Critter Round-up 2021

It’s the most wonderful post of the year! It’s longer than ever, chock-full of feathers, and some things with big eeeeears!!

It’s the hap-happiest posting of all! There are wee ones a-creeping, one that is sleeping, some big and some smaaaaaall!

Here we are again, at my end-of-the-year post, the one in which I feature the new, best, and/or once-in-our-lifetime critter encounters we had in the last year. Not only that, I spend way too much time combing the ‘net to come up with a Fresh Fun Fact™ (FFF™) to accompany each photo. In years past, I’ve only included the name, the state(s) in which they were espied, and the FFF™. I’m feeling a bit more chatty this time and I may include a Fresh Fun Opinion™ here or there.

2021’s compilation is bigger than previous Round-ups for a few reasons. Many of them were espied during our travels east of the Mississippi, where we will not be traveling much in the future and not by RV at all again, most likely. Critters that can only be found there were obvious choices for this year’s collection, and birds are the majority. Also weighing heavy in the selection process was the fact that it’s looking like it will be a long stretch before we return to the southwest again after this winter, so much of that fauna I’d not previously highlighted begged to be included.

I also always have to consider the possibility of us ever spotting some critters even if we think we’ll be in their territory again and even if they’re common. Espying a critter is one thing. Getting a good (enough) photo of it? That’s a whole ‘nother animal.

Now, here’s a whole bunch of other animals!

White Ibis FL+

FFF™ White Ibis chicks have straight bills until about two weeks of age. We saw many Ibis families, mostly in Florida, the young ones mottled brown and white. The above photo is my favorite of the Ibis, though, with its snow-white plumage, pink bill and legs, and baby-blue eye.

Baltimore Oriole WI

Many backyard birders know that Baltimore Orioles will flock to an offering of grape jelly, but why is grape so popular with them? It’s because FFF™ these flashy orange and black beauties seek out the darkest, reddest, most purple fruits — they may turn their beaks up at light-colored sweets, even if they’re ripe.

American Bison ND

Our bison sightings in ND weren’t our first by any means, but coincidentally, ND was the first place I ever saw bison, and for now, it’s the last. FFF™ the bison’s hump is made of pure muscle which is the driving force when they turn themselves into beefy snowplows to forage in the winter.

Black-throated Sparrow AZ

Such a pretty, happy sound they make but don’t be fooled! FFF™ That “tinkling bells” song is made between cranky males who are not happy with one another at all. I fully concede that my use of the words “cranky” and “happy” are anthropomorphic. So sue me.

Eastern Meadowlark ND

My scraggly-looking specimen, while it sang a beautiful lark song, is not a lark at all. FFF™ It’s a blackbird that’s also, obviously, not black. Taxonomists are silly, aren’t they?

Black-and-white Warbler WI+

Feisty and territorial, these striking little warblers FFF™ behave more like nuthatches with their upside-down and all-around bark-creeping, which is made easier by use of their extra-long hind claws.

Leaf-footed Bug FL

As cool-looking as they are, they’re FFF™ widely considered pests that do great damage to food crops of all sorts. They don’t damage vehicles, thankfully!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird WI

Of all our great luck in photographing iridescent hummingbirds over the years, we never did get any shots of their brilliant gorgets. Truth be told, I never would’ve named them “ruby,” since their color tends toward the orange range. If I had been consulted, I would’ve named them Vermilion (and the flycatchers with that name Ruby.) FFF™ They can see into the ultraviolet spectrum, which humans cannot do, so perhaps to themselves, they’re ruby after all!

Abert’s Towhee AZ

If TBG hadn’t encouraged me to set out a larger watering trough at our campsite feeding station, I might never have seen this specimen so clearly. FFF™ unless you entice them in, which isn’t difficult to do in their relatively small U.S. range, they can be difficult to spot clearly in their brushy habitats.

Canyon Towhee AZ

No sooner had someone stopped me along the trail — those conspicuous birding binoculars! — to ask if I’d seen any Canyon Towhees, this one showed up at our campsite. FFF™ Mitochondrial DNA tracing established this bird as a separate species from the California Towhee. Sometimes I think they do that just so birders can say they’ve bagged more sightings.

Desert and Eastern Cottontail Rabbits AZ WI

FFF™ a group of wild rabbits is called a Fluffle. When a kerfuffle breaks out in a Fluffle, you may hear growling. Growling in a Fluffle! I could end this post right here and be happy forever.

Red-headed Woodpecker NC

The symbol of many eastern bird organizations’ logos, FFF™ this gorgeous woodpecker sports small, fine nostril feathers that keep wood dust out while it does what it’s named for.

Cactus Wren AZ

Unlike many other wrens, their song is not melodious at all and has been equated to the sound of a car that won’t start. Also unlike many other birds, FFF™ they use their nests — those twiggy clumps so often seen in the cholla cacti — as year-round roosting places, not just for raising young.

Modest Sphinx Moth WI

This is one of those critters that FFF™ although it is widespread across every country in North America, the chances of spotting one again or being able to photograph it are slim. Moths are, generally, night creatures, and we are, generally, not.

Snowy Plover FL

It was the wrong time of year for us to espy any chubby plover chicks, but those of the Snowy FFF™ can forage on their own a mere three hours after hatching!

Red-spotted Newt NC

Such a thrill when we spotted (ha!) not one, but two of these bright cuties, as FFF™ they are only this color and terrestrial in their juvenile stage when they are called efts. Before and after this stage, they are solely aquatic, and they eat mosquitoes then. What’s not to love about them?!

Ovenbird WI

Noisy and abundant, it sure took me a long time to finally see one of these warblers. FFF™ They are named for their ground nests, made of one integrated piece by the females, resembling a Dutch oven

Wilson’s Snipe WI

This is one of those critters that is common and widespread in all our future destinations, but it is being included now because another will almost certainly never pose so nicely for me as did this one. FFF™ The bill of the Wilson’s Snipe has a flexible tip, allowing it to open and extract prey from the mud without having to open their entire bill.

Free-roaming Horses ND

FFF™ Did you know that horses cannot breathe through their mouths? Well, they can’t. They also can’t burp or vomit, which is what makes certain plants/feed dangerous for them. And, no, that little one in the dirt didn’t eat something toxic, he was just napping while the mares stood watch.

Eastern Towhee NC

A poor photograph, but the best I have to showcase this bird. Because they are so similar to and, indeed, used to be classified as the same species with the Spotted Towhee, the only way I knew this was an Eastern when I espied it was where we were. FFF™ the distinction between the Spotted (west) and the Eastern is a common evolutionary pattern seen in North American birds. When the continent was divided down the middle during the Ice Age, it also split bird populations that then developed into new species, which sometimes still interbreed along the healed divide.

Solitary Sandpiper OH

FFF™ it is the only North American sandpiper that lays its eggs in a tree nest instead of on the ground, and those nests are the old ones of other species, not ones they build themselves. Way to re-use and recycle!

Monarch Butterfly WI

Over the summer at the Northern Great Lakes VC where we helped with the Monarch incubating, I learned more about them than ever. The one pictured above is one I personally got to transport out into the world by hand, its grippy little feet causing a delightful sensation on the pads of my finger. FFF™ They’re doing pretty good in the east, but the western population was struggling mightily until — still inexplicable to scientists — their numbers have rebounded dramatically in the last year. Maybe it was the resurgence in gardening brought on by folks staying home (my personal theory,) but whatever it was, hooray for the Monarchs!

Marsh Wren WI

Another bird that I will surely see many times in the future but one that is notoriously hard to photograph well. FFF™ adorable and musical, they are also vicious, even to others of their own kind by piercing eggs and nestlings in order to maintain their territory.

Bottlenose Dolphins FL

FFF™ They are the only mammal to give birth to their young tail (feet) first, and they name them in their squeaky language. Then they call and recognize one another by name!

Eastern Phoebe WI

FFF™ The first-ever banded bird in North America was an Eastern Phoebe, and it was done by John James Audubon himself using a silver thread.

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly GA

FFF™ a.k.a. The Pawpaw Butterfly for their preference as caterpillars to eat the leaves of the pawpaw and retain their toxins as a predator deterrent once they’re butterflies.

Loggerhead Shrike AZ

Many people know that the Loggerhead Shrike is sometimes referred to as a “butcher bird” due to its habit of impaling its prey on sharp objects. FFF™ but not only does it do that, it will leave noxious prey (see above FFF™!) like certain butterflies and toads impaled up to three days to allow their toxins to break down before consumption.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnack FL

FFF™ The largest species of rattlesnack in the world, the Eastern Diamondback is the one featured on the Gadsden Flag along with the very wise advice not to tread on it!

Northern Cardinal AZ FL OH WI

In our travels, I think we have seen at least one Cardinal in every state where they live. They are the state bird of my home state (Ohio,) and although I was used to seeing their cheery color throughout many a long winter, I never knew until recently that FFF™ they don’t migrate at all.

Brown Thrasher MI

Think you want to espy one of these? Be mindful of nesting season FFF™ when they have been known to so aggressively defend their nests, they have struck people and dogs hard enough to draw blood!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail VA

It may look like I’ve included a Black Swallowtail here, but nay! She is a female Eastern which frequently FFF™ come in an elegant black morph.

Prairie Falcon AZ

FFF™ They have been spotted dropping dried cow pies in midair, then swooping to re-catch them. Playing or practicing? I say both because it’s my blog, and I say what I want.

White-tailed Deer WI

Herbivores? Uhhh, mostly. FFF™ they will, however, opportunistically feed on nesting songbirds and field mice.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

FFF™ The tips of their long tongues are barbed, and their spit is sticky which makes extracting nummies from deep crevices a cinch!

Eye-spotted Ladybeetle MI

Call them what you like — ladybug, ladybird, ladybeetle — they are the delight of gardeners for their dietary choice of pesky insects like aphids. Not as ladylike, FFF™ they will “bleed” hemolymph from their “knees” when threatened.

Gray Catbird WI

They’re not hard to find, but if you’re having trouble, FFF™ make a “pishing” sound, and they might come to see what’s up!

American Mink WI

Another of those critters that will not be uncommon in the areas of our future travels, but one not often spotted easily. Although it seemed at the time that I had ample opportunity to get good shots of this one, it — obviously– was difficult as it was in constant motion. Lucky for me, it stayed above water, but FFF™ minks can stay submerged for just over five minutes!

Piping Plover FL

These adorable little plovers are endangered but they are also FFF™ masters of disguise. Hmmmmm…

Rose-breasted Grosbeak OH WI AZ

I’ve seen these dapper birds many times, but I don’t recall their song. Apparently, I’ve really missed out because FFF™ they’re said to sound like happy robins that have had opera training or are drunk!

Moose ID WY

FFF™ A full-grown bull moose can weigh up to 1600 lbs., 100 of which can be the contents of their stomachs!

Tufted Titmouse NC

FFF™ These crested little cuties line their nest cavities with animal hair, often plucked from living animals — even humans!

Curve-billed Thrasher AZ

So stern-looking! My FFF™ is really my FFO™ which is that these mean-muggers have just about the prettiest song in the Sonoran Desert.

Now it’s time for me to close the critters’ gates for the last time in 2021. There are monumental changes ahead in 2022 for us Dirt Chasers, but I’m going to make you wait awhile longer before I delve into all of that. Here’s hoping the new year sees a minimum of growling in your Fluffles and an abundance of seed in your feeders.


27 thoughts on “Critter Round-up 2021

  1. That leaf footed bug looks a lot like the critters we were invaded by in late summer right up until this past week when some came in with the new stove (had been stored in garage while we awaited propane installation).

    That horse picture is one to be printed and framed. Love it!

    Love all of your collection and the fun details. You’ve done an amazing job of photography and could (maybe should) make a coffee table book with your fun comments included.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh, invading bugs! I hope they’re all gone from your house now. I know they sometimes like to be where it’s warm and although they don’t usually damage household things, they will proliferate inside. Do the chickens like to eat them, I wonder?

      I am diligently collecting our “best of” photos for our future home. It’s going to be hard to decide, especially with my minimalist nature. The horsie one is definitely a contender, though!


  2. I always love your year end round ups because I know I will learn something new! And I agree with you about the Curved Bill Thrashers song, cause we heard them most of the time and love it too! Thank you so much for your time and effort in researching the FFF for I know that ‘s a lot of work :(. But soon your research will be about different things 🙂
    Anyhow, we wished you excitement and safe travels wherever the wind takes you in 2022, continued good health to face new adventures and challenges and that you continue with your year end round ups, cause those of us no longer traveling needs some new teachings and new learnings.
    Happy New Year to both of you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is my pleasure to do this sort of research, and no matter what else I’m doing or where I’m doing it, I will take the time to look for and learn about the critters, then share with you!

      We are so blessed to have you in our lives, thankful we had time to visit in 2021, and excited for (at least) one more visiting time in 2022. I hope we spot some critters together!!


  3. Wow Joodie – an impressive line-up of critters! Sorry you didn’t get to see the Himilayian Snow Cock in Nevada, but we tried… I now know what to call all the bunnies eating my plants – fluffle is not usually what I say when I see them bunched around my ornamental grasses or veggies 🙂 Whatever the future brings, I am sure you will always be espying more creatures, learning FFF about each animal, and capturing epic photos. -Kim

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kim, it was a good critter year, for sure! I, too, am disappointed we didn’t find that darn Snowcock, and I seriously considered going through the Rubies on our way north to try again. Sadly, I’ve had to leave that one on the table, but someday let’s do it again!

      I bet you do say something that starts with “f” though when those bun-buns are chomping your plants 😀

      You know me only too well — I will be a critter-spotter always ❤


  4. This is a round-up to make critter searchers proud! I love the variety of different animals, the fabulous photos — I know how hard it can be to get the critters to sit still — and of course the very compelling FFFs. And the mixture of different climates suggests it was an interesting and varied year on the road. Can’t wait to learn more about what’s next. Happy new year!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hooray! I know how much you like the critters, too, and your work with the turtles was not only a wonderful gift but made for some of the most fun blog posts. I’ve been re-reading a few of your other posts lately, too, and I think you *might* know why 😉 What a neat observation about the varied geography and climate experienced in a year via critters — I should talk about that more next year, thank you for a great idea!


  5. Hoppy Gnu Deer to you two! I loved this post, I love learning fun facts about critters. Some of these I knew (gnu), some I did not!
    A not so fun additon to the horse facts is that, because they cannot burp or vomit they have very delicate constitutions. Unlike cows, horses can “colic” or “bloat” and die if they eat too much at once, too fast, or eat moldy or otherwise yucky feed or any number of other reasons. Most horse people have known the joys of continuously walking their horse (sometimes for hours) in an effort to shift the gas bubble or bolus that may be causing a potentially fatal situation. Or the thrill of finding a moldy bale of hay before their horse does. Delicate little creatures are they!
    I appreciate all the work this post took, it’s fun to see everyone, familiar or new to me. No matter where this year takes you….I hope you’ll keep up with your blog. We love seeing things through your eyes!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Those poor ponies! That sounds like sitting up with a colicky baby (not that I’ve had one of those, either, but I’ve heard the stories.) I knew horsie people had to be very careful about what grows in the pasture and might come in the hay, but with your additional FFF™s, I never realized how complicated it can be. Kudos to all of you who have cared for them!

      I promise you I will continue to write, and thank you for the promise to continue to read ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What awesome photos! Loved every one and really enjoyed the FFF. Thanks for the extra effort to make us much smarter people. There are a few mink that roam the docking along the St. Lawrence River at my mother’s. They are so quick. Glad you captured a cute photo. Can’t wait to hear your big plans for 2022. Hope we connect again someday. Happy New Year to you both!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Pam! While it is my most labor-intensive post each year, it is a labor of love, and it makes me so happy when other folks love it, too. That mink was such a surprise — I had my camera focus set for birds way out on that ore dock when it came scurrying out from under where I was standing. It was definitely a scramble to get the pics I did! Just one more post or two before I make the Big Reveal (ha!) and I’m sure, one way or another, we’ll re-connect in person. Hope ’22 brings much joy for you!


  7. I just adore this post, from the beginning song (LOL LOL!!) all the way to the Happy Gnu Year. Your photos are fantastic—we know just how hard it is to get a good photo of a Black-and-White Warbler! And your fun facts are so much fun to read. I most definitely did not know that a group of rabbits is called a Fluffle. A kerfuffle in a Fluffle 😂😂 I have to say, though, that there are always facts that cause me distress. I knew about the murderous ways of the Loggerhead Shrike—but the adorable little Marsh Wren? Nooooo…….

    Happy New Year, dear friends. I’m glad to see that so many of your critter photos were from Florida, and I hope that someday, your travels will bring you back this direction. May this new year bring you all the best of everything. OXOX

    Liked by 2 people

    • I always have you in mind when I am researching my FFF for this annual post and even moreso this year because Florida played such a big role this time. The first B&W Warbler I saw was at your house — did you know that? It was far too busy for me to get a photo of it, though I tried, but I think it followed me to Wisconsin where I did get this pic. I’m sorry some FFF were upsetting. Maybe I should post a warning on some next time so folks can scroll by those ones. Please don’t hold it against the Marsh Wrens! They’re still adorable!

      All the very best in 2022 for you, as well sweet friends, and we’ll never say never, right? Right!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Joodie … I keep saving your messages to read later … today I just “jumped in” and am so happy I did! Love your humor, your willingness to share new info, your gorgeous photos + your obvious care for each & every animal! Thanks for bringing nature, light-heartedness and joy into our too-often troublesome world dear lady … will be going back to enjoy & learn! … Lorena

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, now, I can’t think of nicer words to ring in the new year. I’m so thrilled you’re enjoying my ramblings, and that you took the time to let me know that. You have perfectly encapsulated what I hope for when I share, and my heart is just bursting for it. Thank you so much!


  9. I don’t know why anthropomorphic is a dirty word for so many. Frankly, I find the whole practice hilarious. It’s actually pretty much all I do when out in nature…and at home with my dog…. or around anyone else’s pets. It’s funny and I will not apologize!

    Anyway, you’ve got some great photos here (the woodpecker, newt, moose, and thrasher are my favorites) and some fascinating fun facts. I had no idea about the horses, for one thing, and I’ve never heard of butcher birds but they sound kinda serial killer-ish. Also – the whole raining cow pies thing is just kinda gross. What is with nature anyway??? The weirdness abounds.

    Anywho, another fun year end post. Happy New Year to you both. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2022!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know, right?! I, too, crack up “talking” for the critters, and just like you, I do it routinely. It’s one of the things I miss most about having pets — the communication bridge they provide between humans “Spotty wants to know when’s dinner, don’t you, Spotty?” Never apologize!!

      I agree with your favorites, too, especially that motoring little newt. Those chubby little orange legs! Nature is so cool in all its glorious strangeness!!

      Happy New Year to you guys, too. We’re both in for some amazingly unexpected twists, no doubt!


    • Haha, yeah, that description I found for the Rose-breasted Grosbeak was hilarious, and I hope that someday I can hear their song in person. Speaking of in person, we’re so looking forward to hearing YOU in person soon. You are my lucky charm in critter-spotting, so let’s do it again!!


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