Little known behaviours of wildlife

Someone reported seeing a crow lying on its back on an anthill and wondered what it was doing. The answer is simple. Birds find a dusty area and bathe in the dust to rid themselves of fleas. Crows, being intelligent birds, find an anthill and roll around, squishing many ants. The ants contain formic acid, which becomes smeared on the crow’s feathers. Formic acid kills the fleas and any bacteria that could harm these birds.

Crows are intelligent. Those that eat roadkill are rarely killed. They seem to be able to calculate when to stop eating, and leap into the air, when a vehicle is within a few centimetres of them.

Sometimes a juvenile, that hasn’t listened to its parents end up as roadkill.

Migration is a behaviour that is familiar to the general population. What is not commonly known is that there are different types. We know that birds fly south in the fall to escape the cold and those that survive return in the spring. But not all wildlife that migrate follow this pattern.

For example, Monarch butterflies fly south in the fall to a forested mountain in Mexico. These butterflies do not return. It takes four generations for this species to return.

In March, these butterflies leave the mountain and move to northern Mexico and southern U.S. Here, they lay eggs, which will be the first generation. By late April, the first generation emerges and flies north, laying eggs as they go.

In May and early June, the second generation hatches and moves north and in late summer the last generation hatches in the north. These are the ones that spend their lives here and in the fall fly all the way to Mexico to spend the winter.

The wood frog has a different migration. It doesn’t involve going south and fleeing from the cold. They leave the pond where they spent the summer and seek out a wooded area where they can crawl under a layer of leaves or moss.

As it gets cold, a chemical reaction occurs allowing these frogs to freeze. In the spring, they thaw out and return to their pond.

On a hike one winter, our junior conservation club found a wood frog under some moss. It was as solid as a chunk of ice.

I have seen frogs returning to a pond in the spring. They were covered in slime, so I expect they had just thawed out.