I was homeschooled through much of my childhood. During one such session (math, I think?) in autumn, my sister, mom, and I looked up at our ceiling to find hundreds — literally hundreds — of tiny red and black-spotted “aliens” invading our house through an almost invisible space between the edge of a window and the ceiling. Our house was under siege from insects commonly known as ladybugs! They were looking for a safe, warm place to hibernate over the long, cold winter, and our house apparently fit the bill. We were well into the winter vacuuming up the remnants of our autumn invasion. Scientific results are inconclusive as of yet, but I suspect our insect invasion may be part of the reason my mother hates the red and black-spotted insects now.
If you happen to find yourself wading through one of the many clear, cool, freshwater streams meandering their way across North Idaho, you’re likely to spot some fish. Some, like trout, are skittish (for good reason!), and are likely to dart away before you get real close. Others prefer to rely on their camouflage to protect them, and will lie very still until anything they perceive as a threat has passed. One of these fish is the slimy sculpin.
Cats, bears, birds of prey, foxes, wolves and even weasels stalk the forests of North America on the lookout for prey. If you’re a small fluffy critter with no teeth, claws, or noxious scent to keep such predators at bay, you’ve always got to be on the alert. One option is to be really fast and simply outrun attacking predators. Another is to be well-hidden so the predators don’t spot you. Or you can be like the snowshoe hare and be prepared for either scenario!
“I think I stink. I turn the green grass pink. Wherever I go that smell follows. That cloud I make no one can take.” That was the first line of a song from a cartoon I used to watch as a kid. The singer was, appropriately enough, a stink bug character named Stanley, who often lamented about his species’ most characteristic trait. But is the lowly stink bug all smell, or is there more to this critter than what meets the eye … or nose, in this case?
There are hundreds of species of mice and mice-like rodents throughout the world. But to most of us, a mouse is a mouse is a mouse. After all, who cares about identifying what mouse species you are looking at when all you want to do is trap, poison, or sic the cat on them in your home? But the danger in overgeneralizing is that we miss out on learning what makes each species unique in its own right.
The title of Idaho’s most sad-sounding cry might have to be the appropriately named mourning dove (Zenaida macroura). The oowoo-woo-woo-woo call is quite distinctive and sets them apart from most (if not all) other related birds.
As we transition from winter to spring, nature lovers should take a chance to stroll along North Idaho’s many streams, rivers and other bodies of water. If they are fortunate enough, they might catch a glimpse at one of the most relentless aerial predators of the insect world: the dragonfly.
If you see a little rodent scurrying about in the thicket or under the snow, you may think it’s a mouse. And it may be a mouse, but at first glance it is very difficult to tell a mouse apart from another little rodent, the vole. So difficult, in fact, that voles are often mistakenly referred to as “field mice.” What makes these little scurriers so different from each other? For starters, they belong to different families.