Archive for April, 2010

What is a periwinkle?

Periwinkle

In zoology, periwinkles are sea snails.  They are usually found living along rocky Atlantic seacoasts.

In zoology, “periwinkle” is the name for several kinds of small sea snails.

The best known is the common European periwinkle.  This little, drab-colored snail is easy to recognize by its thick, spiral shell with its sharp peak.

Periwinkles are a common sight along the rocky shores or New England and are usually found in great numbers clinging to wave washed rocks between high and low tide marks.

The periwinkle grows to be only about an inch long, but its tongue is several inches long and is equipped with hundreds of tiny “teeth” for scraping off tiny green plants called algae.

Despite their small size these very tiny snails are popular delicacy in Europe.  At one time they were an important source of food.

Women and children once made their livelihood by collecting thousands of these little animals from the rocky coasts of the British Isles.  – Dick Rogers

 

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Why do beavers build dams?

Beavers build dams to create ponds in which to build their beaver lodges.  Beavers are brown-furred animals with flat, paddle-like tails.  They live in ponds and streams.  Beavers are known for their skill at cutting down trees with their sharp teeth and building dams.

Beaver

The purpose of the beaver dam is to hold back water and make it form a pond in which the beaver can live.

To build its dam, the beaver gnaws downs trees and drags and floats them to the dam site.  It fastens the logs and twigs in place with rocks and mud until a strong barrier is built.

An ordinary beaver dam may be a 5 feet high and 200 or more feet long.

The beaver builds its lodge with branches and mud, too.  A beaver’s lodge looks like a pile of sticks in the pond.  It is really a one-room house.  The floor of the room is just above the water line.  To enter, the beaver must swim through an underwater door in the floor.  Inside the lodge, protected by thick walls and by underwater doors, the beaver is safe from most enemies.  – Dick Rogers

 

What is a sea lion?

Sea lions are really a kind of eared seal.  They are the trained seals we see in many circus acts.  Sea lions are really a king of seal.  In fact, the familiar “trained seals” we seen in circus sets are actually sea lions.

In the United States, sea lions live along the Pacific coast.  They are powerful swimmers and divers, and spend much time in the water.

A thick layer of fat, called blubber, helps keep them warm, while the lungs hold enough air to permit staying under water several minutes.

They are aided in swimming by paddle-like limbs called flippers.  True sea lions have longer flippers than most seals.

Sea Lion

Unlike the other seals, who must wriggle on their bellies on land, sea lions can use all four limbs for walking.  Young sea lions are born on land and must learn to swim.

Naturally playful, these intelligent and active animals learn easily and can be trained to do such tricks as juggling balls on the end of their noses and blowing horns.  – Dick Rogers

What is an osprey?

Osprey catching fish

An osprey is a big fish hawk that is found near water all over the world.

An osprey is a big bird of prey in the hawk family.  A fully-grown osprey may be 2 feet long, with a wingspread of nearly 6 feet.

Ospreys are found near rivers, lakes and seacoasts all over the world.

A common name for the osprey is “fish hawk,” because it feeds almost entirely on fish.  It fishes by flying over the water.  When it sees a fish swimming near the surface it dives feet-first, hitting the water with a great splash and seizing the fish with its long, sharp talons.

The osprey sometimes goes completely under water to catch a meal.  Its feathers are slightly oily, so that it can plunge into the water without becoming soaked.

Sea eagles often rob the osprey of its catch.  When the eagle sees an osprey with a fish in its talons, it swoops under the osprey.  Then it forces the smaller bird to fly higher and higher until the osprey tires and drops the fish.

The sea eagle catches the fish in midair.

Photo courtesy:  Steve Baranoff