Nature on Campus, January 20th-February 20th

Compiled by Eamon Corbett

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Photo Credit: Robert Hogg

It’s been a while since we last did a Nature on Campus update, so there’s a lot to report! Here are some of the nature highlights of the first few weeks of the semester:

Marsupials are usually more associated with Australia than Boston, but we do have one species in the area: Robert Hogg and Lorena Benitez found and photographed a Virginia Opossum on February 5th in the Quad. There aren’t a lot of mammal species that can be seen on campus, so it’s great to add a new one to the list! Check out Robert’s photo above. 

The more common group of mammals, the placentals, is still well represented, with Eastern Cottontail rabbits and Gray Squirrels outside, House Mice inside, and Brown Rats both out and (probably) in.

Before the cold snap last weekend there was a week where it really felt like spring, and the birds seem to have been fooled too: an American Robin was singing near Adams House on February 4th, the warbling song of a House Finch could be heard by the Holyoke Center on the 12th, and there are scattered reports of singing Northern Cardinals.

They aren’t the only ones starting the breeding season early: the resident Red-tailed Hawks have been spotted building a nest on the back of the Holyoke/Smith Center! From Mt. Auburn Street, look to the top right corner of the building to see if you can see them on the ledge above the second-to-right window in the top row. And keep your ears peeled for their distinctive “velociraptor scream” calls, which are so dramatic that they are often dubbed over patriotic footage of bald eagles to make the eagles seem cooler.

Jack Stevenson reports a different bird of prey, a probable Cooper’s Hawk, eating some small animal in the Kirkland Courtyard on February 15th

Other, smaller resident birds have also been common over the past few weeks: A fruiting tree in Randolph (Adams House) courtyard held a colorful contingent of 2 Northern Cardinals and 2 Blue Jays on January 24th, and more jays and some House Finches on the 26th. Jeff Ott reports a White-breasted Nuthatch in the MAC quad on the same day. There were Black-capped Chickadees in front of Lehman Hall on Feb 4th, and a Downy Woodpecker in front of the Geological Museum on the 9th.

Thanks to everyone who sent in sightings, and as always you can report any wildlife sightings to harvardnaturalists@gmail.com!

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