Every night gardeners roam Pennsylvania’s forests and trim the vegetation. We see their footprints in the morning and the landscape they’ve left behind. Our nighttime gardeners are white-tailed deer.
Unlike human gardeners, deer cut back the plants they like instead of removing weeds. It’s easy to notice what they over-browse (see arborvitae above), but the mix of plants they leave behind tell a story of poison and preference. Last weekend I decided to read that story in Schenley Park.
In early June the forest floor is green with native plants that deer won’t eat and invasive aliens that deer don’t like.
The “poison” story:
Native plants that thrive in Schenley Park are those that are toxic to deer.
No matter what stage your local COVID-19 shutdown is in — whether it’s active or about to end — make a list right now of the unusual and wonderful things that happened while we stayed at home so we don’t forget.
When the shutdown eventually ends I will miss amazing wildlife in cities, free time, no traffic, and clean air.
Here’s #1 on my list:
?Ain’t nature great when it’s claiming back it’s home ?
Above, a pride of lions takes a nap on the road just outside Orpen Rest Camp on 15 April. Click on the photos in the tweet below to see closeups of the lions.
Kruger visitors that tourists do not normally see. #SALockdown This lion pride are usually resident on Kempiana Contractual Park, an area Kruger tourists do not see. This afternoon they were lying on the tar road just outside of Orpen Rest Camp. ?Section Ranger Richard Sowry pic.twitter.com/jFUBAWvmsA
As we shelter indoors, wildlife is reclaiming our neighborhoods faster than we thought possible. Limpkins in Florida, deer in Pittsburgh, and wild boars in Italy!
Limpkins in Florida:
Now that human activity has slowed in Boca Raton, my sister-in-law says that limpkins have moved into the neighborhoods and are shouting all night to attract mates and establish territories. If you’ve never heard a limpkin you’d think it’s a human in distress and you might call 911. Ooops! It’s a bird. Limpkins are a thrill to birders but annoying if you’re trying to sleep. Here’s what one looks and sounds like from 2012. You can hear other limpkins in the distance.
Deer in Pittsburgh:
Deer are getting bolder and coming out during the day now that Pittsburghers are not outdoors. Yesterday, 31 March, Donna Foyle found a family group right next to a front porch in Brentwood.
When Matthias Wandel found a mouse in his toolshed he wondered how big a hole the mouse used to get in. Initially he experiments with a wooden maze. Then he used Legos.
Wandel’s five-minute video features a computerized Legos maze equipped with light sensors and a moving gate. Each time the mouse completes a visit, the gate closes a little more, just 1/3 mm. Eventually the mouse discovers he can’t get in. At 10.5 mm (0.413 inches) the gap is just too small.
The mouse takes on the Legos challenge but is limited by the size of his skull.
Every evening just after sunset a Central American (or Derby’s) woolly opossum (Caluromys derbianus) shuffled quickly past us as we sat chatting about the day’s events. If you didn’t watch carefully you missed it.
One evening I tried to follow the opossum to take his photo but failed. He seemed awkward but he was surprisingly fast.
This photo, taken at the Canopy Tower by Charles J. Sharp, reminded me of how easy it was to see this wide-eyed nocturnal animal. My husband was impressed that the opossum came so close, “That’s my kind of nature watch!”
See Derby’s woolly opossum in two videos below: At night in Panama’s San Francisco Reserve (look at those ears!) …
… and at Cornell Lab’s Panama fruitcam.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original. videos from YouTube)