Recently I received a visit from Chris and Ray Budniewski who had just returned from a trip throughout the southern part of the United States. They brought back some excellent photos taken of birds found, both, in that part of our country as well as here in Western New York. It reminded me of an article that I once reported a few years ago, along with Allen Benton, on the northward movement of the Red-bellied Woodpecker. When we studied that bird, there appeared to be a northward migration of a few of the Red-bellied Woodpeckers along with a few other birds which could be attributed to climactic changes, bird feeding, or several other factors yet to be determined. It was once theorized by the late Frank Chapman, who defined migration as one of the most distinctive phases of bird life. He stated that while there are other animals that move territories for different reasons, the migration of birds has become one of the more distinctive behaviors of this group of animals.
While some species of mammals are also capable of migrations for purposes of survival, examples of such behaviors include moving to different habitats for food or protection, the summer form of hibernation is called aestivation, which is a process whereby some species of mammals such as chipmunks go through when changing such body functions as chipmunks may experience by seeking out burrows and remain there until weather conditions change. While we are usually most familiar with the bird migration phenomenon, before discussing the migration of birds, I want to digress for a moment and discuss the movement of mammals as compared to the well known migratory patterns of birds. To discuss these phenomena of mammal migration, one must look at the reasons for all migratory patterns of other animals just defined.
While migration patterns of mammals are less striking when compared to birds, the phenomena of aestivation are usually practiced during the hottest months of July and August. The reasons mammals migrate have been attributed to such factors as scarcity of food, severe climate conditions, and a desire or need to find a suitable habitat for the raising and nurturing of young. Another factor in the observed absence of animals in winter is defined as emigration, this phenomena is similar to migration with the exception being that the animal normally has no intention of returning. Some of the better known mammal hibernators are the already mentioned chipmunk, bats, bears, woodchucks, opossum and raccoon. The mammal photographs included in this article are: raccoon, Fox Squirrel, Opossum, and Black Bear.
Starting with the familiar raccoon, this animal is a chiefly nocturnal animal, but will on occasion appear during the daytime. A familiar animal to most area residents, the raccoon is widespread throughout most of our country, except the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains.
The next member of this group is becoming an unpopular visitor to local parks and woodlands. The Black Bear has been reported in our county in recent time, including Russell Joy Park. Well known for its appearances in state parks and local garbage dumps, I have photographed this animal while camping on some of the higher area elevations such as Allegany State Park.
One of the larger members of the squirrel family, the Fox Squirrel is normally found in woods, and parks such as the Point Gratiot area in the city of Dunkirk. It normally feeds on many food types on the ground such as seeds, nuts and fungus. Will store seeds in tree hollows, and other natural cavities such as home attics or other areas where there is an easy access. They have been known to store food stuffs in man-made facilities, such as attics, eaves and drain spouts. The bat most common to our area is the Little Brown Bat (see attached photo).
The Opossum is usually a nocturnal animal that is the only member of the marsupial family in North America, The best known member of this group is the Kangaroo who is obviously not native to our country.
As usual, I encourage you to keep me posted with any reports or photos you have by sending them to me at 38 Elm St., Fredonia, NY 14063, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.