Monday, June 30, 2008

Baby Possum Plays Dead

This half-grown (and still cute) possum was playing dead on the Rec Path near Wesley Drive. I nearly stepped on him and instantly thought, "Gross, a dead animal right on the trail." Followed by, "Wait a minute...that's a possum .."

It was dusk and there were lots of fireworks in the neighborhood - maybe that spooked him. Possums don't actually "play" dead - it's more like they go into shock easily. I nudged him with a stick and he "grinned", showing off his teeth. It seemed like he was maybe coming out of his 'coma'. When I touched a ticklish spot, his hind leg moved up to scratch his ear like a dog.

I used sticks to move him off the trail before I left so no bikers would run him over. About 20 minutes later I brought my daughter back to show her. By this time it was pretty dark, but the possum was right where I left him. See the YouTube video - He seemed a lot more "dead" in the video, I think because of our flashlight shining in his eyes.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lion's Mane Jellyfish

My daughter and I stumbled upon this Lion's Mane or "Red" Jelly at Hammonassett State Park today. This species and the Portugese Man-o-war jelly reportedly have the most serious stings. In general, the brightly colored animals (especially red ones) are the more toxic ones, and I instinctly gave this one a wide berth. Update 7/3/2008: Short Beach in Stratford was just covered in small versions of this jellyfish today, from 1 inch to 5 inches in diameter. I was told a couple days ago, the water was filled with very large ones, over one foot in diameter (the one on the photo from Hammonassett was maybe 6 or 8 inches). I've never seen these at Short Beach before.

On a lighter note, the park was a step away from Watership Downs with over a dozen rabbits along the park road on the way out. This one was just stretched out and relaxin'.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Back to Pleasure Beach

The birds have really taken over Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport (see earlier post for more info about that beach). Last winter I saw a Kestrel, which looks rather like a dwarf Peregrine Falcon.

On a visit yesterday we followed the shoreline closely until we reached the old pier and bridge, then headed inland. Immediately a Willet harrassed us incessantly, circling overhead and chattering. Willets are brownish shore birds with long legs. I assume a nest was nearby. Then, a pair of magnificent Osprey circled over us. I think the nest in the photo is not their main nest -- I glimpsed a larger nest in the distance later on.

The vegetation was intense - especially ragweed and poison ivy. Oh for joy. Good thing for the old pavement. We did a quick walk past the carosel and other derelict buildings. Someone recently told me they saw turkeys living in one of the buildings.

On the way back, along Long Beach, some areas have been kindly roped off to protect nesting shorebirds. I was annoyed that someone had set up a beach chair and was playing music right next to one of the ropes. The beach is 3/4 mile long, for crying out loud, they had to set up their chair right next to the rope?

At any rate, at one of the enclosures a flock of Least Terns heckled anyone passing. They darted about so quickly it was hard to see what they looked like and even harder to get a picture. I finally succeeded to some extent, enough to identify the birds. Least Terns are considered a threatened species by the Connecticut DEP. Here are some fun facts: They weigh just one ounce and were pushed towards extinction in the early 1900's by the millinary trade. What the heck is the millinary trade? ....(looking it up)... OK, according to Websters that means, "Women's apparel for the head." Feathers for lady's hats, I guess. At one ounce, I'm sure they weren't being killed for the dinner plate.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bambi Strikes Again

How cute is that? Bambi nursing as mom gives him a bath. This was just a few feet from Ripton Road near Huntington Center. There was another mom and baby nearby, too shy to leave the tree line (the fawn was bleating like a sheep at his pal out in the meadow). Sure, they spread disease, cause property damage, and are destroying the forest understory that other species depend on for survival, but when I see something like that I can't help but turn the car around a get a photo. They're cute!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We Are Being Watched...

Today I glimpsed a red fox on Birchbank Trail as it fled up and off the trail. When I reached the point where he had left the trail, I stopped for a few minutes and looked carefully at the hillside above me. Red fox are bright and curious, and I was convinced this one was watching me from ... somewhere. Couldn't find him. I walked up the trail a few more steps and looked again and there he was, about 150 ft up the hill, sitting there panting in a sunbeam like a golden retriever. The two of us watched each other for about five minutes (I MUST get myself a 35mm camera!). By the way, we call these moments "trail magic."

The alert hiker knows that he or she is being watched. As we walk down the trail, the deer, bobcat, coyote, and fox quietly monitor our passage, sometimes within pouncing distance. Last summer near Silent Waters I passed a deer frozen like a statue just 15 feet from the trail. Only her head moved slowly as I passed. There was hardly even any brush, and this was right across the street from the busy Middle School. The animals must sense how unobservant we humans usually are.