Archive for June, 2009

What is a sea lamprey?

Sea Lamprey

A sea lamprey (pronounced LAM pree) is an eel-like water creature.  It grows up to three feet long.  Its mouth is a cuplike sucker lined with sharp “teeth”.

Fishermen dread the sea lamprey because of its destructive eating habits.  It is a parasite—it eats other fish by attacking itself to the other fish with its strong sucker mouth.

It scrapes a hole in the fish with its teeth and tongue, which also has teeth, and then sucks the blood out of the fish.

A fish attacked by a sea lamprey usually will die.

Sea lampreys are normally saltwater creatures, but they swim up freshwater rivers and into lakes to spawn.

Sometimes they remain in the inland lakes and never go back to the sea.

When this happens, they can become serious pests.  Sea lampreys have destroyed many important food fishes, such as trout and mackerel, in the Great Lakes.-  Dick Rogers

What is a groundhog?

Groundhog

A groundhog is a funny rodent that burrows in the ground. Its stock body may be two feet long.

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, make their homes in many parts of North America.

All summer the groundhog nibbles grass, roots, and leaves. Bu October, the groundhog is so fast it can hardly walk. When winter comes, it curls up in the burrow and falls into a deep sleep. The stored fat keeps it alive during its sleep.

Some people have a superstition that the groundhog can tell what the weather will be. On the second day of February, it is supposed to wake from its long sleep and stick its head out of its burrow.

If it sees its shadow, it will be frightened and crawl back into its hole. This is supposed to mean that there will be six more weeks of winter.

But if the sun is not shining it will stay out of its burrow and spring will come soon! – Dick Rogers

What are harvester ants?

305611645_VJKkC-SWe are all familiar with ants.  Ants are found scattered far and wide over the world.

There are red ants and lack ants.  Others can be brown or yellow.

Some ants are hunters.  Others may be farmers, dairymen or carpenters.

Ants known as harvester ants are large, long-legged red or black ants that live in warm, dry, sandy places.

They get their name because they harvest, or gather, seeds of weeds and other plants and store them in their underground nests for a future supply of food.

They have large, crushing jaws for breaking seeds.

To build rooms underground to live in and sore seeds, the harvesters carry grains of sand outside and pile them into a big outhill over the nest.

The harvester’s home is easy to spot because of a trash heap of discarded seed husks piled outside the entrance.

If stored seeds get wet, the ants spread them in the sun to dry.

Photo courtesy:  alexwild.smugmug

Does the giraffe have a voice?

The giraffe is the tallest animal in the world and often reaches a height of 17 feet or more.

But there is another remarkable thing about this unusual animal—it has practically no voice.  The giraffe has a poorly developed voice box which it seldom uses.

Giraffe

Giraffe in zoos have been heard to utter a soft “moo,” and they can grunt or whimper and make whistlelike sounds.

A baby giraffe may bleat like a lamb when hungry.

The giraffe’s great height comes mostly from its long legs and neck, for its body is no larger than that of a horse.

Although  its neck is very long, the giraffe has the same number of neck bones that yu have in your own neck, but the giraffe’s neck bones are very long.

Because of its height, the giraffe can browse on twigs and leaves on the upper branches of tall trees, far out of reach of other animals.

While the giraffe is gentle, it can put up a good fight when attacked.

It uses its head like a sledgehammer to strike heavy blows and kicks out with its powerful hind legs. – Dick Rogers

Why do bats hang upside down?

Bat

As a rule, bats sleep during the day and fly about at night.

To sleep, they hang themselves upside down in a cave or hollow trees, with their wings draped around their bodies like cloaks.

Bats are clumsy on the ground because their feet and legs are not suited for walking.

When a bat rests, the easiest thing for it to do is to hang on, head down.

The bat’s toes bend inward and end in book like claws—just what the bat needs to hang securely from almost any rough surface, such as the roof of a cave.

The mother bat carries her young with her.  The babies hang on tightly with their claws and teeth as the mother flies about hunting for food.

When the bat babies grow too big to carry, the mother hangs them up by their feet on the perch when she goes out. – Dick Rogers

How did the mute swan get its name?

Swan

The mute swan is a large, graceful water bird with a long slender, curving neck and snowy white feathers.  Mute swans are the kind most often seen on the ponds in parks and in zoos.

The mute swan does, however, hiss when it is angry and makes a low “barking” sound when calling its young.

The male swan is called a cob and the female a pen.

Her brownish-gray bales are called cygnets (pronounced SIG nits).  They become white by the time they are a year old.

Hans Christians Anderson’s story “The Ugly Duckling” is about a cygnet who thinks it is just an ugly duckling—until it grows up to be a beautiful swan.

Swans feed mainly on plants that they nip from the bottom of ponds and shallow takes were they spend so much time. – Dick Rogers

How does a chicken hatch from an egg?

Chicken Hatching

A baby chicken is born from an egg that comes from inside the mother hen.

The chick that is inside the newly laid egg is a tiny cell called a “germ cell”  that will develop into the baby chicken.

If you look closely at the yolk, or yellow part of a hen’s egg, you can see the germ cell as a light-colored, pinhead-sized dot on the top of the yolk.

The hen sits on the egg and keeps it warm.  While she sits, the germ cell divides into other cells that form all the parts of the baby chick.  The  chick grows until it is so big that it fills the whole egg.

When the chick is ready to hatch from the egg, it cracks the shell with its sharp beak and wiggles out.

All baby birds hatch from eggs the same way that the baby chickens come into the world.

Photo courtesy:  lancaster

How did the bulldog get its name?

Bulldog

The bulldog is a strong, short-haired dog with a pug nose and wide, powerful jaws.

The bulldog gets its name because it was once bred for the sport of bull-baiting, a cruel sport popular in England in the 1600s.

Because of his pushed-in nose, the bulldog was able to hang on to the unfortunate animal’s ears or nose with his strong teeth and still be able to breathe.

Often, a bear was used in the place of a bull.

When this cruel sport was outlawed, the bulldog was used for dog-fighting.  It was called a “Pit Dog” or “Pit Bull.”

Today the bulldog, though still brave, makes a gentle and friendly pet.

Bulldogs are slightly pigeon-toed and have many wrinkles on their faces.

A bulldog may weigh from 40 to 50 pounds.  It is Great Britain’s national dog, as well as mascot of the British Navy. – Dick Rogers

What is an egret?

Egret

Egret (pronounced EE gret) is the name used for several white herons, which include the snowy and cattle egret and the reddish egret.

The tall, handsome egret known as the common egret looks like a crane and has a long, slender neck and black, stork like legs.

It’s long, sharply pointed bill seems to extend right from its eyes.

Egrets are found in the warmer parts of the world, and are often seen stalking the shallows or marshes in search of their prey—frogs, fishes, and insects.

During the nesting season the egret wears a showy train of lacy, snow-white feathers.

But its beautiful feather proved a curse, for they were once used to decorate ladies hats.

So many egrets were killed for their feathers that there was danger none would be left.

Today there are laws that protect them and their number, happily, is increasing. – Dick Rogers

 

 

 

What are fur seals?

Fur Seal

Everyone recognizes a seal as a sleek sea animal with webbed, paddle-like limbs called flippers.

Fur seals are seals that have thick coats of silky fur, such as the northern fur seal.  Northern fur seals are big.

A large bull (male) may be six feet long and weigh 500 pounds or more.

Like most kinds of seals, fur seals live in the ocean.   Seal makes its home mostly on the small islands in the Bering Sea.

In autumn the seals leave these islands and swim south, almost to the northern border of Mexico, and then return the following spring.

During the entire 5,000-mile round trip, the seals never come ashore unless injured or sick.

At one time so many fur seals were killed for their valuable fur that there was danger none would be left.  Today, the number of seals has increased because of careful management of seal hunting. – Dick Rogers