It was zero degrees and windy at 7 am by the Scarborough Bluffs just west of Highland Creek. I was hoping to photograph some recent migrant birds but none appeared. I did find these:
This little ball of brilliant, rich fur was lying right in the middle of the trail – about 20 meters from a pond.
The flattened tail alone is sufficient to distinguish the Muskrat from all other mammals.
This one was wrapped tightly in a ball -perhaps to keep warm in the frosty temperature.
The animal was obviously alive but even prodding with a small stick didn’t get it to move away.
Here are some interesting Muskrat facts accompanied by photos I have taken this spring.
The Muskrat doesn’t hibernate, and they live in their main lodges during the season. Muskrats burrow their dens in steep banks like a river, but in places like marshes, they build their lodges with cattails and mud.
Muskrats are excellent swimmers, thanks to their webbed back feet, laterally flattened tails, and the ability to hold their breath underwater for 15-20 minutes. They can swim backwards and forwards.
Most of the time muskrats mate underwater.
Known to be most valuable for their fur or pelts, muskrats are one of the most trapped animals in history.
Muskrats are omnivores, but they mainly enjoy a plant-based diet consisting of the roots, stems, leaves and fruits of aquatic vegetation. As local plant food becomes scarce, muskrats will feed on small aquatic animals such as insects, fish and amphibians. Freshwater mussels often become a dietary staple in the wintertime.
Muskrats are native to North America, with a range that extends from Canada, down to some northern parts of Mexico. They have also been introduced to Northern Europe, Asia, and South America – mainly for their valued pelts.
Average Lifespan in the Wild: 1 – 3 years
Identifying Features: dense brown fur; rounded body with a long, hairless black tail; webbed hind feet for swimming and smaller front feet for digging; small beady eyes and small ears.
My recent photo of a deceased Golden-crowned Kinglet trapped in burdock was distressing for many.
Stickseed is another plant which is dangerous for small birds:
Some years ago, while walking with a group, we came across a Ruby-crowned Kinglet trapped in Stickseed.
Fortunately several of us were able to slowly remove each seed and allow to bird to wing away safely.
Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo! – Thomas Nashe (1567–1601)