Monthly Archives: May 2013

How Do Squirrels Do All Those Fancy Moves?

This turkey is stunned at the fancy squirrel moviesHow do squirrels climb anything anytime anywhere? Darrin Lunde, a member of the mammalogy department at the American Museum of Natural History was asked by a NYT reader how a squirrel he saw at Yankee Stadium could possibly climb the hard smooth foul ball pole. He replied, “Squirrels find a way; they hug the pole tightly with their foot pads. Squirrels can easily climb down trees headfirst because they can reverse their hind feet to point backward, so they can use their hind claws. Domestic cats cannot do that and thus have trouble climbing down trees.” Well, take that Hello Kitty. This wild turkey seems entranced too.


Are Cardinal Girls Natural Musicians?

Female Cardinal

Here at the edge of the wood we believe that education in music and the arts is essential. Some students really do take our breath away.  In a  study that compared the results of his and her music lessons, scientist Ayako Yamaguchi discovered that female cardinals learn nearly as many songs as males but in only one-third the time.  Both males and females started learning songs about 3 weeks after hatching. The females’ song learning  period lasted about 49 days and the males’ period extended to more than 187 days but the females generally had picked up nine  songs during that period and the males five. Though the boys get the fancy red feathers, the girls get all the sweet songs. What charming well-rounded couples they make.

Do Squirrels and Cardinals Play Sports Together?

Squirrel and Cardinal

Here at the edge of the wood we feel animals don’t really need organized sports, the forest is full of spontaneous games. However, a squirrel did once help a “cardinal” in a decisive game of baseball. In 2011 a squirrel scampered across the plate during Game 4 of the division playoff series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Cardinals, who were facing elimination at home, won the game and adopted the “rally squirrel” as an unofficial mascot and  went on to win the World Series. They paid tribute to their animal friend on their World Series ring, one side  includes a tiny squirrel in mid-flight, leaping over a home plate.

What Is It Like to Have a Famous Woodpecker Cousin?

Red-Bellied Woodpecker and Grackle

Yes, we admit it, we love our Woody Woodpecker cartoons, even though he is nothing like his quiet, hard working cousin the Red-Bellied Woodpecker. In  spring  a breeding couple select a nest site together. They visit potential locales, and communicate by mutual tapping. One member of the pair taps softly on the wood from inside a cavity, and the other taps back from the outside, not unlike an open house on a sunday in hipster Brooklyn. These birds also communicate and sing through drumming or hammering against a loud or resonant object. Male Red-Bellied Woodpeckers drum steadily at about 19 beats per second. Here is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Grackle passing the time of day.

Should Squirrels Win the Pulitzer Prize?

Squirrels, Birds and flightHere at the edge of the wood we would like to congratulate Professor David G. Haskell for his book “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature” which details how he spent 12 months looking at a square meter of woodland near his home. The book was a Pulitzer finalist. In it he cites squirrels as his most enduring inspiration“I watched them for an hour,” he writes, “and mostly they loll in the sun, limbs sprawled. Science deepens our intimacy with the world.”These loafing squirrels were something else. “They are alive; they are our cousins and they appear to enjoy the sun, a phenomenon that occurs nowhere in the curriculum of modern biology. Science is one story, true but not complete, and the world cannot be encompassed in one story.” Here’s  looking forward to many more stories.