Seasons – Part Two

Hawks also hunt in this manner. These birds of prey will consume the whole animal; bones, fur, everything. Birds have two stomachs. The first is called proventriculus and produces the enzymes, acids, and mucus that start the digestion process going. The second, which is muscular, is called ventriculus or as most commonly known, the gizzard. In birds of prey, this acts as a filter system. It holds back insoluble items, for example, bones, fur teeth, and feathers because these can not be digested, however, in the case of smaller prey it is all ingested. Several hours after they eat, these items are compressed into a pellet. This pellet travels back up through the proventriculus where it sits for about 10 hours. It is then regurgitated. If the owl has eaten more than one prey animal then they both will be transformed into the pellet. The owl can not eat until it regurgitates the pellet as it partially blocks the digestive tract at that point. Owls who are about to regurgitate a pellet will take on a pained look, their eyes closed and they start wrenching until the pellet is expelled. They are then ready to eat again. If you are lucky to find an owl’s pellet, you can open it up and put the bones together to see what they ate. It’s very interesting.

So disturbing them is not a good thing as you can well imagine. All wildlife should never be disturbed as life is hard enough for them. Sometimes we just need to enjoy the moment and take a photo to store in our memories.

Foxes and coyotes are wonderful to watch while they hunt. Again they depend on their keen eyes and hearing. They will stand perfectly still, and their heads will tilt back and forth, as if in a trance. Total focus. It’s beautiful. Then they pounce, their butts and tails up in the air, heads buried in the snow or tall grasses. Again watch from a distance so as not to disturb these much-needed hunting skills for their survival. Especially when the young are new and learning their skills.

Once winter snow arrives there is so much magic. Tracks in the snow are fascinating and investing in a pocket tracking book to carry with you will help you can learn what is out there wandering at night. Great for the kids. And adults. I get totally entranced by tracks in the snow and I just love imagining who was there before me and when. When you get good, you can tell if they are fresh or old tracks. Maybe you just missed the animal. Tracks can tell you a lot. You may even get a beautiful glimpse of the animal. Watch quietly and take it all in. Remember, you are in their space. Leave no traces you were there, “no footprints” as they say. Be respectful. If a bird of prey has come in for a meal, you will often see wing prints in the snow. Truly a work of art.

Remember mice, voles, rabbits, rats, and other small mammals are the main prey animals; they were put on this earth to feed others and are heavy breeders for this purpose. It always tugs on our heartstrings, however, we must remember, one must die for another to live. And simply put, it’s LIFE, in the wild. And every life is precious. Every life is important. We however are the number one top predator in this world.

So as winter is upon us, get out there, explore, and see what Mother Nature has to show you, tiny white fairy-type insects glistening as they fly past you, the tiniest snow fleas, beautiful birds of prey, animals big and small. Beavers, who have earned their name, “busy as a beaver”, are incredible to watch and otters are playful, sliding across the snow. Just having fun, enjoying life. Listen to wolves howling at night, coyotes yipping, foxes barking, and beavers cooing, all communicating with their families or just enjoying and celebrating life. It’s magical. Sitting under the stars, the Milky Way so bright it feels like you can reach out and touch it while hearing owls hooting to each other, footprint indentations glistening in the moonlight nearby. Something splashing in the water, if there is open water nearby.  What could that be? Welcome to my world. And it’s the best therapy in the world. Bundle up and get out there. You may also experience some wonderful stories to share. 

Recently I took a four-day trip to Algonquin Provincial Park. I brought home many stories and memories. The best. In all the 30-plus years I have been doing photography I had never seen sparring moose. There is something incredibly magnificent in watching the power, strength, and total beauty of watching these animals. But full respect is always number one.

With any wildlife, but moose, especially bulls, two bulls together, are no match for us.  although rutting was over, these two gorgeous bull moose thought maybe a little show was in order for their two ladies. And what a show it was. I am in respect, in total awe of these big beasts. They sparred for over 30 minutes on the road. We could not leave until they were done so as not to cause any upsets. You do not mess with two bull moose.

It was amazing beyond. I am including some photos of my winter adventure. Pine martens, otters, tracks. Get out there, bundle up and create your own adventures! Memories last forever.

Jen Howard

Procyon Volunteer / photographer

Enjoy this gallery of images taken by Jen Howard of animals in their habitat during the winter

Seasons – Part Two
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