Tag Archives: berries

RED FOX KIT IN THE HOOD!

This morning on my way out I saw the most gratifying sight. A Red Fox KIT was carrying a captured rabbit in its mouth! Why so happy to see this? Because it means our neighborhood Red Fox family is dispersing, the Mama and Papa fox have taught the kits well, and that the young ones are able to hunt for themselves! The moment was so fleeting I wasn’t able to take a photo but the sighting reminded me that I hadn’t finished posting the last batch of photos from the week with the Good Harbor Beach Red Fox Family.

Face to face encounter with a kit – I was very quietly filming his siblings when I heard a faint scraping/rustling noise behind me and turned to see this curious one, perched on a garage roof above looking down. We were only several feet apart and for many good long moments we were able to examine each other eye to eye before he scampered off the roof. Dad Red Fox

I just want to add for the benefit of people who think Red Fox are a nuisance and may even be a bit frightened by their presence. Red Fox are solitary animals (unless denning). They do not hunt in packs and are about half to two-thirds the size of the Eastern Coyote, also seen in our neighborhoods. Their diet consists largely of small rodents, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, fruits, berries, and insects. Generally speaking, they do not go after people’s cats and dogs.

A tremendous plus to having Red Fox in our community is that they are the best hunters of mice and chipmunks, far better than Eastern Coyotes. Chipmunks and mice are the greatest vectors (carriers) of Lyme disease. So the presence of Red Fox is a good thing to help cut down on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Because Red Fox compete with Eastern Coyotes for habitat, and because Coyotes eat fox kits, Red Fox are denning closer to human dwellings as they deem it a safer choice than denning where they may encounter a Coyote.

The one drawback  to the presence of Red Fox is that they also eat chickens. I am sure. you have heard the phrase don’t allow the ‘fox to guard the henhouse.’ The root of that phrase comes from the fact that unlike many of their competing predators, fox cache their food, meaning they will kill a large number, and then hide the food, which has been known to happen at henhouses.

Here are some fun facts I learned about Red Fox while photographing and filming the Good Harbor Beach fox family –

Red Fox are super fast runners that can reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour. And they  can also leap more than six feet high!

The Red Fox was originally thought to be introduced from Europe in the 19th century, recent DNA tests have shown that these foxes are indeed native to North America.

To keep warm in winter, the Red Fox uses its bushy tail.

Enjoy any fox sightings, Red or Gray, and please let me know if you are continuing to see them in your neighborhood.

A WEEK WITH THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH RED FOX FAMILY PART TWO – if you are squeamish about baby bunnies, please skip over this post

Over the week I spent filming the Red Fox family, the kits became habituated to my presence. I worried about that, worried for the sake of the kits, especially after one incident where I heard a noise behind me and a kit was standing over my head looking down at me, only a mere few feet away. Several weeks later I was walking in the same neighborhood and the sound of hooves running wildly alerted me to a deer running pell mell up the hill, with a kit in hot pursuit. Red Fox adults don’t even take down deer and I wondered if the kit was practicing its hunting skills and also wondered, thinking about my eye to eye encounter with a kit, if I hadn’t looked up when one was looking down at me, if he was planning to pounce on me!

Every morning the dog and vixen brought mouths full of fresh prey to their kits. It was startling to see when an entire nest of baby bunnies was delivered, which one would imagine would be breakfast for all three kits, but was quickly devoured by the first kit in line waiting for breakfast.

Baby bunny breakfast

As the season progressed, some early mornings we would see the foxes make several trips across the beach, always with a large rabbit, or two, clutched tightly in it jaws on the return trip.

Good Harbor Beach Dad with not one but two adult rabbits

Kits eating a Shrew for breakfast

Red Foxes also eat fruits, berries, and insects. The kit in the above photo is digging for grubs

The Red Fox adults left dead small mammals all around the family’s home base, I think to encourage the youngsters to begin hunting on their own.

Relaxed Dad

My favorite few moments of filming was on a particularly beautiful morning when Dad was acting very chill. He had delivered breakfast, licked one of the kits clean, and was relaxing on the grassy knoll. The kit playfully surprise attacked him, coming in from behind and pouncing with an open jaw. It was beautiful to watch this familial scene with the Red Fox family unfold and is a moment I won’t soon forget.

Sneak attack on Dad!

Here are a few more photos. I have another batch, the last day with the Fox Family and will try to find the time to post next week.

 

A WEEK WITH THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH RED FOX FAMILY – PART ONE

On an early morning walk in May,  I came upon the sweetest scene of three Red Fox kits romping at the edge of a home with an expansive  granite foundation. They were having a wonderful time of it, playing hide and seek by slipping in between the cracks and crevices of the great granite blocks and boulders, running up the rocky hillside, and just being adorably puppy-like. I was perched in a well-hidden location and standing very quietly, when Mom soon arrived with a small mammal in her mouth.

Hide and seek while waiting for breakfast

I spent the next week or so checking on the family each morning, sometimes lucky enough to see, and sometimes they were nowhere to be found. I was hoping to simply capture a few minutes of footage to show how Red Fox share the same beach habitat as Piping Plovers, but saw so much more!

It’s a real challenge for vixen and dog to keep a family of healthy, active pups well fed. Both bring freshly caught prey to the kits continuously during the day and night. The Good Harbor Beach male was visibly more robust; the female was thin, with a slender concaving silhouette. From what I have read, she needs about a thousand extra calories a day to both nurse and hunt.  By the time the kits are weened, she will have lost 20 to 30 percent of her body weight.

The kits menu ranged from the tiniest shrew, to baby bunnies, adult bunnies, and even a very large Crow that was eaten less, and played with more. The youngsters took turns shaking the Crow in their mouths, much like how you may have seen a puppy shake a toy vigorously in its mouth. Red Fox are omnivorous and their diet also includes fruits, berries, grasses, crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, squirrels, mice and other small mammals.

Based on the kits’ eye color and coat, I would estimate the three were two and a half months to three months old when these photos were taken.

For the first eight weeks of its life, a Red Fox has blue eyes. At about two months of age, its eyes turn brown.  You can also estimate the age of the pup by noting the color of its coat. When the kits are in their den for the first month or so of its life, they are blue-gray. They become sandy colored for the next six to eight weeks and then develop their beautiful red color from three months on.

The week I spent photographing the Red Fox family, their coats were transitioning primarily from sandy to red, however one still had some blue.

The family has since moved from its cozy granite den and is now most likely still together as a family, but living in a more woodsy, brambly location. Coming next, Part Two.Note the brown eyes and developing red coat

PIPING PLOVER FAMILY ALL THREE PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors!

All three family members were present, the chick feeding on insects up by the Sea-rocket at the base of the dune in the roped off area, and parents taking turns minding the chick or foraging at the water’s edge.

The new beach raker was there, and he was great!! He entered the beach at the snack bar, stayed at that end, and then drove to the Creek but stopped to ask if we were taking care of the trash at the east end. Yes I said and we are happy to do it. So thankful for his consideration!

We have a new ambassador. I met Duncan last week and he has an interest in the PiPls well being. Duncan and his wife Sarah have a summer home on Salt Island Road. He is taking Shelby’s shift from 7 to 8am and Shelby is moving to 6 to 7pm so it all worked out very nicely. Thank you so much Duncan and welcome 🙂

Thanks again so much to everyone for all your help with our GHB PiPls.
xxKim

Piping Plover Chick Morning Stretches Routine – with beautiful tiny wing buds

In the above photo you can see the chick’s teeny tongue lapping up insects found on Sea-rocket. See article about Sea-rocket here

SEA-ROCKET!

What is that wonderful succulent yet scrubby-looking green plant we see growing on our local beaches? You are most likely looking at American Sea-rocket (Cakile edentula). Named for its rocket-shaped berries, Sea-rocket is a native annual. It grows in dry sand and is pollinated by beetles, moths, butterflies, flies, and bees. The edible flowers and peppery, succulent leaves, which taste somewhat like horseradish, attract myriad species of tiny insects as well.

Sea-rocket reseeds itself each year all around New England beaches and thrives in the poor medium of dry sand, above the high tide line. In springtime, along the Massachusetts coastline, you will see tiny shoots emerging and by early summer the multi-branching plant can grow two feet wide and equally as tall.

Throughout the Piping Plover’s time spent at Good Harbor Beach, Sea-rocket is an important plant, providing shade on hot summer days, protection from the wind, and attracts a smorgasbord of insects that both the adults and tiniest of chicks depend upon for their diets.

Piping Plover chicks and adults forage for small insects at Sea-rocket.

SEA-ROCKET GROWTH PROGRESSION-

The first photo was taken on April 6, 2019. You can see that there is no vegetation growing in the roped off area.

The second photo was taken about one month later, at the time our mated Piping Plover pair began nesting. Notice the tiny shoots of Sea-rocket beginning to emerge.

The third photo was taken during the second week of July. Look how beautifully the Sea-rocket is growing in the roped off area.The fourth photo shows the same area after the PiPl refuge was dismantled and the Sea-rocket raked over.Three Piping Plover chicks finding shelter beneath the Sea-rocket foliage.

Top Ten Tips for Attracting and Supporting Native Bees

Bees, butterflies, and songbirds bring a garden to life, with their grace in movement and ephemeral beauty.Bee and Monarch Butterfly ©Kim Smith 2012

Many of the plants that are the most highly attractive to butterflies are also the most appealing to bees, too!

Bees are also a “keystone organism,” which means they are critical to maintaining the sustainability and productivity of many types of ecosystems. Without bees, most flowering plants would become extinct, and fruit and seed eating birds and mammals (such as ourselves) would have a much less healthy and varied diet.

Native bees come in an array of beautiful colors, size, and shapes. Some are as small as one eighth of an inch and others as large as one inch. They may wear striped suits of orange, red, yellow, or white, or shimmer in coats of metallic iridescene. Their names often reflect the way in which they build their nests, for example, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, mason bees, plasterer bees, digger bees, and wool carder bees.

Approximately 4,000 species of native bees have been identified north of Mexico. They are extremely efficient pollinators of tomatoes, apples, berries, pumpkins, watermelons, and many other crops.

Native Bee Pollinating Apricot Tree ©Kim Smith 2009Native Carpenter Bee and Apricot Tree

Listed below are what I have found to be the most successful tips for supporting and attracting native bees to your garden.

1). Choose plants native to North America. Over millennia, native bees have adapted to native plants. If planting a non-native plant, do not plant invasive aliens, only well-behaved ornamentals.

2). Choose non-chemical solutions to insect problems, in other words, do not use herbicides or pesticides.

3). Choose plants that have a variety of different flowers shapes to attract a variety of bees, both long-tongued and short-tongued bees.

4). Avoid “fancy” plants, the hybrids that have been deveolped with multiple double frilly layers. This only confuses bees when they are looking for nectar and gathering pollen.

5). Provide a succession of nectar-rich and pollen bearing blooms throughout the growing season. Select plants that flower during the earliest spring, during the summer months, and until the first hard frost.

6.) Plant a clover lawn, or throw some clover seed onto your existing grass lawn to create a mixed effect.

7.) Bee Friendly–bees only sting when provoked. When encountering an angry bee, stay calm and walk away slowly.

8.) Plant lots of blue, purple, and yellow flowers, a bees favorite colors.

9). Provide a source of pesticide-free water and mud in your bee paradise.

The first nine tips are for any garden, large or small. The last is for people with larger land areas.

10). Establish hedgerows, or clumps of native woody shrubs and trees, and wildflower fields. Contact the USDA NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Services) for available funding opportunities.

Tomorrow I’ll post our top ten native plants for attracting and supporting native bees.

Cornus alternifolia ©Kim Smith 2009One of the most elegant of all native trees is the not-widely planted Cornus alternifolia, or Pagoda Dogwood. Where ever I plant this tree of uncommon grace and beauty it becomes a magnet for all manner of bees and butterflies.