Archive for November, 2009

What is a Grebe?

Grebe

If you visited a pond or lake this summer, you may have seen a ducklike bird that quickly vanished underwater if you approached too closely, only to come up far away.

What you probably saw was a kind of waterbird know as a grebe (pronounce as greeb).

Grebes grow to be less than two feet long and have softly patterned plumage of white, gray, black or brown tones.  They feed on fish, crawfish, and water bugs.

Though expert swimmers, grebes are clumsy on land.  Their feet are placed so far back on their bodies that they can hardly walk.

Baby grebes are born on a raftlike nest woven of reeds and pond weeds.  They can swim and dive as soon as they are hatched.

In winter, grebes desert their reedy ponds and lakes for more open water and maybe found far out at sea. – Dick Rogers

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What is a Ferret?

The ferret is a small, furry animal that is closely related to the weasel.

The black-footed ferret makes its home among the prairie-dog towns on the western Great plains of the United States.

It is about two feet long, pale buff in color, and its feet and the tip of its tail are black.  A black band across its pink eyes looks like a mask.

Ferret

The black-footed ferret preys on prairie dogs, which it catches by boldly following the victim into its burrow.

It can twist and band its long, slim body like a snake to enter the prairie-dog hole and often uses the former occupant’s home as its own nest.

In some parts of Europe, ferrets are used by hunters to drive wild rabbits and other animals from their burrows.

Today, black-footed ferrets are becoming rare.  Since the prairie dog, its main source of food, is quickly disappearing, the black-footed ferret likewise faces possible extinction.  – Dick Rogers

 

What is a sea gull?

Around the seacoast there is probably no bird more familiar than the sea gull.

It is a large, long-winged bird with mostly white feathers.  Its graceful soaring and wheeling flight makes the sea gull a pleasure to watch.

Sea gulls have webbed feet and often alight on the water to feed or rest.  They float and swim easily, often roosting on the waves.

Sea Gull

Sea gulls are the scavengers of the seashore.  A sea gull will eat almost any kind of food it can swallow.  Its favorite food is garbage.

Sea gulls often follow ships for many miles, eagerly swooping down upon any garbage that is thrown overboard.  Large flocks congregate in harbors where there are plenty of floating scraps of food to eat.

Besides garbage, sea gulls eat fish and will even rob the nests of other birds for eggs.

Thousands of sea gulls will often be found nesting on the same island or rock cliff. – Dick Rogers

 

What are termites?

Termite

Termites are small antlike insects that feed on wood.  Like ants, termites live in large colonies, in which there is a king and queen, many workers that build and tend the most and search for food and soldier termites that guard the next from insect enemies.

Termite nests are hidden in wood or in the ground.

Termites will eat nearly everything made of wood, including paper.  Those are live in the forests serve a useful function by cleaning away dead wood.  But when they attack our houses and belongings, that is a different story.

Oddly enough, the termite cannot digest the wood it oats.  The stomachs of termite workers are filled with little one-called creatures called protozoans.

The termite chews the wood and swallows the tiny chips.  The protozoans feed on the cellulose in the wood and convert it into foods that both the protozoans and the termite live on. – Dick Rogers

 

What is a wolverine?

The wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family, weighing up to thirty pounds.  With its dark, shaggy hair and short bushy tail, the wolverine looks something like a small bear.  It lives in northern forests.

It has a skunk-like scent for defense and is sometimes called a “skunk bear.”

Wolverine

For its size, the wolverine is unequaled in appetite and craftiness, and is the trapper’s worst enemy.

During the winter, the wolverine follows the trapper’s footsteps and skillfully steals the bait from the traps set for more valuable animals, or eats the animals caught in the trap.

The wolverine not only robs the trapper of his bait and catch, but may even sneak into the trapper’s cabin, eat his food and steal anything in sight, including rifles, axes, dishes, even blankets, all of which it carries away and buries.

It repays his “host” by leaving the cabin uninhabitable by its foul smell.

Because they have been hunted ruthlessly, wolverines have become rare in North America and are seldom seen enough of Canada today. – Dick Rogers

 

How does a frog catch its food?

Frog

All summer long, the little frog squats, motionless, on the bank of a quiet pond or brook and watches for passing insects.

If a fly or cricket passes within reach, the frog’s long tongue will snap out like a flickering ship, so fast that you can scarcely follow the action.  The insect is caught on the sticky tip.  Just as quick as the frog flips its tongue back into its mouth.

The frog’s tongue is fastened at the front of its mouth, not the back, so that it can be flipped out a long way.  The frog’s mouth is equipped with feeble, practically useless teeth,  which are present only in the upper jaw.  So it must live mostly on small creatures that it can swallow in one gulp.

Frogs also eat earthworms, spiders and winnows that they catch in the water.  Toads capture their food in much the same way as frogs do.

Frogs and toads help man by sailing many harmful insects to be found in gardens and on farms.  – Dick Rogers

 

How do butterflies eat?

Butterflies are gaily colored insects we often see on summer days.  They flutter from flower to flower drinking the sweet liquid called nectar.

Butterflies have no chewing mouth parts.  They cannot bite or chew.

Instead of the usual insect mouth, the butterfly has a long, slender tube which is used to suck up nectar and other liquids the way you sip through a soda straw.

Butterfly

When the butterfly is not eating, the long tube curls up like a watch spring under the insect’s head.

A butterfly’s taste buds are on the soles of its feet.  When it alights on a flower, the sweet taste causes the insect to uncoil its sucking tube.

When butterflies go from one flower to another for the sweet nectar, they also pick up some pollen on the hairs of their legs and bodies.

A little of this pollen brushes off as they visit each new flower.  It helps the flowers’ seeds and fruit to grow. – Dick Rogers