie chickens are omnivores. They eat a variety of plant and animal matter including leaves, seeds, buds, grains, insects and other invertebrates.
4. Prairie chickens have a mating ritual that they participate in each spring called booming. Males in breeding plumage are pretty spectacular, with yellow combs over their eyes, feathers that look like rabbit ears that can be held erect or laid back over their neck, yellow patches below their eyes that they inflate with air to create a unique “booming” sound and a tail that fans out and stands erect.
Here are two videos of this: (I did take videos of this ritual but because I was in a blind with other photographers who were in “rapid fire” mode, it is hard to hear the chickens so I am choosing to use these videos instead)
5. Prairie chickens are polygamous and become sexually mature at one year of age.
6. Booming rituals take place at “leks,” which are the “dance floors” for the birds. Leks don’t look very different than surrounding grassland but the males claim about 100 square feet of ground and then defend it against other interested males. Two males can often be seen facing off on their leks, then jumping into the air and having physical contact with their competition for the eligible females.
7. Females create a shallow depression and arrange grass into a bowl shape, lining it with sticks, leaves and feathers that she removes from her breast. She will lay 5-15 eggs and incubate them for 25 days. When the chicks hatch, they can feed immediately. They will stay with mom for 8 weeks.
8. Ring-necked pheasant females –another bird of the open grassland–sometimes lay their eggs in greater prairie chicken nests and these eggs hatch before the prairie chicken eggs. Female prairie chickens will then isolate these pheasant eggs, thinking they are theirs. As a result, their own eggs often do not survive.
9. Prairie chickens weigh in at 2-3 pounds and are 16.9 inches long.
10. A group of prairie chickens is called a “little house” or a “pack” of prairie chickens.
Do you have anything to add about prairie chickens? Have you witnessed their booming ritual? As always, I’d love to hear from you! Use the comment box below to share your thoughts.
So in preparation for an amphibian program I had recently I did a lot of reading, much of which was fascinating but didn’t actually apply to my program because it was about amphibians in other parts of the world instead of here in western North Carolina.
Some of this stuff is right out of a science fiction movie so I decided to write a post about it. I suspect you will be as blown away as I was! We live in an amazing world and there are so many wickedly-awesome adaptations that animals have!
So here then, are 10 Things You May Not Know about frogs and Toads:
Frogs are slimy and hard to hold!
1. Have you ever touched a frog and noticed how slimy it was? That’s because they have mucus glands that secrete slime to keep them moist since they can obtain oxygen through their skin. They also breathe through their nostrils and lungs but about 50% of their oxygen is through their skin and when they are underwater, all of the oxygen exchange takes place through their skin.
2.Did you know frogs and toads shed their skin? Some do this daily, some weekly or less frequently. I have never seen this but have read that it’s like the frog suddenly has the hiccups and starts moving strangely, then peels off its outer skin, like removing a sweater. Then, guess what? It eats it! Yum.
3.Some frogs and toads, like our Cope’s gray tree frog, can change their color. Light, moisture, temperature and even mood can affect this!
4.The largest frog on Earth lives in West Africa and gets to be a foot long. It is aptly named the Goliath Frog. As for the smallest frog, it is a tie between the Gold Frog in Brazil and the Eleutherodactylus iberia (Yikes, I’m not going to try to pronounce that! Too bad they don’t have a common name yet for this frog!) that was discovered in 1996 in Cuba. Both are only about 9.8mm long! And we thought our spring peeper was tiny! (Our spring peeper is 1 inch long!)
5. Many frogs and toads make noises to attract mates. They do their by inflating their vocal sac or sacs. (Some frogs have one but others have two, one on either side of their mouth) When they do this, it looks like they are chewing gum and blowing a giant bubble. Sometimes the noise of a lot of frogs doing this at once is DEAFENING! The songs can sometimes be heard a mile away! Ever wondered why they don’t go deaf with all of this noise? It’s because their ears or tympanums are connected to their lungs which also vibrate when they call. This pressure keeps frogs from hurting their own ears as they call.
6.Have you heard of a pipi pipi toad? My gosh, this toad is incredible! The male actually embeds the female’s eggs onto her back, and then the skin grows over them so the developing eggs are INSIDE of her back! Then, incredibly, fully formed froglets hatch out several months later! Check out this video:
7. Maybe you’ve heard of Darwin’s Frog? This is a frog that looks like an overweight leaf and lives in the Amazon. The male actually swallows the tadpoles and then allows them to grow up INSIDE his vocal sac. Wait’ll you see what happens when they become fully formed frogs!
8. Wood frogs are a frog that we have here in the US, especially on the east coast, but even up as far north as the Arctic Circle. Amazingly, this frog can freeze solid–with more than 60% of its body frozen–and then just wake up and thaw out in the spring. As the first ice begins to form on their body, it sets off an alarm reaction which then triggers the production of glucose in their body. This acts like anti-freeze and protects the INSIDES of their cells from freezing. In less than 15 hours their heart stops beating, they don’t breath, no blood circulates. They look DEAD. But as long as the temperature doesn’t go below -8 degrees, they will wake up in the spring and head off to continue their lives!
9. Did you know frogs have teeth? They don’t look much like ours, but they do have teeth on their upper jaw. They use them to hold prey in place before swallowing it whole.
10. Frogs’ tongues are not connected in the back of their mouths like humans, but rather in the front so they can “throw it out of their mouths” and use its stickiness to catch prey. Here’s a video of this:
I hope you are as amazed by frogs as I am! It was hard to narrow it down to only 10.
If you want to read more, here are a few other links
What cool facts do you know about frogs and toads that I have not included? As always, I would love to hear from you!