Waiting for spring: OWL
Last (but certainly not least!) in my series of wintering and preparing for the launch of THIS IS THE BOAT THE BEN BUILT: a look at what the great horned owl is up to!
Unlike some other birds, great horned owls do not typically migrate during the winter. Instead they settle into nests they find and lay their eggs. Sometimes these nests were made by other birds like the hawk, crow and heron. Sometimes they use squirrel nests, hollows in trees, rocky caves, or abandoned buildings. Females normally lay two to four eggs and incubate them for 26-35 days. Great horned owls very aggressively defend their nest from intruders and respond with bill-clapping, hissing, screaming, and guttural noises when threatened. They will spread their wings and even strike with their feet if needed.
And now for an extra special treat: the Cornell Lab has a live camera stream where you can watch a great horned owl nest in Savannah, GA! While it is much warmer there than it is in the northern parts of this owl’s range, I thought it was amazing to watch it live and even look back at recordings of the hatching egg and new owlet. There is also footage of the owl protecting her nest from predators, and of the male and female owls returning to their nest with food. Let me know what you think! You can find it here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/great-horned-owls/
Besides waiting for spring, one owl in my life can’t stop hooting about the launch of THIS IS THE BOAT THAT BEN BUILT. It’s nearly here now – thanks for joining me on this wintering and waiting journey!
Waiting for spring: MOOSE
Next up in my series of wintering and preparing for the launch of This is the Boat that Ben Built: a look at what the moose is up to!
Moose tolerate cold weather much better than they tolerate hot weather, but food is scarce and they must conserve their energy to make it through this season. Moose adapt by restricting their food intake and passing much of the winter resting and ruminating. Their hooves act like snowshoes, providing a large surface area to support their movement over the snow. They also use their hooves to look for food. Moose mostly eat twigs and shrubs like balsam fir, poplar, red osier dogwood, birch, willow, and red and striped maples in the winter. If food gets very scarce, moose will strip and eat the bark from trees.
Like the black bear, moose have two kinds of fur on their back that keeps them well insulated in the winter. A wooly layer of fur traps air next to their bodies, and air is also trapped inside the longer hollow guard hairs that make up the top layer of their fur.
Besides waiting for spring, one moose in my life can’t wait for the launch of This is the Boat that Ben Built. How about you? Preorder now!
Waiting for spring: BLACK BEAR
Next up in my series of wintering and preparing for the launch of This is the Boat the Ben Built: a look at what the black bear is up to!
Black bears spend the winter season hibernating in dens they have made in caves, burrows, brush piles, or other sheltered locations. They have periods of sleep and wakefulness but can go all winter without eating, drinking, urinating, or defecating. They burn the fat they have stored in the months leading up to winter and lose body heat slowly thanks to their lowered metabolism and thick insulating fur. Remarkably, even though their metabolisms are slowed, female black bears give birth in the middle of winter and nurse their cubs in the den until spring.
Did you know that black bears have two kinds of fur on their back in the winter? They have long guard hairs and a fine dense underfur that can barely be penetrated by water. This underfur is so insulative that bears out in the open can become covered with snow! You can read more about that, and see a photo of a snow-covered black bear here.
Besides waiting for spring, one black bear in my life can’t wait to bring her copy of This is the Boat the Ben Built back to the cubs in her den. How about you? Preorder now!
Interview with Open Book
It was such a joy to be interviewed on Open Book about This is the Boat that Ben Built. Here’s a snippet from the introduction:
“Today we’re speaking with Jen about This is the Boat That Ben Built as part of our Kids Club interview series. She tells us about where her love for cumulative stories comes from, how she left some key storytelling decisions up to her illustrator and was delighted by the results, and her favourite part of the life cycle of a book.”
Check out the full interview here!
Waiting for spring: HERON
Next up in my series of wintering and preparing for the launch of This is the Boat that Ben Built: a look at what the great blue heron is up to!
Great blue heron from north central North America are highly migratory because their feeding habitats ice over in the winter. Eastern great blue herons are more flexible with some migrating toward the south and others remaining further north. Populations west of the Rocky Mountains and more southward of the southern USA are non-migratory.
For those who migrate, important wintering areas include the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound, central California, the US midwest, the Colorado River, Great Salt Lake, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific coast of Mexico, and Florida. Banded birds from Canada have been found in Mexico, Honduras, and Cuba.
Those who stay in colder climates are often found “ice-fishing” during the winter: that is, standing very still over small ice holes or pockets of open water in hopes of catching a fish! To keep warm, these birds pull their s-shaped necks close to their bodies. They fluff up their feathers to help trap in their body heat. What about those thin, still legs? Heat loss is minimized in the legs of many birds because of the arrangement of their arteries and veins. The warm arterial blood that leaves the bird’s core warms the cool blood in the veins that return from the bird’s feet. This means that by the time the warm blood gets to the feet, it is cooler than it would be otherwise, and by the time the cool blood from the feet gets to the body, it is warmer than it would be otherwise. Lastly, great blue herons can also adapt by eating rodents, small birds, and snakes if needed.
Except while ice-fishing and waiting for spring, one great blue heron in my life can’t keep still as she spreads the news about the upcoming release of This is the Boat that Ben Built. Preorder now!
Waiting for spring: GOOSE
Who’s next in my series of wintering and preparing for the launch of This is the Boat that Ben Built? The Canada Goose!
The Canada Goose is another bird that normally migrates during the winter. The migration begins when the water and soil freezes on their northern breeding grounds. The majority of Canada geese migrate south to the United States or even to northeastern Mexico. Others stick around southern Canada where food and open water are available to them. In their wintering grounds, they often feed on energy-rich foods in fields like spilled corn, oats, and soybeans. You may have also seen some Canada Geese grazing on lawns, in parks, and on golf courses, too!
Canada Geese feed intensely before they return to their northern breeding sites in the spring. They rely on stored fat and protein for their migration and for their subsequent reproduction in areas where food will initially be scarce.
Cool fact: You might recognize the honking of Canada geese as they fly overhead in their distinct “V” formation, but did you know that adult Canada geese have about 13 different calls? They range from low clucks and murmurs they make while feeding to loud greeting and alarm calls.
Besides waiting for spring, one Canada goose in my life can’t stop honking about This is the Boat that Ben Built. I’d love for you to spread the news, too: share this post and invite someone to preorder now!
Waiting for spring: LOON
Next up in my series of wintering and preparing for the launch of This is the Boat that Ben Built: a look at what the loon is up to!
Loons migrate during the winter, but not to a warmer southern body of water. They migrate to the Atlantic Ocean. They must time their migration well as they need long water runways to take flight. If the body of water they are on becomes covered in ice they will be unable to lift off.
Once they reach the ocean, loons dive and fish in the open water. They have a special salt gland in their skull between their eyes that helps them adapt to life in salt water. This gland removes salt from the water and the fish they eat. The salt is excreted from ducts in their beaks.
Besides waiting for spring, one loon in my life can’t wait to return inland for her copy of This is the Boat that Ben Built (see below). How about you? Preorder now!
For many among us, the sound of a loon evokes memories of cottages, camping, hikes, and boat rides. Feel free to share a memory you have about loons in the comments below!
Waiting for spring: BEAVER
Next up in my series of wintering and preparing for the launch of This is the Boat that Ben Built: a look at what the beaver is up to!
A beaver’s special waterproof coat gets thicker in the winter, and they continue to be active throughout the season. Their lodges, which are made of mud, sticks, and logs, freeze together and become quite solid. This provides them with excellent protection from predators.
Ecosystem connection: During the winter, beaver ponds may provide shelter for other animals like frogs, turtles, dragonfly larvae, and brook trout. It seems that their lodges even occasionally provide homes for muskrat!
Read more about beavers in winter: https://www.ontarioparks.com/parksblog/the-beaver-in-winter/
Besides waiting for spring, the beaver in the last photo can’t wait to bring This is the Boat that Ben Built back to his lodge. How about you? Preorder now!
Waiting for spring: FISH
It’s one month away from the spring launch of This is the Boat that Ben Built and I started thinking about what the animals in the book might be up to while I was wintering and preparing. I’ve got my warm coat, mitts, and hat… What are they up to as they await spring? What winter adaptations do they have? First up: fish.
During the winter in river ecosystems, fish do best where there are a variety of different habitat features available to them such as deep pools, long runs with slow currents, and areas where ice conditions are stable. Sometimes fish school in winter. Sometimes they find a crevice to stay in. Their habitat is most stable where ice covers the river early and stays until spring. In deep areas under ice, fish can be more active during the day. They are less secure in areas with patchy snow and ice floes.
Fish metabolism slows in the winter because of the cold temperatures. It’s a good thing it does, too, because food is less available to them during this time of year.
Ecosystem connection: Beaver ponds are great winter habitat for some fish!
Besides waiting for spring, one fish in my life is waiting for This is the Boat that Ben Built.
How about you? Preorder now!