Just Fascinating Stuff

Love looking at wildlife pictures? US Fish and Wildlife has a digital library filled with amazing images- some of them will inspire you to get outside and others will make you happy you don’t have to.

What can survive on deep sea vents? There are some amazing creatures out there! Take a look at the pictures in these two studies and you’ll get a sense of not only what is possible, but also how diverse the different hydrothermal vent faunas are- if these pique your interest, there are many more studies to check out. The first paper looks at newly found vents in the Southern Ocean and, for comparison, the second from the Indian Ocean has very different organisms. Enjoy!

Trees and birds on the move- If you live in the eastern half of the US and are curious about how climate change is projected to impact what you see when you look outside, check out the US Forest Service’s bird and tree atlases– you can search by species, state, or region and it will show you current range maps plus future predictions. I was saddened to see what would happen to the range of Magnolia warblers, having finally learned to identify them, and completely amazed by the type of forest that could be covering NH in the future- hello, hickory-land!

Bird Arrival Dates and Climate Change-Some summer migrants seem to be responding to warming global temperatures by getting to their breeding grounds earlier and earlier. I found records from Lanesboro, MN and the area west of Winnipeg, Manitoba for 1913 and 1895-1920, respectively, and thought, “I wonder when they arrive today?” So I did some hunting and sifting through data- luckily for me, someone already had a similar idea for the Manitoba dates, but I was on my own for Minnesota. This isn’t a complete comparison, but I chose 10-12 of my favorite birds- this chart shows you what I found and where I found it. For anyone interested in seeing how things have changed in your area, I highly recommend a visit to ebird.org – this site compiles data from bird watchers all over (professionals and otherwise), and it’s amazing to see what happens when data like this is pooled.

NH Mammals, 1922 and Now- I admit that it took me a few reads to really understand what I had found in C. F. Jackson’s “Notes on New Hampshire Mammals” (Journal of Mammalogy, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1922, pgs. 13-15)- to be honest, the first 2 or 3 times, I made it to the part about wolverines and got so excited about the idea that I forgot about everything else. But when I did go through it point by point, I realized that I had the opportunity to compare NH’s mammal communities in 1922 and today for most species squirrel-size and larger. It was a bit challenging to find current stats on some animals, especially squirrels, but some changes in our animal landscape were stunning. I found a few comments, like those on moose and beavers, almost laughable considering how common and wide-spread they are today, but others, like those on the New England Cottontail, were pretty sobering. It was also interesting to see when new species, like the opossum, had arrived in the area. I consulted www.nhfishandwildlife.com and www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife/wildlife.htm for most of my comparison, but also used M. Elbroch’s Mammal Track & Sign: A Guide to North American Species (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003) for information. I’ve put together a chart comparing 1922 and today, species by species, and color-coded some of the entries (yellow= impressive change in status, blue= new species to the state, pink= wolverines!). For me, this was a pretty clear representation of how NH’s mammals have changed over the last 90 years, and it made me think about how those changes could impact and have impacted the ecosystems around me.  For those of you who don’t live in New Hampshire, maybe now is the time to do a little investigative work of your own and see what you can dig up on mammals in your state.

Do owls prey on cats? When I contacted Dr. Roland Kays about his fisher work, he provided a link to a video from his research into carnivore diets in Albany, NY- they had created cat robots and stationed cameras nearby to catch the action if a fisher or coyote attacked- instead they saw this. Pretty amazing! (And it does justify the way our cat feared shadows.)

Posted July 8, 2012 by Mirka Zapletal