The Common Loon
The eerie calls of Common Loons echo across clear lakes of the northern wilderness. Summer adults are regally patterned in black and white. In winter, they are plain gray above and white below, and you’ll find them close to shore on most seacoasts and a good many inland reservoirs and lakes. Common Loons are powerful, agile divers that catch small fish in fast underwater chases. They are less suited to land, and typically come ashore only to nest.
Moose are the largest of all the deer species. Males are immediately recognizable by their huge antlers, which can spread 6 feet from end to end. Moose have long faces and muzzles that dangle over their chins. A flap of skin known as a bell sways beneath each moose's throat.
Behavior in Summer and Winter
Moose are so tall that they prefer to browse higher grasses and shrubs because lowering their heads to ground level can be difficult. In winter they eat shrubs and pinecones, but they also scrape snow with their large hooves to clear areas for browsing on mosses and lichens. These hooves also act as snowshoes to support the heavy animals in soft snow and in muddy or marshy ground.
In summer, food is far more plentiful in the northern regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. When the ice melts, moose are often seen in lakes, rivers, or wetlands, feeding on aquatic plants both at and below the surface. Moose are at home in the water and, despite their staggering bulk, are good swimmers. They have been seen paddling several miles at a time, and will even submerge completely, staying under for 30 seconds or more.
Moose are similarly nimble on land. They can run up to 35 miles an hour over short distances, and trot steadily at 20 miles an hour.
North American Black Bear
Whether they're walking on all fours or standing upright, black bears are large creatures. The average adult is between 4 1/2 - 5 feet long, and on all four paws, is 2-3 feet high up to the shoulder. While standing upright on its hind feet, black bears are 5-7 feet tall. Male black bears weigh an average of 200-600 pounds, and females only weigh an average of 150-250 pounds.
Identifying markers on black bears include erect, rounded ears, a short tail, and a long, narrow, and brown muzzle. Most black bears are completely covered in black fur, but some may have a small white patch on their chest. In rare instances, a black bear will be covered in a brown or cinnamon coloring.
Black bears are powerful creatures and can sprint short distances as fast as 30mph. They also have large claws that allow them to climb up trees. Aside from being great runners and climbers, black bears are strong swimmers too.
Habits & Habitat:
Black bears live between 30-40 years in the wild, and they spend up to 5 months each winter season hibernating and remaining dormant. Breeding occurs beween late May through September, and cubs are born at the end of January or early February.
For the most part, they are solitary animals that search for food alone. Females have a home range of 1-15 square miles, and males have a home range of 8-60 square miles. Bear dens are made in preparation for hibernation, and may be located in hollow trees, rock crevices or cavities, and under large tree roots.
In New York State, there are about 6,000-8,000 black bears in areas open to hunting. It's estimated that 50-60% of the population is in the Adirondacks, with 30-35% in the Catskills, and the other 10-15% in central/western New York. Overall, black bears are found throughout the state, from forested regions and agricultural areas to semi-rural environments.
Black bears are omnivores, or opportunist hunters. They usually eat plants, grasses, insects, berries, and other fruits. However, if the opportunity presents itself, black bears will eat small animals (reptiles, mammals, amphibians), fish, and human foods/products (garbage, bird seed, pet food, and more).
During the day, black bears are most active around dawn and dusk and will wander in search of food. However, it's not uncommon for hungry bears to be spotted in the daylight.
Throughout the year, black bears are active from late spring to late fall. The bears awake from hibernation in early April, but they have to wait for their digestive systems to recover after a period of inactivity. Then, around mid-November, when food sources become scarce, black bears begin to search for a den to stay for winter hibernation.
Owls are members of the Strigiformes, an order of birds of prey (like Hawks and Eagles). All owls are characterized by their large forward-facing eyes, hawk-like beak, flat face and circle of feathers around the face (called a facial disc). It is theorized that this disc helps to funnel sound waves towards the owls’ ears, so they can locate prey. Although the featured colors and patterns of different species can vary quite a bit, all owl feather patterns are adapted for exceptional camouflage when roosting and hunting. Many species have patterns that perfectly mimic the bark of preferred trees.
The sizes and shapes of owls vary quite a bit. Large owls such as the Great Horned or Snowy Owls can reach lengths of 2 feet and have wingspans reaching 4 feet across. Smaller owls, such as the Northern Saw-whet, are as small as 7 inches with 17 inch wingspans. The Elf Owl, found in the southwest US and Mexico, is a mere 5 inches with 15 inch wingspans.
Owls are primarily solitary nocturnal hunters. They roost in trees, usually with an open view of their hunting ground and wait for a small animal to pass. Like primates, owls have binocular vision, enabling them to pinpoint prey in a 3D field of vision, but unlike primates they cannot move their eyes. Instead they move their heads, and most can twist more than 270 degrees. Owls have excellent vision both in the dark and at a distance, but they are far-sighted and can’t focus properly on objects that are very close. To help compensate for this deficiency, owls have specially adapted hair-like feathers around their beaks and on their talons that increase tactile sensitivity; enabling them to better handle their prey.
With over 200 species world-wide, owls can be found in most corners of the globe (not in Antarctica or Greenland). Here in New York State we are blessed with eight nesting species of owl, including the endangered Short-eared (Asio flammeus). One of the best places to observe owls in New York State is Owl Woods in the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area.