Species Observations

Collection of my most notable short observations by species (meant to be short). I have learned so much about these animals just be observing them.

All Mammals mark their territory (even mice). All mammals appear to have regular foraging routes and regular locations for repeatedly marking their presence. Members of the Weasel family (Mustelidae) have scent marking stations where they repeatedly visit to mark their presence. Otters do this in groups and the location is next to rivers or ponds. Fishers pick a location in the woods, and it is usually near the base of an interesting tree.

All animals like Hemlock groves (too bad the Wooly Adelgid is attacking these trees).

Raccoon – Very resourceful. Can find food just about anywhere. Amazing hands. Forage by feel, in fact they are often looking around for danger while they are foraging rather than at the task at hand. Very attentive mothers (probably the most of any that I have observed). Live in family groups with young staying with the family for a long time. They usually have 3-4 babies. They may visit houses to scavenge in your garbage but don’t worry for a minute that they can become dependent on that source. They have an easy time finding food in the wild. Raccoons will eat Acorns.

Coyote – Gather in larger groups in the winter. Behavior is remarkably like dogs; they play like dogs and even carry sticks.

Fox – Mainly solidary. Hunt in the day and night. Very stealthy hunters. Can be noisy during mating season.

Skunk – Much less common than expected.

Opossum – Very good noses, amazing hands and feet (can grip), can carry nesting material with their tail.

Bobcat – They hunt in the day and night (squirrels only come out in the day). The Mothers pea in the stream when they have young (not marking territory during that time). They usually have two kittens. Their territory is large (regularly visit a large area). They flick their short tail constantly. Squirrels appear to be one of their most important prey (so they hunt in daytime).

Fisher – They are solitary. Mothers usually have 3-4 young. The babies only stay with the mother a few weeks after leaving the den. They teach by example by taking them on big adventures and the babies just need to keep up and learn by following. The babies are very independent. They are killers but they also will scavenge fruit and mushrooms.

Otter – Otters generally live in groups (2-4). I am guessing that they may be a family group. They live in the same location as Beavers (possibly sharing abandoned Beaver lodges or shoreline tunnels. They only eat specific aquatic foods such as fish and shellfish. Their droppings generally have visible shells.

Mink – Minks have funny short back legs that are widely set and the result is that they waddle when they walk. It is one of the ways that I tell them apart from a Weasel when the image is black and white or there is no size reference. They also have a white spot on under their chin.

Weasel – Weasels can be found just about anywhere but they particularly like historic New England rock walls (~400 years old). These walls are full of rodents. Weasels will run up and down these walls looking in the cracks for mice or other rodents.

Beaver – Beavers are surprisingly vocal. They are affectionate and live in family groups. Like Raccoons they are very attentive parents. They are incredibly strong and can carry heavy weights with their front legs while walking on two legs. They have incredible instincts and talent for dam building. They are also keen observers of their environment (if something does not quite look right, they notice). Beavers will eat Acorns.

Deer – Deer have excellent eyesight. The notice the cameras more frequently than any other species. Bucks take long naps during the Rut (mating season). It seems that their bodies are so pumped up with hormones and they are so active searching for the Does that they get so tired. I have repeatedly filmed them taking long naps right in front of the camera. Deer in my area are not starving, no evidence of overpopulation (not an excuse to cull). Deer will eat Acorns. Deer will eat Sphagnum moss. Deer will eat Hemlock (this is the reason why the branches do not grow lower than a certain height). Deer will stand on their hind legs and eat the needles that they can reach. They do this when there is nothing else to eat.

Pileated Woodpecker – They have a funny mating ritual that looks like hide and seek around a tree (one bird on each side of the tree). They are incredibly loud (both vocalization and the tree pecking knocking noises).

Goshawk – They are incredibly vocal when asserting their territory. Their young sometimes fall out of the nest or get stolen by Fisher (possibly not very attentive parents or they have to leave the young alone in order to find enough food).

Horned Owl/Barred Owl – They frequently fish for Frogs and bathe in streams.

Great Blue Heron – I even saw one in the winter (not expected). Herons will hunt in the woods and catch rodents. They can swallow surprisingly large fish. They will hunt in the dark.

Wood Ducks – They are very noisy and make the cutest squeaky sounds. They congregate in large groups in the woodland brooks. Sometimes they get attached by Goshawk there. They are tree climbers (and the famales will sit on branches that hang over the water so that they can get a better look at the Males).

Hooded Merganser – Surprisingly they are breeding in Acton (in Beaver areas).

Muskrat – They can swim faster than Beaver. This is one of the clues that you can use if it is hard to identify the animal in night vision shot.

Rat – Although rare, I am surprised that I am seeing any. They appear to live along the Nashoba Brook.

Mouse – Mice are everywhere. They ever climb up trees. You can aim a camera anywhere you will see a mouse. This explains why we have so many predators (including Weasels).

Squirrel (Grey) – They stay active in the winter.

Squirrel (Red) – They love Pinecones. They are very territorial.

Chipmunk – They hibernate. They are one of the only mammals in our area that you won’t see in winter.