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A Prickly Visitor

young porcupine

One evening this week, a young porcupine was discovered meandering on the lawn in the backyard.  I’ve seen small porcupines on the lawn before, but never so close to the house. At first glance, this little one appeared soft and fluffy, like a cuddly stuffed toy one would pick up to snuggle. Its manner was certainly docile, but appearances can be deceiving. Longer hairs hide the quills on a porcupine’s backside, especially when viewed from the front.

fluffy porcupine

Porcupines are born, only one at a time, in April or May, after a gestational period of about seven months.  Even though it’s able to defend itself once its quills dry, a few hours after birth, the single young porcupine stays close to its mother for the first summer.

porcupine side view

Once it sensed our presence on the back deck, this little one raised its backside and headed towards the woods.

porcupine tail

Its white tail swayed back and forth as it went on its way, likely back to the arms of its awaiting mother.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

sweating shelf fungus

Come into the backwoods and I’ll show you something absolutely magical.  Fungi abound in this neck of the woods, but this bracket fungus is doing something I’ve not seen others do.  It’s crying.

sweat on fungus
These tears may look like raindrops, but they cover only the fungus, not the surrounding area, except for where they’ve dripped below and discolored the moss.  Present on one of the oldest, tallest spruce trees in the yard,  one can only wonder what could have caused tears to appear on this Red-belted polypore.

Old spruce tree and Red-belted polypore

Old spruce tree and Red-belted polypore

Red-belted polypores  are thought to hold anti-bacterial, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties by native and oriental cultures.  If this is so, can you imagine what pharmacological mysteries their exudate droplets hold?  Since this old spruce tree reigns in a stand of smaller firs and magical  Rowan and Elderberry trees, some whimsical wonder must surely be at the bottom of this.

fairy tree entrance

Could this bracket fungus serve as an awning to a fairy door entrance into another realm?  An awning, perhaps, which sheds tears of joy when visitors arrive on the doorstep and tears of sadness when they depart.  One can only wonder.

fungal awning above fairy tree door

For more information on bracket fungi and their exudate droplets, see Red-Belted Bracket Fungi

This post is written in response to Karma’s ‘In Want of Whimsy’ Challenge.  Deadline for submissions is June 22nd.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

Bunny Burial

child with hare

The dead hare was in his arms before I even knew it was there on the forest floor.  It looked so much like a stuffed plush toy.  How could my grandson resist picking it up and cuddling it?  The bunny had not long been dead, with no sign of trauma on its little body.

still hare

It was a young hare, a leveret, with small  ears and soft fur, similar to many others I’ve found and buried over the years.  This time it was different though.  I had a small child as my witness and I wondered how he would react to the bunny being buried in the ground.

Snowshoe hare legs at rest

Snowshoe hare legs at rest

We talked about what might have happened. Perhaps a neighbor’s cat had killed it for sport.  Surely a bobcat or fox would have eaten it or carried it off to its den.

bunny burial

We dug a hole for it in a place in the yard where I’ve buried small bunnies in the past after finding their limp bodies on the lawn.  After gently placing it in the hole, we covered the bunny with earth and placed a stone on top to deter wild animals from digging it up.

Nature is the great teacher.  It shows us how death comes to all, even the young and beautiful.  We may not understand why, but we can still show reverence for all God’s creatures, both in life and death.

Let parents then bequeath to their children not riches but the spirit of reverence.
~ Plato

hare near front steps

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

The Tree Eater

porcupine eating maple

Over the past year, chewed tree branches too high for deer to reach indicated a porcupine was likely dining regularly in the backyard.  This week I finally spotted the suspect in action, munching on maple.  Since porcupines are usually active at night, I was surprised to see him late on a bright, sunny morning.

porcupine in sunlightHis black claws and the long hairs of his fur shone in the sunlight.  As soon as he heard me, he froze.  His underbelly appeared soft and vulnerable.  Porcupines are protected by law in some North American locations as they are easy, nutritious prey for humans lost in the woods who may be armed with nothing more than a stick.

When I decided to move closer, his brunch interrupted, he slowly came down from his perch on the tree stump next to the branches, and made his way into the bush.  His quill-covered back was huge but seemed so well camouflaged in its woodland setting.  You wouldn’t want to step on that by mistake.  Another reason to walk, not run, in the woods.

porcupine heading into bush

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

Blue Jays at Work

blue jay on spruce

Hey you!  Yes you!  Don’t pretend you don’t see me.  What’s up with you blue jays this fine spring morning?

blue jay back and tail

Something is definitely distracting the two of you, otherwise you’d surely be complaining about my presence nearby.

blue jay with twig in beak

Aha!  The focus of your attention is becoming clear.  You’re working on a housing project together!

blue jay nest

Lovely.  It’s so nice to have a family of blue jays nesting in the yard.  I hope the neighborhood cats don’t find out!

For more on birds building nests in spring, see:  How Couples Build Nests and Nests Classifieds

For more on Blue Jays, see:  The Bluest Blue and Blue Jay Feathers

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

 

 

Easter bunny Spring 2014

Local bunnies are quickly changing their winter coats for brown ones these days.  Though they may still be streaked with white above their noses and along their backsides, soon the snowshoe hares will be wearing solid brown.  Make that, solid chocolate brown.

snowshoe hare spring coat

Peter Rabbit on the runActually, it’s more like tawny brown.  But let’s not split hares.

Why you ask?  Well, it’s neither because brown is the new white in the Spring fashion world.  Nor is it because Peter Rabbit wore brown in Beatrix Potter’s children’s books.  Though naughty as he was, he did look quite charming.

They’re not wearing brown because the snow has *finally* disappeared from our neck of the woods and with it, all winter season apparel.

No, the reason why the local hares are wearing brown this week is because the daylight hours are getting longer.   Snowshoe hares have the most sensitive of eyes when it comes to differences in light.  Perhaps this is why they respond so readily with a change in fur color in spring and fall.

Easter bunny in woods

And since Easter takes place in late April this year, I’m sure the Easter Bunny will also be wearing a tawny coat.  However, in years when Easter takes place in March, he may very well be wearing white.  It’s all about camouflage with bunnies, whether they’re keeping a hop ahead of predators or sneaking around to hide Easter eggs.

bunny thinking

Wondering where the best places might be to hide eggs in the yard.

Hoppy Easter to all!

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

 

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