Heron Swallows Gopher Whole

07/17/2014

Great blue herons are beautiful, large birds that typically hunt along the edges of wetlands like lakes, ponds and marshes. Their long legs help them wade through the shallows on the hunt for fish, frogs, snakes and other aquatic or semi-aquatic prey.

14147775894_9339cc476f_zPhoto by Theodore Scott via Flickr Creative Commons.

But that's not all they eat. Check out this video of a heron stalking, killing and eating a gopher that it plucked out of the rodent's underground burrow. I have actually witnessed this exact same behavior while I was in Arizona last year to keynote the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival. Each morning as I headed over to the festival, I saw a heron positioned like a statue right next to a gopher colony just waiting to snatch up a furry little mouthful.

Warning, the video shows a graphic act of predation, so if you're squeamish, don't watch.

 

 

This Moth Looks Like Bird Poop

07/07/2014

Mother Nature is pretty awesome, especially when she has the sense of humor of a ten year old boy. 

You might be aware that the caterpillars of the giant swallowtail butterfly have evolved to look like bird droppings as way to avoid being eaten by predators. Most predators don't enjoy eating bird poop, so this strategy ensures that many giant swallowtail caterpillars will survive long enough to pupate and emerge as winged adults, which will in turn mate and lay eggs and keep the species going.

Well, giant swallowtails aren't alone in using this strategy. My National Wildlife Federation colleague Dani Tinker took some pics of an awesome moth in Great Falls, Virginia last weekend that also looks just like a pile of fresh bird poop.  

Meet the pearly wood nymph:

Pearly Wood Nymph 2

 

Doesn't look very appetizing, does it?

Pearly wood nymphs are found across eastern North America and lay their eggs on wild grapes, hibiscus, and evening primrose, so if you plant these in your garden, you might just be able to attract this cool moth to you own backyard. 

Submit your own photos to National Wildlife Photo Contest! 

Pearly Wood Nymph

Photos by Dani Tinker.

Protect Wildlife with the National Wildlife Federation. 

Wild Fox Leaves Gruesome Gifts for Humans

07/02/2014

My friend Jeff, a fellow board member of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders program, sent me a question about a strange and interesting wildlife encounter he and his family had at their home in Virginia, wondering what my thoughts were about it as a Naturalist.

From Jeff:

"My family has been watching a fox family that has been denning in our backyard by the stream for several months now. A Vixen and two kits. For a long time we would see them every morning and most evenings. We even watched the vixen catch and eat a squirrel one morning right in the middle of our yard.

We haven't seen them for several weeks, so we assumed they had moved onto a new home. Then early this morning I saw one bolt of the foxes around the side of the house and to the stream, so I was happy to learn that they were still living here. 

And to my surprise when I went out the front door, I saw that it had left me a dead bird and a dead baby rabbit right by my front porch, perfectly laid out and placed side by side. 

We don't have any stray or feral cats or dogs in the neighborhood, and our cat has never been outdoors.  I know domestic cats sometimes leave 'offerings' of dead animals for their owners."  

Here's a picture of the fox's offering (warning: this photo will be gruesome for some, but keep in mind that foxes and other predators have to kill to eat and this is a normal part of nature):

Photo

Photo by Jeff Flocken.

Jeff was wondering if it really could have been the fox that left the "gifts" of the rabbit and bird. I was doubtful of that when I first heard the story, because I've never heard of a wild fox doing anything like this. My first thought was a domestic cat, but as Jeff points about above, his cat stays indoors and there are no strays visiting his yard. It's possible that the fox was leaving food out for her kits, or that it was caching food for later--but if either of those were  the case, leaving the food out in the open near the front porch of a human house is a really odd place for her to choose. 

But, I'm stumped for an alternate explanation. Maybe this really is just a fox with a special love for Jeff and his family? Given all Jeff does to protect wildlife, maybe there's some good karma happening?

What do you think? Have you ever heard of a wild animal doing this? 

Protect wildlife with the National Wildlife Federation. 

Waving Lizards

06/30/2014

Check out this video of a couple of bearded dragon lizards waving to each other across the pet shop. What do you think they are trying to say to each other?  See my explanation of what's really going on below.

While it's easy to imagine these two lizards saying "hey bro!" or "howyadoin'?" what they are really doing is showing submission.  Younger and smaller bearded dragons do this arm waving behavior to let older, bigger or more dominant lizards know that they are no threat, which minimizes the possibility of aggressive interactions in which they would most likely lose out.

Pet bearded dragons might even do it towards people or other larger pets if they are feeling intimidated.

Protect wildlife with David and the National Wildlife Federation.

7762277788_1d162cf821_z

Photo by psyberartist via Flickr Creative Commons.

Odd Animal Friendships on the Farm

06/25/2014

On most farms, different kinds of animals are generally kept with their own kind. But sometimes, especially on small-scale farms, animals of different species get to interact and become pals. 
 
Here are some great pics of odd animal companions on farms provided by Country magazine
 
This farm dog likes to help feed the calf...and then eat the leftovers. 
 
BestFriendsOnTheFarm
Photography by Chester Shartzer.
 
This goat filled in as a babysitter on a chicken nest. No eggs were broken by this surrogate incubator! 
BestFriendsOnTheFarm
 Photography by Mary Nelson.
 
This golden retriever is snuggle buddies with a deer fawn. 

BestFriendsOnTheFarm
Photography by Teresa L. Tucker.
 
It's hard to decide who is cuter, this miniature horse that just arrived on the farm or the dog who is giving it welcome kisses. 

BestFriendsOnTheFarm
Photography by Joe and Carol Dickey.
 
This orphan baby raccoon lived in the barn and became best buddies with the family chow dog. 

BestFriendsOnTheFarm
Photography by Duane Myklejord.
 
One of these things is not like the others!
 
Maggie and ducks
Photography by Sandy Herzberger.
 
Country a national magazine dedicated to life of the American countryside. Which, in this case, is awesome and adorable.

David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Meet David >
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