Feathers ‘n Fins

By Tom Hennessey,
Posted March 06, 2009, at 11:21 p.m.

Easing into a cedar swamp, the hunter stopped and crouched as the yodeling of the beagle swung toward him. Aware that a sudden movement or sound would turn the snowshoe rabbit — varying hare, actually — the hound was trailing, the hunter remained statue-still while watching for a flicker of white fur among shadows blue with cold. Minutes later, while tucking the rabbit into the game pocket of his jacket, he noticed blotches of brown in its fur. With that and a squint at the elevation of the mid-March sun, he thought, “The way some animals and plants respond to the photodynamics of daylight lengthening and diminishing is simply amazing.”

Accordingly, the increasing daylight of late winter causes a gland behind the snowshoe rabbit’s eyes to start the biological process that changes the color of the animal’s fur from winter-white to summer-brown — though the woods are still smothered with snow. Conversely, in the diminishing daylight of autumn the fur begins changing back to white before a flake of snow has fallen.

Later, after bagging another bunny, the hunter snapped a leash on his beagle and headed for the barn. At the edge of a power line he paused to admire poplar buds and pussy willows bursting with promises of spring. “Hard to believe it,” he thought, “but woodcock will be arriving here in another week or so.” Shortly thereafter, while crossing an ice-rimmed brook, his thoughts turned to fishing. But because another snowstorm was forecast for the weekend, the hunter realized he was pushing the season. On second thought, however, he allowed that maybe he was just reacting to the photodynamics of days getting longer.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/03/06/outdoors/feathers-lsquon-fins-7/ printed on October 25, 2014