Archive for the ‘Mammals’ Category

April in Boston, walking along the marshy banks of the Fens, you expect to see people jogging, Canada geese grazing and the common mallard swimming around looking for hand outs. I was surprised and delighted to come across a muskrat! Due to my ignorance about identifying this species, I at first thought it was a beaver. Apparently, his narrow tail and smaller size lets you know he is a muskrat, although this semi-aquatic rodent also (like the beaver) likes to live in wetlands, marshes and ponds.

I caught him on video!

Here he is eating some leaves off of a branch:

And here he is running into the water once he realizes he’s been spotted:

Apparently muskrats can stay underwater for over 15 minutes, so I didn’t stick around to find out where he’d pop up.

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European Hare

In August, I saw a few large rabbits running around the campus at work. It turns out you can’t call any rabbit a rabbit, these were in fact hares, which are bigger, faster and breed on the ground and not in a burrow.

European Hare, Stockholm, Sweden

The Latin name is quite straightforward, Lepus europaeus, meaning European hare. In Swedish, hare is the same word as in English.  When I looked it up in the Swedish dictionary, it noted that “hare” is used figuratively of cowards. Is it because you often see them running away at the sight of a human? Why do we call cowards scare-dy cats or chickens?  After a little googling, I found that the adjective sense for chicken of “cowardly” goes back to the 14th century, Shakespeare used it in the 1600’s, and we still use it today.

I looked up “hare” in the online etymology dictionary and didn’t come up with much, except I was reminded of the slang word “hare-brained”, which means “skittish flighty”.  This makes sense if you see a hare darting away as you approach. I took a short video to illustrate.

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