What You Can See on March 24

From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. Desert Jesters Monkey-like, nosy, noisy, gregarious, playful, busy, inquisitive, intelligent, comical. All these adjectives describe the white-nosed coatimundi, the raccoon’s skinny, diurnal cousin which seems to proclaim its attitude by carrying its long, ringed tail straight up and curled at the tip. Now, in the desert country of Mexico and our Southwest, coatis are mating and, though it hardly seems possible, even more active than usual. Females, which travel in troupes of 5 to 20, admit one dominant male for breeding. At 15 pounds, he is nearly twice their size; but he is submissive. Still, when confronted by a rival male he’ll rear up, puff up, raise his snout, and display his impressive canines in a protracted grimace that can induce laughter in even the most clinical biologists. After the male impregnates the females they throw him out of the troupe. Coatis spend hours grooming each other, removing burrs and ticks with their teeth. Like raccoons, they are omnivores, eating anything they stumble on from fruit to small mammals to invertebrates to reptiles to birds and birds’ eggs. They communicate by barking, chattering, hissing, spitting, growling, snuffling, scampering, and tail waving. Hard Drinking Woodpeckers East of the Rockies, yellow-bellied sapsuckers are moving north as sap rises in some 250 species of native tree favored by these furtive, medium-sized woodpeckers. Listen for the drumming courtship duets of both sexes and watch for the horizontal lines of squarish holes, all pointed slightly downward so as to collect sap. After a sapsucker has excavated a tree, it will leave to work on another, then return and lick the sap with its brush-like tongue, tilting its head back as if swigging beer. Describing one feeding bird, 19th and early 20th century naturalist John Burroughs wrote: “Then, when the day was warm, and the sap ran freely, he would have a regular sugar-maple debauch, sitting there by his wells hour after hour, and as fast as they became filled, sipping out the sap.” Yellow-bellied sapsuckers guard their holes, squealing angrily at other birds and chasing them away. You can occasionally attract them with suet, peanut butter or even humming bird feeders; and they will nest in bluebird boxes.