Monday, January 31, 2011

Opossums and Global Warming

This Opossum was at the Springbrook bird feeders yesterday morning.  First one seen this winter during the day. I saw one at my home feeders this morning. It must be the time of year for Opossums to venture out.

30 years ago there were no opossums at Springbrook or anywhere north of Minneapolis.  The winters were too cold for them to survive.  Their northward movement is one of the best examples of the impact of Global warming on wildlife that we can immediately see in this area.

Notice the pink nose, pink toes, and thin ears with no fur.  The tail also has no fur.

Ears, toes, tails, and noses with no protection freeze in really cold winters, and the attached opossum generally dies without them.  So, how cold it gets determines how far north opossums can live.

I took this picture of an opossum near Hartford, Connecticut nearly 37 years ago.  Time hasn't changed their looks, but climate change has expanded their range.  Hartford is about 41.5 degrees north latitude and Minneapolis is about 44.5.  The three degrees difference is about 200 miles.

If this expansion keeps up opossums will be in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness raiding my campsite in my lifetime!  Displacing wildlife that I enjoy, so long as they don't get into my food sack!

And, climate change is not something that responds quickly (in human measures) to turning around.  So get ready you folks up north, along with warmer winters, you also get opossums!!

I think it will be a tough go for eco-tourism to successfully replace polar bears with opossums.  Hope they don't have to.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nuthatches--Red and White Breasted

During this very cold weather keeping the bird feeders and suet feeders full makes a big difference for the birds.

We have both Red Breasted and White Breasted Nuthatches coming to our feeders several times every day.  These are the only birds we see that go down tree trunks head first.  Brown Creepers do as well but are seen less often.

The Red Breasted Nuthatch is smaller, seems in more of a hurry, and has a slightly upcurved beak, as you can see in this picture I took today. I turned the picture upside down because it is hard to compare the two birds when one is facing down
This is a female White Breasted Nuthatch, determined by the crown color.  The male would have a jet black crown instead of the grayish crown this bird has.

The White Breasted Nuthatch often also eats seeds from the feeder, but I have never seen the Red Breasted eating seeds.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


With temps well below zerro this morning, the cottontail rabbits decided to risk eating in the daytime as well as at night at the feeders.

This bunny looked pretty normal until it turned its head sideways.  Those sure look like antler tips sticking out behind its ear until you look closer.

Rabbits sometimes have growths on their ears/heads caused by the Shope papilloma virus. They can grow quite large, I've seen them twice as long as their ears.  They eventually fall off and don't seem to effect the rabbits.

Still, they look pretty weird.
The growths on this rabbit are still quite small, but in a few months they may get 8 or 10 inches long.  Maybe this rabbit will pose again.  The long growths seem to be where the world wide myths of "Jackalopes" comes from.  Google jackalopes and you will find rabbits with antlers and other attachments are quite popular in art, taxidermy, and story.