A Gift from Nature

Sea Otters, like all otters, are delightful creatures. We usually see them in a group off shore, out of range – oft-times entwined in beds of kelp. Seaweed keeps them from floating off. I’ve yearned to get close to them, without much success. It was a major surprise; when, after several aborted attempts, that we came upon a single. He was far from any group and was only ten feet from shore. He was definitely where he didn’t belong. He had perfect trust in us. It was a gift from nature. It couldn’t be anything else.

Sea Otters are brown and the older males have white faces. Males are also slightly larger than females. They have short tails and webbed feet – the back ones are flipper-like. Our Southern Sea Otter is found from Alaska to California, where they inhabit the coastlines within a mile of shore.

They spend their life at sea – eating, sleeping, mating, and even giving birth in the water. A new pup, two are rarely born, will ride on mom’s chest and will nurse up to a year before weaning. The female will make a cooing sound while she is nursing, and the babies will cry if they get separated from the group.

Most of their non-scavenging time is spent floating on their back, where they eat sea urchins, crabs, mussels, fish, and their favorite food – Abalone. A rock makes a handy tool to smash shells open to get at the meat. The prey is laid on their chest and then pounded with the rock. A 55 pound otter requires 13 pounds of food a day. That’s 1/4th of its body weight.

Sea Otters can stand in water to scan for danger, which they do by shading their eyes with a paw, Alarmed, Mom will grab Junior and tuck him under one flipper and dive. They can remain submerged up to four to five minutes. Otter fur is the thickest in the mammal world. It keeps them warm and buoyant. When not eating or sleeping, they are always preening – looking as if they are constantly scrubbing face and body and then rolling over as if to rinse off.

Sea Otter floating on his back

Coming upon this individual was indeed fortunate and I’m thankful for this gift from nature

Courtship and Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves go through a set of steps when courting.The male will “coo” and then the female will “coo.” The male will then alight on the branch next to her. He then bows and “coos” and she reciprocates in the same manner. He then will offer her a drink – a drink of dove’s milk. Dove’s milk is a heavy liquid, made from seeds, and is carried in the gullet. The female must insert her head to drink it. The male then preens the female and she in turn preens him. Mating can then proceed. These actions are called CHAINING – a set of steps that must occur in proper sequence or mating will not occur. If the chain is broken, or any step eliminated, the whole sequence must start over. Doves are often called “Love Birds” because of their tendency to sit close together on a branch.

The male will establish his territory in early spring – thus preparing for courtship and nesting. Territories selected will be in open or semi-open habitats. If your yard fits this description, you may have this species around your home. The resulting nest looks like a “rickety” affair – just a few sticks that light can show through. The eggs sit precariously on the sticks. They are all white, and both parents will incubate them. These birds will lay eggs in other Mourning Dove nests. A community affair, you might say. If the nest is threatened, the parent will perform a distraction (Agonistic) display.

This 11 to 14 inch bird is named for its mournful sounding call. I have heard other people mistake the call for that of an owl.

Our large yard seems to fit their needs, and they are at our place for most of the year. Cassia County has large populations in its dry farm areas where brushy areas border the wheat fields in the gullies that are inaccessible to cultivation.

Mourning Dove

Mostly tan but subtly colored about the neck and head