Monday July 23, 2012

Q: On Saturday, July 14 at precisely 11 a.m. I was driving into my driveway when I suddenly saw a flash of wings overhead. I stopped and there was a barred owl perched on a branch. He just sat there for the longest time giving me a good look. The weather was hot and humid.

Peterson lists this bird as a nocturnal native of woods and marshes. My friend here in Otis also saw a barred owl outside her home in mid-morning. Aren't all owls nocturnal?

MICHAEL, Otis

A: Most, but not all owls are nocturnal. One notable exception is the snowy owl.

Barred owls are mostly nocturnal except during the winter when heavy snow may hinder their mice-catching, and they are starving.

I suggest that the owl was "spooked" by crows that happened to find it roosting.

Q: Thanks for answering my question about a snowshoe hare.

I showed it to a neighbor, Julia, who asked me to ask you how to discourage chipmunks from eating her flowers and tomatoes. They have a burrow near her door to store peanuts given by another neighbor in another building. Ideas?

Also two nights ago after the rain, I was walking on pathways with puddles and saw two frogs about an inch long, certainly not our larger pond frogs. Are these tree frogs?

And last night I was out walking and saw two beautiful skunks. The skunks were a different variety -- three quarters long white hair on top with bottom one quarter black.


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They walked more like a cat, but I am sure they were skunks. The white hair was longer than an angora cat's, coarse and thinner, giving it a shimmery effect.

Do you know of this skunk variety? I found a partial skeleton of a skunk a few months ago at the edge of the woods with this long white hair.

DIANA, Dalton

A: My guess is you might try a rodent repellent that you can sprinkle around the plants. You can try a local hardware store, or nearby L. P. Adams for that matter. I suppose that it won't do any good to ask your neighbor to stop feeding the chippies primarily because they already have enough.

As for the frogs, they may well be spring peepers, a small tree frog, that we hear making a racket (but a pleasant racket) in early spring.

Of course, at this time of the year, size alone may not be enough for an identification as many of this year's pollywogs are turning into adult frogs and may be the size you mention.

There is only one species of skunk in these parts, the striped skunk. Color patterns vary widely though.

Q: There is yet another partial albino crow down here, and I think the two are nest mates as I have seen them together with an adult.

On this one, the color is not as pronounced, but the entire trailing edge of his wings are lined in white.

I was going to ask what I could use to draw them in a little closer, but I got some good shots this morning.

J.K., Great Barrington

A: Albinism ranges from totally white with pink eyes to varying amounts of white.

And as for drawing them in closer, a bird bath will help unless you are close to water. Certainly any obvious food item, a slice or two of bread tossed out (nearby) will draw them.

I use these two suggestions because for a while I had to drain our bird bath. A neighbor (no idea how distant) was putting stale bread out for birds and a crow was soaking it in our birdbath to soften. What a mess!

Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email Naturewatch@live.com