Raccoons – – They are found all over Presque Isle and are the most urbanized wild critters in our neighborhoods. You don’t see much of them because they usually only come out of their hidden homes at night. They are wonderful scavengers looking for food anywhere from garbage cans, to creek and pond banks.
On Presque Isle you can find them at night climbing all over dumpsters and on pond banks, groping in the water for clams, fish, snails , or even live crayfish. Looking back, when our children were all between 8 years old and their early teens, we would go to New York State’s Alleghany State Park and camp (always in a cabin) and every night have a campfire. Only 10 or so minutes after the fire was going, old Pink Nose, an old Raccoon would show up, and beg for marshmallows. He would soon be joined by three or four others. We now feel that this was not a good idea because these were wild animals.
Raccoons, although they are shirt-tail relatives of the bear, do not really hibernate. What they do is go into a heavy sleep for somewhat long periods each winter. They live on their accumulated fat during this period.
In the wild, whether on the park or your backyard, their cunning nature allows them to exist in most areas. They are so crafty at times that I have seen them open closed containers by easily removing the lids. They have been known to unscrew lids from canning jars.
Tree Bark – – This is the outer layer of all trees. We all know what bark is and usually take it for granted. But, do we know how important it is and what it does? Bark is the outermost layers of stems and roots of woody plants. Plants with bark include trees, woody vines and shrubs. Bark refers to all the tissues outside of the core of the plant. (See drawing of tree)
What you and I call bark includes a number of different tissues. The very outer layer you might recognize. It is cork. It is an external, secondary tissue that is impermeable to water and gas and technically is called the phellem. This outer layer of cork is produced by the next inner layer called the cork cambium.
The cork walls contain suberin, which is a waxy substance which protects the inner stem against water loss, the invasion of insects into the tree’s stem and also prevents infections by bacteria and fungal spores. Among the commercial products made from bark is cork. Quinine, cinnamon, aspirin, tannic acid, shingle siding, spices, latex, medicines and poisons.
Bachelor’s buttons – – In all likelihood the name of this common flower came from an old European custom when men put flowers in their jacket’s buttonholes while courting their sweetheart. However, this only worked well for the bachelor when the flower stayed fresh. The other half of the legend is that if the flower wilted, it was proof positive that his beloved didn’t love him.
All over the world, these flowers are both wildflowers and grow as annuals in many summer flower beds. Another name for the flower is “cornflower” because it often grow wild in the fields of corn, wheat, rye and oats.
Turkey Vultures – – We often see them gliding on the hot air currents above Presque Isle, and many times we hear people mistaken them for hawks or eagles. I think part of this common mistake is that they DO soar somewhat like hunting eagles, however the main reason may be that they do so quite high in the sky.
They are notorious meat eaters and they particularly favor dead meat. They are really not birds of prey like hawks and eagles. It has been said that they can smell dead meat from miles away. They are very clever and resourceful scavengers. They do us a favor by cleaning up roadkill and relieving small wounded and sick animals from suffering.
They can eat dead and decaying meat because they have an incredibly sophisticated immune system that protects them. Their digestive tract contains chemicals that destroy bacteria that would be lethal to most other animals. They are an ugly but beneficial bird that can be seen on Presque Isle quite often.
Owls – – Owls are one of the few creatures that fly through the woods and fields of Presque Isle all during the winter. They are both hunting and looking for next year’s nesting site. By searching the woods during the winter nights before nesting normally begins, an owl can usually find an abandoned hawk nest, an empty tree top squirrel nest or a handy hollowed tree snag.
They find that this nest hunting is easier because all the migrations are over and the sky is clear of bird traffic and usually very quiet. During this time days, are shorter and this is a distinct advantage to the night-flying owl.
Owls are the first birds to begin nesting. If the food is very scarce, they tend to lay just a few eggs or even none at all. They are guided by nature’s inherent forces and eat and sleep whenever they can. They only mate based upon their biological body schedule. Their innate ability to thrive and survive where other birds would perish has always made them a living symbol of wisdom and faithfulness.
Crickets – – Crickets are distant relatives of the grasshopper. There are 900 species of crickets worldwide. They occur in varied habitats from grasslands, bushes, forests, marshes and wetlands. They are nocturnal most times and are best known for the loud, persistent chirping song of males trying to attract females.
Crickets sing by rubbing their wings together, unlike the grasshoppers which usually rub their hind legs against veins located within their wings. Another strange fact about the little cricket is that their ears, which are unusually sensitive, are located on their front legs.
A little known fact about the cricket is that mating begins with the female aggressively approaches the male after hearing his persistent and loud song. I have heard that the happy male will nearly always sing a few more songs before mating.
See you on the park!!
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