Contributor’s Wildlife Photos

October 22, 2019 • 10:15 am

by Greg Mayer

While Jerry journeys to the Great White South, Matthew and I will be helping to fill in as best we can, so I thought I’d begin with some of my wildlife photos.  First up is a young Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) in my backyard in Racine, Wisconsin. This is one of at least two rabbits that were born this year, probably in the yard, and which spent much of their time this summer in the yard.

Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus), Racine, Wisconsin, 30 July 2019, 5:00 PM.

Typical litter sizes are 3-6, so there may have been others living in my yard; I had thought there was only one, until I saw two at the same time. These rabbits are young, but by the time of these photos in late July, they would be weaned and on their own. Here’s one of them engaging in jumping around, in a manner the significance of which I am unaware.

They were usually seen in the early evening, while it was still light. They usually sat or moved slowly, feeding on grass and other green plants, including plants that I was encouraging! I’ve tried to plant my yard to a considerable extent in native species, and in a way that encourages wildlife. In the far right of the video you can see the hanging leaves of some Giant Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) that I planted in a more shady planting for woodland plants; it also has Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) and May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum). Below is a modestly successful tiny prairie with Prairie Cord Grass (Spartina pectinata) to the left and Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) to the right; there is an Aster flowering (white) to the left, with Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba), not yet flowering, just behind.

Tiny prairie, Racine, Wisconsin, 25 July 2019.

My other prairie planting, which I call “the prairie”, is much less successful. This is mostly Cord Grass in front, but the rest is largely Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea; with ‘foxtail’ seed heads), an invasive that I’ve not been able to control very well. It’s in this area, however, that I believe the mother nests.

“The Prairie”, Racine, Wisconsin, 25 July 2019.

15 thoughts on “Contributor’s Wildlife Photos

  1. Many of these plants look familiar though I did not know their names. I grew, and still live in southern Wisconsin on a farm. The farmer that owned the land took it out of production with the intent to let it go back to being prairie. He was also the local biology teacher so taking the land out of production was not onerous but a sacrifice, one that made my younger years that much more enjoyable.

  2. Off topic – sorry for the bunnies. But the Chili seems to have exploded following an attempt of the government to increase the urban transport fees – already 15 deaths, the army in the streets and the prospect of a general strike. And Jerry landed bang in the middle of that. Does somebody have news from him ?

  3. The broader group of ‘Cottontail’ rabbits are an interesting taxonomic mess. According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottontail_rabbit) there are maybe 3 identifiable species based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. These are given the common names desert cottontail, marsh cottontail, and the Eastern cottontail. There are several cottontail populations that are given species names but perhaps these are regional varieties.

    1. That’s interesting. Shows that adaptation is a long term process and that evolution is heavily branching. There is a species(not a cottontail) in the North East that’s on my interest list – the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) which is in my areas but is rare. I hope to see one someday.

    1. Especially since the video is of a young rabbit, I assumed the behavior was the playful manic leaping and running around behavior that many young mammals (including humans) and perhaps some other young animals (and sometimes even adults) engage in. I believe that d*G lovers have given the activity a name but it slips my mind at the moment. The phenomenon was discussed on WEIT sometime earlier this year.

  4. Your area is very similar to others in the Midwest. The cottontail rabbits have really gone down in population I think, mostly due to birds of prey. You see some rabbits in town but very few out in the country. The reed canary grass is very good on the bank of a pond or lake. Helps hold the banks and the geese and ducks really like the seed.

    1. The population of cottontails in my vicinity– Racine and Somers, Wisconsin- seems fairly stable. I’ve been surprised to see on several occasions rabbits in downtown Milwaukee, where I see them in grassy areas around road interchanges, but with city streets and highways close about them. I’ve seen them often enough that I don’t think they can be rare wanderers, but rather there is a population in the downtown area of Milwaukee (Wells, Kilbourn, and that area).

      GCM

  5. I think the western cottontail resides here in western Washington. They abound on our property, but I’ve had to dispense of at least three dead ones this summer as our dogs like to hunt. I wish the rabbits would learn not to enter our fenced-in area, but they don’t and get killed every summer. Poor buggers.

  6. The cottontail rabbit’s moves are designed to evade predators in an open field, showing how they can turn 180 degrees in one hop. However, if this young rabbit had been trying to evade a predator, it would have run underneath many of the nearby hiding places. I’d say it was just having a good time, running and jumping and getting in some good practice turning on a dime, for the inevitable time that a predator shows up.

    My pet rabbits (domesticated form of the European rabbit) would do much the same when I would let them run around my home. They seemed to really enjoy the antics. And it was impossible to catch them to get them to go back into their pens, due to the running/jumping/changing direction. Of course, if offered a treat (the bribe), they’d happily go back into their pens.

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