Sunday, March 2, 2008

Whistlepigs and redtails

The groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as the woodchuck, land beaver, or whistlepig, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Most marmots, such as yellow-bellied and hoary marmots, live in rocky and mountainous areas, but the woodchuck is a lowland creature. It is widely distributed in North America and common in the northeastern and central United States. In the west it is found only in Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, and northern Washington.

Today I pulled into our driveway to see a most beautiful woodchuck sunning himself on the blacktop in front of our garage door! He was fat and sleek with shiny eyes and a black button nose! I immediately fell in love with him/her. I think it lives in our falling down garage which means when we tear it down I shall have to make it a groundhog house or something... I think I am going to call it "Whistlepig". (see above)

A few snowy days ago as Molly and I went out to do her early morning voiding, across the street on my neighbors fence perched a hawk. It watched us for a short while, then as silent as the falling snow it swooped low over my head and soared into the sky. For a moment we made eye contact. It was breathtaking.

Today on my drive to church I saw another hawk. The drive to Cynthiana is lovely and quiet on a Sunday morning. I go past fields of cows and horses, creeks, farms, tumbling down houses, and woods. In a large sweet gum tree a hawk was stretching its wings, and then SWOOP! across the road in front of me and low over the field searching for prey. I was lucky enough to be there at the right time to watch it in glorious flight, its wings wide, its head swiveling just enough to spot the unlucky creature that would become its lunch...

I hope the redtailed hawk doesn't eat Whistlepig's babies. I would like to see baby woodchucks very much...

FYI: * Groundhogs have four toes on the front foot and
five on the back
* Groundhogs can remove 700 pounds of soil to complete a 20 to 25-foot-long burrow with multiple chambers
* The closer it is to autumn the fatter a groundhog will become
* During hibernation a groundhogs temperature will drop from 99° F to 40°F, its heartbeat slows from 80 beats per minute to 5 per minute and its breathing reduced from 12 breaths a minute to about 4
* Weather has nothing to with a groundhog emerging from hibernation, they appear when the mating season begins
* Groundhogs have great eyesight and sensitive hearing
* Groundhogs are fond of garden beans, peas, herbs, strawberries, pansies, and impatiens

1 comment:

TimmyB said...

Critter everywhere!

We get opossums here in Los Angeles, as well as coyotes. And we get hungry hawks. No groundhogs.