Thursday, February 28, 2008

Critters of Thursday/Spring Break

Hi guys!

How are you? We're currently getting some snow in Minneapolis! Therefore I just ate some popcorn to increase my cozy feeling.

Today I took a stroll to the bank. I observed:

Some pigeons.

A squirrel

running along a windowsill holding part of a
(blueberry bagel, without the wax paper or smear.)

And some sparrows:
(No green grass was visible, however.)

Last year at this time Robert and I were fixin' to go to Jamaica for our honeymoon!


This year we're preparing for a road trip to visit KSH near Denver, Colorado:
And her hubby JH, whom we are excited to meet!

And our sister JB and her future husband JF in central CO:
(Baby B is in the shades.)

Obviously we'll be making a full adventure/critter report next week!


Sunday, February 24, 2008


Hello Critter Lovers!

How was your weekend? I must say I'm feeling great after going for two lovely outdoor runs the last two days! Lots of folks, munchkins and doggies were enjoying the warm weather, as well. Today jazz flute player PG joined me, and a nice couple walking a Jack Russell terrier pointed out a bald eagle sitting majestically in a tree by the Mississippi.


My friend and former roommate, the tenor DR, reported this winter that black bears were being sighted in his homeland of Upstate New York. Therefore I lovingly dedicate this entry to DR, aka Pound Papi, aka Dirt McGirt. (Just kidding about that last one!) Big love to a great guy!

There are eight main species of bears in the world. I'll outline them here with some lovely pictures!

First, our native black bear, Ursus americanus:

Scientists estimate that there are 750,000 of these bears found in the U.S. Although they are called black, these creatures range from brownish, to blond, to reddish in color. They weigh 300 to 800 pounds (males being larger than females) and have curved claws which are excellent for climbing trees!

The black bear cubbikin:

Now, moving on to the brown bear, Ursus arctos:

These bears are notable for the hump on their back, which represent strong muscles used for digging. Formerly found throughout the U.S., brown bears are now located in the Northwest, throughout Canada, Europe, Asia, Japan and in Alaska, where there is a larger subspecies of brown bear known as grizzly bears. Brown bears weigh between 200 and 800 pounds, while grizzlies can reach up to 1,500 lbs. Even larger than the brown or grizzly bear is a rare subspecies, the Kodiak bear, which is found in Southern Alaska. It and the polar bear are tied for largest land carnivore.

And speaking of polar bears, here is a photo of Ursus maritimus:

Fuzzy! Polar bears are mostly seal-hunters, weighing in at around 600 to 1,500 pounds. Their fur is actually made of transparent hairs, which are designed to collect sunlight and pull the heat downward through the whitish or yellowish underhairs and finally to the skin. Only pregnant female polar bears hibernate. Some scientists classify polar bears as marine animals as they can swim for up to 100 miles!

Moving eastward we find the Asiatic black bear, Selenarctos thibetanus:
asiatic black bear.gif

Note the large ears and light-colored chest patch. These bears live in southern Asia and the Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku. Asiatic black bears are smaller than their American cousins, weighing in at 100 to 400 pounds. While they share habitat with stronger brown bears, the Asiatic black bears have the advantage of increased agility in trees, where they find fruit, nuts and leaves to eat. They are also more aggressive than American black bears, perhaps because they come into human contact more often.

Another smaller bear is the sloth bear, Melursus ursinus:

A native of Sri Lanka* and India, the sloth bear features the superpower of being able to close its nostrils at will. This is to facilitate a pleasant experience while eating its favorite meal, termites! The sloth bear is also notable for its mane and the fact that it has fewer teeth (40) than the rest of the bears. Sloth bears weigh 120 to 300 pounds.

*Side Note: My sister AG once told her Junior High reading teacher that our family had vacationed over the summer in Sri Lanka. It seems like the teacher believed her! (The farthest trip my combined family took was one hour away from our hometown to go camping.)

A mysterious New World bear is the spectacled bear of South America:

The subject of the above photo looks quite haughty, don't you think?! Tremarctos ornatus lives in altitudes of 6,000 to 8,000 feet, and weighs 140 to 340 pounds. Scientists have not studied them very much...I wonder if it's because they're found in the mountains or if its related to political unrest in South America? Hmmmm.

Moving back to Asia we find the smallest bear, the sun bear:

Handsome! This bear, which weighs only around 140 pounds, lives in Southeast Asia: Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Sun bears enjoy eating plants, termites and birds.

Of course we can't forget about human "bears"! I'll let Wikipedia define this type of manly man! My own big strong husband once said that he probably fit into the "bear" category...if there was one for straight guys.

Now to one of the most famous kinds of bears, the panda!

R and I had a disagreement regarding the taxonomy of pandas; he suggested they weren't bears, I said they were. It turns out we were sort of both correct; until 1995 pandas were placed in either the raccoon family or the red panda family. Due to DNA research, after 1995 the black and white guys were placed in the bear family. Pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, are unique among bears because they have six front fingers to grasp bamboo. Also, the genitals of the male point backward, unlike other bears. (?) Confined to only six regions in China, an area totaling about 5,400 square miles, pandas are highly endangered. Weighing 155 to 275 pounds, pandas can eat up to 40% of their body weight in bamboo daily, ranging from 26 to 33 pounds of mature grass and up to 84 pounds of the bamboo shoots!

And here is the red panda, which scientists are still unsure how to categorize. Some think they are a raccoon cousin that developed similar traits to pandas because they both eat bamboo. Others feel red pandas should be in the bear family, or in a category of their own. First, my own photo from the Minnesota Zoo:

They were chillaxing.

And a close up:

Now I will focus on bear nooky (the non-human kind), specifically the mating habits of the brown bear. Reaching sexual maturity between age four and seven, female brown bears become fertile from May to July. Males are often eight to ten years old before they are large enough to beat other males to the ladies. It takes several encounters for a female to become receptive, so sperm from several males may be received. This means cubs born at the same time can have different baby-daddys. The rest of the summer I guess the bears just eat and relax (they can gain up to 400 pounds of fat during the summer!), as the fertilized eggs don't implant until October or November. One to four cubs are born between January and March. The cubs stay with mama for usually two and a half years, after which they separate and the female can become pregnant once more.

Bear Fun Facts:
* The closest living relatives to bears are the Pinnipeds, or seals!
* Bears are not true hibernators, but most northern species do become dormant in winter.
* Most bears live 20 to 25 years in the wild.
* Asian bears are often killed for their bile and other body parts used for medicinal purposes.
* Brown bears found in the ABC Islands of Alaska are more closely related to polar bears than to other brown bears.

Have you learned a few things about our friends the bears? I am scared to see one when I am camping; have you had any encounters?!

Have a good Monday!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Hello everyone!

How are you?

Did you see the toad eat the moon tonight?

This photograph allows plenty of room for the imagination:

Two weeks ago it was really cold and windy. R and I took a walk before things got too crazy:

It's hard to stay in shape in the cold Minnesota winter:

(To any of you who live in warmer climes, the preceding pictures represent February conditions in MN. As I write this it is -1 degrees fahrenheit.)

Because of the dry, cold weather, I took the opportunity to straighten my hair:

Keep your eyes peeled for the evidence of vole activity! An example from Eagan:

Finally, a photo of Baby B! Here he is wearing a camping romper I gave him for Christmas.
10th month 009.jpg
Apparently he is crawling and pulling himself up to stand! Adorbs.

More critter info l8r!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hey Buddies!

Happy Valentine's Day! Whether you're filled with love or hate today, check out The Current tonight; either for on-air love songs (awesome) or online break up songs!

Ryan Adams says "Happy Valentine's Day", too:

Have you heard his song "Gonna Make You Love Me" on those AT&T cell phone commercials?

"Gonna Make You Love Me" is from Ryan's 2001 album Gold.

The same song is featured on an episode of Undeclared, a Judd Apatow produced TV show from 2001-2002. R and I rented the show on Netflix; it's really funny and highly recommended!

This weekend I'm headed to the Motherland to see Ms. Non-Sequitur and my family! I hope you have fun plans for President's Day weekend too!

Meanwhile, snuggle with your sweetie today!


Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Flamingo!

Happy Sunday, Critter Readers!

How was your weekend? I must say it was nice to relax with R yesterday, staying in, enjoying some lasagna he made and watching the hilarious BBC series Robin Hood, which we got from Netflix.

I've also been reading a series of books, M. John Harrison's Viriconium. They're really excellent novels, but I started realizing there were a lot of words in there I didn't recognize. So here, for the first and probably last time, is your Critter Corner vocabulary list. Define:


How did you do?! (Scroll down for definitions.)

Here they are:

bice: pale blue pigment
gamboge: yellow or yellow orange
solipsist: a person to whom only oneself exists; self-focused
desuetude: no longer used or practiced
demimonde: a group that has lost standing in society, or that is defined by their lack of success
litharge: a yellow poisonous solid, lead monoxide
baize: green felt fabric, such that covers a pool table
nitid: bright or lustrous
lustral: something occurring every five years or a rite of purification
glaucous: light blue green or green blue
oneiric: pertaining to dreams
catafalque: a hearse or a raised platform that holds a coffin in state

Um, can you tell the books are post-apocalyptic by these descriptive words?!

Onto the Creature Feature of the day, which is dedicated to a dear friend of the whole W family: Mrs. JS. Since there is already a Mrs. (and a Mr.) JS among the readership, I will give this lovely woman a new name, a nickname by which she is known in our family: The Carrot Queen.

The Carrot Queen and I at Christmastime:

SS and his wife the Carrot Queen own a muck farm, which is a vegetable farm built on a drained wetland. The soil is black and powdery, I'm assuming fertile, and is conducive to growing such things as mint, onions, spinach and carrots.

We basically grew up with the S family; I babysat their kids, HS and BS when I was twelve (during a brief but tumultuous correspondence with a 16 year old I'd met at FFA camp; he didn't know I was twelve.) We've spent some quality time on the S farm, where my family has their own vegetable garden, and the S's are always present to celebrate happy family events as well as to show support when my parents have been hurt or in the hospital.

For as long as I've known the Carrot Queen she has loved flamingos! Here is a photo we took last week at the zoo!

In addition to loving flamingos, while on the farm driving tractors, attending the mint oil stills, etc, the Carrot Queen wears bright pink like her favorite bird! I believe the genesis of the pink farm wardrobe comes from her wanting to be visible and recognizable in the fields. The Carrot Queen asked SS what color she should buy and he replied, "Anything but pink." Hence, a trend was born!

Onto the birds. There are six species of flamingos in the world; four in the Americas and two in the Eastern Hemisphere. The photos on this page are of lesser flamingos; the smallest of the six species, and the ones at the Minnesota Zoo. Lesser flamingos are about 42 inches tall, and some of the other species are closer to four feet, with a five foot wingspan and weighing six to eight pounds.


As with other bird species, scientists are fighting about how to arrange flamingos taxonomically. DNA research puts them close to the grebe family; previously they've been aligned with other long-legged wading birds like spoonbills.

Flamingos have a unique beak that functions best when it is upside down. The birds are filter feeders, and the mouth and tongue are covered with hairy extensions called lamellae, which help separate food from dirt and grit. Flamingos eat shrimp, algae and insects, and can filter 20 beakfuls of water a second!

Beta carotene gives flamingos their pink color, and is found in the shrimp they eat. In captivity, some birds are fed a phytochemical that also gives farmed salmon a pinker hue.

Flamingo nooky can take place several times a year. The healthiest and best fed flamingos are pinker and therefore more attractive to the opposite sex. In the spring, the birds, who live in flocks, start pairing off, preening each other and and singing in unison. A domed mud nest is built that can sit twelve inches off the ground. The female lays a single egg and both parents incubate it.


As you can see from the above picture, baby flamingos are gray, but soon take on the same pink color as their parents. Adult flamingo parents both regurgitate "milk", with which they feed their hatchlings. It is a whitish substance that is excreted from their digestive tract and has more fat and less protein than standard mammalian milk. After five days the baby leaves the nest and joins other fledglings in the group, where it starts foraging for solid food. But for two more weeks the baby will return to the nest to receive "milk" feedings.

Flamingos prefer tropical alkaline lakes, such as those created by volcanoes. They can live around 20 years in the wild. Scientists are unsure why the birds stand on one leg; they think it's possibly to stay warmer and drier. The "knee" of the flamingo is actually its ankle. Flamingo eyes are orange!

Like other waterbirds, flamingos are in danger from pollution and loss of wetlands.


The two flamingos facing each other in this picture were fighting or playing or something:

Well, Carrot Queen and everyone else, I hope you've enjoyed this flamingo entry! Perhaps we should all head south to warmer climes to see these pink birdies in their natural habitats!

Here is the the toast that the Carrot Queen always shares at our gatherings:
"To family that can be friends and friends that can be family."

I'm sure the flamingos agree.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Day at the Zoo!

Dear Critterfarians,

How are you?

To celebrate Marmot Day, R and I went to the Minnesota Zoo! It is highly recommended as a year round activity, but the tropical humidity of the Tropics Trail feels especially good in wintertime.

Obviously, we took some pictures! First, from the Minnesota trail section:

Our favorite, favorite funny guy, believe it or not, is the wolverine!

This year all of the wolverines were sleeping, except this one, who was scratching himself or just rolling around and going crazy:



Have you ever seen a peeing puma?!

The bald eagle!

Into the Tropics Trail....
Some tortoises:

An otter eating an apple!

These two otters are playing grab-ass; one underwater, one above:

R really loved these Visayan warty pigs!

I hope the zookeepers bury treats for them to find in the mud!

A fancy pigeon species:

More birds:


Happy new week to you all!
Wild Wendell at the Zoo!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Marmot Day!

Dear Critter Readers,


Happy Groundhog's Day! This historic date, February 2nd, marks the third anniversary of Wendell's Critter Corner!

(I'll pause to let you get a tissue/commemorative tattoo.)

And what is the forecast from our friend Punxsutawney Phil?

Ugh, six more weeks of winter! But isn't that always the case in this northern region of the United States?

But wait, another marmot has made a prediction down south! Check out this report from Gen. Beauregard Lee PhD, Georgia's "Official Weather Prognosticator"!

The 2007 Marmot Day post!
The 2006 Marmot Day post!
The inaugural 2005 Critter Corner entry!

Love to you all and thanks for your three years of support!