This evening, I arrived back home for the holiday. Of course, it's late in the year, so I probably won't have a ton of naturalizing to do. Yet, I'm daydreaming about what I miss in the warm seasons. There are some species that are more regular here, that I can only hope for as a rarity in Wisconsin.
Southern red-backed vole can breed through this month, and they use above-ground runways! "In the fall, it eats nuts and seeds. It also eats fungi, roots and some
insects." Prairie voles compete with and are pushed out by meadow voles. Its food sources are "insects and few fruits in the summer and autumn."
Yes, I stole the title from my favorite comical bird field guide! I have been digging into the winter ecology of some of the small mammals in Wisconsin. As the ground becomes snow-covered, it seems my best hope of discovering something "new" on my local walks is to learn about the furry animals. I'd like to learn more about tracking, and I've been compiling information about things that are out during the day (i.e. not hibernating). I'd like to at least be aware of "what's out there" in the Madison area, even if I'm not lucky enough to spot these elusive creatures!
Southern red-backed vole: This species becomes diurnal in winter, and may even forage overhead in trees! So, be on the look out for these guys climbing trees and peeling bark, particularly in mesic sites of mixed or conifer forests. Their microsite preferences include "cool, damp, wooded areas among rocks, mossy logs, hillsides, and streams." In winter, they use stored food, but also forage for tree roots and seeds.
Prairie vole: This vole also switches to a diurnal rhythm with the season, and can breed year-round! Populations appear to be cyclical, so if this is indeed a mild winter, perhaps next year will be a "boom year." In the winter, this species feeds on bark, roots and moss. A note about its habitat preference: "...found in dry grassy areas along fence lines and in open fields; sandy prairies and slopes, especially if weed or grass grown; abandoned farm fields; seldom in sparsely wooded areas. Preferred habitat seems to be native prairie sod, of which there is little left in the State." - Wisconsin DNR
Southern bog lemming: Despite the name, this species in our area occurs in "mostly grassy meadows" and can be found in the afternoon onward.
White-footed mouse: This species feeds on nuts and seeds during the winter, and will also use food hoarded in preparation for the season. You might find them a little too close to home (i.e. in your house)!
Chances for seeing any of these out and about are admittedly slim, but perhaps all the more necessary to be aware of our hidden wildlife!
So, we finally have our first snowfall tonight! Once again, my naturalist hobbies are about to shift for the season. This year, I hope to finally get into tracking. We also have some new members of the department who are doing mammal research, so I hope to learn from them.
In light of the first snowfall of the year, I also changed the theme a week early! I stuck with an orange, though, because the suggested red was a little bright. Also, keep rolling tigers!! Clemson pride!
We finally make a long overdue venture to this park in our county! I had never been until today, and it was really neat. We checked out the St. Mary of the Oaks chapel, and then wandered through fields and woods for a little while. There were a lot of mushrooms today! I saw what I think was the same species I saw yesterday (maybe?) in the arboretum, which I'm wondering if it's Trametes elegans.
Further down the path, I was delighted to find a mushroom I'd been hoping to see: Bisporella citrina!
This area of the woods was rich with cup fungi, in all sorts of bright colors. I found again a fungus I first located in the north woods...
This time, I got a better picture of its namesake: the staining of the wood that hosts it. This dyed wood was once valuable to artists.