I never felt so humbled as I was on this day when a Canadian beaver swam past me down the river dragging his dinner, and instead decided to swim back towards me, plant himself at the edge of the river bank and enjoy his dinner with me. This beaver sat so close to me that I could hear the branches being crunched by his strong beaver teeth as he fed them into his mouth like a straw. Then when he got to the end of the branch he would try to shove all the leaves into his mouth at once, cheeks bulging and continued chewing. The whole time he was watching me watching him and seemed just as curious about me as I was about him. I managed to get many good photos of him in the waning light as the sun was setting. My trip to Parc national de la Jaques-Cartier was the highlight of my trip thanks to this beaver, although I also loved the old part of Quebec City. Eating a beaver tail was the second highlight, and for those of us who aren’t Canadian, don’t worry, its not a real beaver tail but a yummy, fried, flat dough covered in whatever deliciously sweet toppings you desire.
It’s tough to be so loved and admired, to be an American icon and a symbol of great strength. Lucky for this eagle, his ego will be a little smaller because of a little bird (well little sitting next to this eagle) who absolutely despises him! As I was in absolute awe that I got lucky enough to get up close and photograph this stunning bird, the bird next to him was determined to shoo him away. At one point the little bird was hanging off his tail feathers trying to yank them out with his beak and flapping around the poor eagle’s head and making a hell of a racket. I guess having a large and cunning predator so close to home must be a bit distressing. It was also spring time in Yellowstone National Park, which probably meant chicks in a nest that need protecting. Lucky for the little bird that the eagle didn’t seem on the hunt for lunch. Also lucky for me and my camera that the eagle didn’t seem at all surprised or phased to have this annoying bird bothering him, and just sat his ground looking as regal as ever. What a fantastic experience!
For other pics and posts from Yellowstone National Park – please click here.
I met a marmot for the first time in Yellowstone National Park, and these little critters are now quite possibly at the top of my favorites list (well second, lizards still win). They are such a cute, cuddly-looking, round ball of orange-brown fur. In the case of the photo above, the fur color was a perfect blend with the rock that this marmot calls his home. Never straying far from the safety of his fortress, he went on happily munching the grass shoots in his front yard while I sat and took his photo. It took a while for me to get a good portrait as he mostly had his head down pulling up grass, then would periodically put his head up for a just a second to check that I was still watching him. Capturing a photo of a marmot is a very seasonal activity, as you wont find them around from about September to May as they happily hibernate through the colder months of the year. I wish I could do the same!
This is a gloriously proud male grouse who had decided I was infringing upon his territory. To let me know this he performed his intimidation dance – tail feathers sprawled, neck feathers on end to uncover that red wrinkly skin, and an angry frown with his bright yellow eyebrows. Little did he know, that instead of scaring me away, his dance was what got him noticed in the first place. After taking his photo, I let him think he won and scared me off with his territorial display. Such a gorgeous and unusual bird!
I always keep an eye out for raccoons whenever I am walking through Central Park in New York. I have become very adept in spotting them after I learned a few simple things. They are mostly in the trees and not on the ground. I had no idea that raccoons slept in trees, so look for round bundles of fur tucked into the fork of trees where the large branches leave the trunk. The hour before sunset is when these little fuzz balls are waking up and they start moving which makes them easier to see. You will find them stretching, grooming and coming down from the trees to rummage through the parks trash cans. This little youngster was quite unsure of me and so had all of its fur on end – clearly a grumpy morning person (or evening raccoon).
These green tree frogs are the masters of camouflage. They look exactly the same color and shape as new mangrove leaves, which is exactly how I would want to look too if I lived in croc infested waters in Cairns, Australia. They’re actually quite chubby and large for a frog, growing to about 4.5 inches long (11.5 cm). They are a wonderful visitor to have in your garden if you are so lucky, as they eat cockroaches, locusts, moths and spiders. They are docile creatures who are relatively unafraid of humans, and so are commonly found hanging around outdoor lights waiting for approaching food. They are incredibly vocal using calls for mating, but will also scream when attacked by predators or squeak when poked. As cute as that may be, I do not encourage you to go around poking tree frogs as any toxins on your hand will get absorbed through their skin which is also how they absorb oxygen to breathe.
Recently there have been two scientific studies which have highlighted how smart bees really are at learning. One of these studies trained bees to pull on a string which gave them access to a sucrose treat. The second study wanted to see if bees could perform a very unnatural task that required manipulation of a tool to get a reward. The bees were shown that the proper location of a yellow ball was inside a drawn circle. The bee then had to figure out how to relocate a misplaced ball back into the circle to gain a reward. Once the bee had learned these tasks they improved significantly each time, taking less time to complete the task. Not only did bees learn these tasks, other bees which were placed as observers could then complete the task themselves on the first try, hence learning the skill from watching a trained bee. This learning could be transferred through many successions of new trainers and new observers. These studies show that bees can learn new and complex tasks which were previously thought to be unique to vertebrates such as mammals and birds and also transfer those skills throughout their colony which may help them adapt in the presence of changing evolutionary pressures (click here to see a video highlighting these studies).