Tree Swallow

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The Tree Swallow is the first of the swallows to arrive in Spring. Although they are mainly insect eaters, they can survive on berries and seeds when there is snow on the ground.

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These birds are handsome aerialists with deep-blue iridescent backs and clean white fronts. They tend to reside near water and lately I’ve been seeing quite a few of them at Beaver Marsh on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath.

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Tree Swallows are streamlined songbirds with long, pointed wings and a short, slightly notched tail. Their bills are very short and flat. They chase after flying insects with acrobatic twists and turns, their steely blue-green feathers flashing in the sunlight.

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Tree Swallows nest at this time of the year and you can see them entering and leaving their nests as they tend to their young. They nest near water in tree cavities and old woodpecker holes. The female builds a nest lined with grasses and feathers.

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These birds are highly social and may form flocks of several thousand birds at nighttime roosts outside of the breeding season.

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As their name suggests, Tree Swallows spend little time on the ground, preferring instead to perch. They spend much of their time in flight and tend to glide more than any other species of swallow. This is a great time of year to observe their airborne acrobatics.

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Least Weasel

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Walking along a trail, I heard a noise in the underbrush, so I decided to check it out. I ended up seeing my first wild weasel. The Least Weasel is the smallest living carnivore, growing to 10 inches.

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It has a long, slender body, short legs and a broad, slightly flattened head. Weasels bound or lope with their back arched. They swim well and climb trees easily. Least Weasels specialize in taking small prey such as mice and voles. They do most of their hunting in tunnels made by these rodents.

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In the Summer this mammal has a brown coat, but in areas where it snows the Least Weasel gets a white Winter coat. They are adaptable and do well in a wide variety of habitats, including open forests, farmlands, meadows and prairies.

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It was an unexpected surprise to come across this very cool creature.

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Worm Snake

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Worm Snakes are small snakes, only growing to about a foot long. Their color can vary from pinkish-brown to dark-brown. They somewhat resemble earthworms and spend most of their time underground, which is how they get their name. They are seldom seen.

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These reptiles are found where there is damp soil, especially in forests. They seem to prefer soils with abundant leaf litter. These snakes also live in meadows and along lakeshores.

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Their tail has a sharp tip. Although harmless to humans, this species will often press its pointed tail tip against its captor. Scientists think the pointy tail tip aids the snake in digging.

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Worm Snakes eat more earthworms than anything else. Other foods include slugs, snails, small salamanders and soft-bodied insect larvae like grubs and caterpillars.

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The scales of this reptile are smooth, iridescent and feel like satin. They have a pointed, flattened head and very tiny black eyes.

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These fascinating snakes are not native to northern Ohio (where I live) so this one was a pleasant find on my recent trip to Kentucky.

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