Nature Connection #13 – Early Spring Antics

Just like us, animals come to life again as the days lengthen and the weather warms. Here are just a few of the many amazing things that are going on NOW in the animal kingdom.

BuilderBeavers – In early spring, when snowmelt renews dormant streams, beavers‘ dam-building instincts are triggered by the sound of shallow running water. The largest beaver dam on record is roughly 2,800 feet long and is visible from space.

FunnyFishing – Female dabbling ducks lead males to their breeding grounds, which are usually where the female was hatched. These ducks often feed by reaching their heads under the water to feast on small insects and plants, leaving their tails up in the air.

ShrewPatterPacific water shrews (in the rodent family) have hairy feet that trap air, allowing them to run briefly across water. Their breeding season is from February to August, with the first of two or three litters born in early spring.

JavelinaJiveCollared peccaries, “musk hogs” or javelinas, are native to Arizona, Texas, and Mexico. Although Arizona peccaries breed year-round, the others mostly breed in February and March. Peccaries have a high mortality rate and breed frequently.

SensationalSpringRed-bellied newts, native to the western part of Northern California, have red bellies and brown eyes. Males arrive at breeding sites in February, and then female newts show up in March to mate. Eggs do not hatch until late summer.

NorthernNibbler – Winter cold kills up to 90% of northern short-tailed shrews. In spring, surviving shrews do not waste energy digesting nutrient-poor food. Instead, they eat earthworms, nibbling around worms’ dirt-filled digestive tracts.

BigBlue – The blue whale is the largest animal worldwide, sometimes reaching nearly 108 feet in length, although rarely passing 80 feet in the Northern Hemisphere. Despite its size, the blue whale fasts for four to six months of the year, and in late spring begins to feed on tiny krill.

BiosphereBloom – Every March, build-up in nutrient concentrations in the northern Artlantic Ocean creates a large growth of phytoplankton. This phenomenon, called the North Atlantic bloom, is one of the largest in the oceanic biosphere.

WeaselWear – The long-tailed weasel, whose range extends from southern Canada to Bolivia, loses its white or yellow fur in exchange for a brown coat as winter ends. The limbs, tail and top of this weasel’s head are last to change, giving it a spotted coat in early spring.

SwelteringShedding – In March and April, snakes shed the first layer of their skin to prepare both for the heat of summer and the mating season. The shed, called ecdysis, occurs in insects and lizards as well.

ColorfulCouplesSnowy egrets have black bills, lemon slippers on their black legs, and pure white plumage. During spring breeding season, which commences in marshes along coasts and throughout southwestern North America, the yellow skin above adults’ beaks warms to a seductive red.

DeadTreesPlease – Dead and rotting trees are prime habitat for red-backed voles. When heavy winter storms damage forests, a flourishing vole population is produced in spring.

Watch for more interesting facts about what our fellow animals are doing this spring in April.
(Nature facts provided in this post are taken from the Spring pages of Chris Hardman’s Ecological Calendar, )

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