How to Talk to an Otter

One day I went out to see what I could discover down at the waterway near our house where we used to live in Sacramento, out near the airport. As I walked along the shore I noticed signs of an animal that ate crayfish. I suddenly heard a humming sound and looked out in the water to see this playful otter. I decided to mimic its sound and see what happened. This is the result.

After watching this otter I did some research and found out that its scientific name is Lontra canadensis, the North American River Otter. These intelligent and playful animals were once hunted and trapped for their fur. They spend their days hunting for fish, shellfish, small mammals and bird eggs. This otter seemed to enjoy the taste of crayfish which it found to be plentiful in the backwaters of the American River. I have also encountered otters at U.C. Davis  along the creek that runs through the park area behind the campus. Otters travel around a lot looking for new places to feed. If the waterways are connected or nearby, the otters travel to and from a number of locations to find the best sources of food. It’s a rare treat to be able to watch an otter this close and have it stay around long enough to film it.

When I watched this otter playing I was reminded of how awesome our God is to have created so many interesting and different animals with so many varied behaviors. He must have wanted to create an animal that would bring a lot of joy and laughter to those who watched it play. Otters are important in the environment because they help regulate other animals that could overrun the area. By eating many of the animals that reproduce vast numbers of offspring, the otter allows for there to be a balance so there is enough food to go around for all the animals in the area. If just one animal species is removed from an area it can cause a lot of problems for the others. God designed animals to live in certain habitats and gave them a hunger for certain kinds of foods so not all animals would eat the same thing.

One interesting thing I learned about otters is how they mark their territories. In the video you saw how the otter decided to leave its “calling card” on the bank. This otter “poop” actually has a name and a purpose. It is called “spraint” and it has a distinctive smell. It tells other otters and animals to stay away. “This area is mine!” Other otters can actually tell a lot about the otter that left the spraint on the shore by its smell. Scientists believe that from its smell they can tell whether it was a male or female, how old it is, and many other things. If you find a pile of spraint on the shore you know an otter is either nearby or has recently been there. Since otters eat up to 15% of their weight every day you can bet there is a lot of spraint left behind!

An amazing otter fact has to do with their fur. Did you know otters can have up to one million hairs per square inch? They actually have two layers of hairs: an undercoat and then the longer hairs you see on the outside as they swim by. The hairs nearest the body allow air to be trapped to keep the otter warm as well as to add buoyancy so it can float more easily.

Otters are also tool users. An otter can grab a rock from from its surroundings and use it to crush open hard shelled animals so they can get at the meat inside. They can actually store the rock in the skin under their arms until needed. Sometimes they seem to just play with things they find in the water, kind of like when we play catch or tag.

  Fun Otter Facts:

A family of otters in the water is often called a “raft”.

The same family on land is called a “romp”.

Otters often build slides along the shore to enter the water more quickly.

In Bangladesh, otters are used by fishermen to catch fish. The fishermen train the otters to hunt for, catch and chase fish into nets. The fishermen then allow the otters to eat some of their catch.

Scientists who spend a lot of time studying otters have discovered that they have 22 distinct noises they make to communicate.  One of the most notable is a “hum”, which you might hear in the video.

 

Did you notice how the otter responded when I started making clicking and bird sounds at the end of the video? Apparently this otter preferred the humming sound.

 

OTTER QUIZ   Let’s see how much you have learned.

 

1. A family of otters on land is called a “romp”.           T                       F

2. Otters can tell whether another otter is a male or female from the sprint left on the shore.     T           F

3. A family of otters in the water is called a “boat”.      T                      F

4. Scientists have discovered that otters can make 22 different sounds which they use in communication.

T                      F

5. Fishermen in Bangladesh actually train otters to fish for them.                                    T              F

6. Otter hairs can number up to a million hairs per square inch of their pelts.               T             F

7. The scientific name of the North American River Otter is:

A. “Ollie” the otter,       B. “Sprains”,       C. Lontra canadensis,   D. None of the above

8. Otters have been known to use tools to open their food.                                                 T             F

 

ANSWERS:    1. T,      2. T,    3. F (it’s a raft),  4. T,    5. T,    6. T,     7. C,   8. T

How did you do?

 

 

 

 

Cricket Plague

This presentation is about a plague of crickets I encountered on a trip to Idaho from California.

If you have the Keynote App you can open this presentation by taping the middle of the first frame and then linking to Keynote with the icon in the top right hand corner. You will then add the movement and any sounds that are in the presentation frame by frame as you tap the screen.

Tap below to open.

cricket-plague

The Great Pretenders

 

This is about an amazing insect that can teach us a lot about God’s plan for our lives. It is one I discovered in Idaho a few years ago when we traveled there for the 4th of July picnic at the farm in Kuna, Idaho. I think you will enjoy learning about this unique creature.

 

the-great-pretenders PowerPoint

You can also open this presentation in the Keynote App, if you have it, by touching the middle of the first frame. In the top right hand corner you will see a note to tie you to Keynote. Once open, you can watch the presentation “with all the bells and whistles.”

How to Catch a Huge Tennessee Catfish

Tennessee Catfish

 

The first large catfish I caught in Tennessee was about 10 lbs. I caught it the old fashion way, with a night crawler. Using worms, however, attracts many smaller bluegill and shell crackers (AKA redeared sunfish) which makes it difficult to keep your bait in the water long enough for a large catfish to find it. One day I tried an experiment. I took one of the small bluegill and cut off the tail region and trimmed away the fin portion. I sunk my hook inside the chuck and hurled it out as far as I could with the small weight above the hook. I used a sliding sinker, (like the ones you put above a plastic worm) and then used a smaller split shot below it to keep the weight about a foot above the bait on the line. It took awhile for the catfish to find it, but when it did, boy! It was worth the wait!  I noticed a slight movement on the tip of the pole and then the line started moving sideways.  I knew something was fooling with the bait. I pulled back and set the hook and the fun began!

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Once the fish knew it was on the line it rose to the top of the water and made a big splash. I knew it was very large so I tightened up the drag a bit because I had it set for smaller fish. I had to be careful not to tighten it up too much or the fish would break the 8 lb. test line I was using. The fish then started to pull out line against the drag. I knew it would be a long battle so I let him pull as I reeled in. After a run toward the middle of the lake he turned shoreward and headed for some sunken brush. Again I knew this could be trouble so I put pressure on him to turn the other way. He quickly changed directions and made another dash up the channel to my right. I just kept the tip high and let him wear himself out making several runs back and forth. As he tired I reeled him closer to shore. Again, this strong fish made a dash toward the middle of the lake. Finally he tired and I reeled him close to shore. I had to grab my large net on the shore and sneak it in position to scoop him up. Once in the net I had to position myself so I could drag him out of the water. This second catfish weighed in at 13 lbs. I decided to turn this fish loose to grow and catch again. I had learned from cleaning my first large catfish that the smaller catfish are better tasting. We had cut the last one up into pieces and deep fried it. It was ok, but not as tasty as others I had eaten. Lesson learned!  Though not as good for table fare, the large catfish are much more fun to catch. I have caught several using the “bluegill” approach since. By the way, you can use the rest of the bluegill cut in pieces, not just the tail section. Why not give it try?

  Here are my Grandsons sharing a catfish dinner. Deep fried catfish makes a yummy meal. You can also get a better idea of the size of the catfish from the one on shore between my legs when pulled from the water.

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Have you entered into the Treasures of the snow?

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How many of you have a favorite Christmas ornament? Think of how it looks and what it represents. I have several ornaments that mean a lot to me. Some of them are special because of who gave them to me. Others are favorites becuase of what they represent or how unique they are in design. Some are neat because of the materials used in the construction of the ornament.

Today, I am going to make an origami Christmas ornament. It is actually modeled after an ornament the Lord Jesus designed when He created the world and everything in it. This model is one I designed after the better design of Jesus. It not only is fun because it is made out of ordinary white paper, but also because of what it represents.  It’s pattern is neat, also.

Watch as I fold this project. I’m going to read several Scripture passages, which talk about this ornament as I work. Listen carefully so that you can share the message of God’s Word with others this Christmas time.

Way back in the Old Testament, a man named Job was talking with God, when God asked him a question. It is a very interesting question. Before I read you the question God asked him, we need to know a little bit about the circumstances Job was in when God talked with him. Job, as you probably know, had more problems than anyone else in the Bible. He lost all his wealth, his children, and his health all in the matter of a few days. He actually was under the direct attack of Satan when this happened. On top of these problems, Job’s friends tried to tell him that all his problems were because he was not right with God. What a terrible place to be in!

Well, after all this hard stuff happened, God came to Job and wanted him to know He was still in charge, that He loved Job, and knew his problems and could fix them. He then asked Job this question: “Job… Have you ever entered into the treasures (storehouses) of the snow..?” (Job 38:22). That seems like a funny question to ask him at that time, doesn’t it? But God knew what He was talking about. The storehouse of the snow is composed of what? Yes, snowflakes. I’m making a snowflake ornament.

What are some of the things we can learn about God from the snowflakes He created? First, we notice that almost every single snowflake is different yet it follows a similar pattern. God takes great care in the forming of every snowflake. Each one shows His power and majesty. It also shows us that God cares about little details and little things as well as the big things.

We can also look at what the Bible says about snow. Did you know It uses snow as a picture of God’s cleansing from sin? Listen to this neat verse from Isaiah 1:18: “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’”

Wow, just think of the color red! It stands out like a sore thumb and screams, “Look at me!” Our sins do the same thing. They show us and everybody else that we are not good enough to meet God’s standard of perfection, holiness, and purity. We can’t make it on our own. We need our sin to be removed in order for us to be able to come into the presence of a holy God. Jesus’ blood, RED, was shed to cover our sins, to pay the price, to remove our sins. We are pure (WHITE) because of His sacrifice.

If you look carefully at a snowflake, under a microscope, you would find a piece of dirt or dust in the center of every snowflake. It is called a “condensation nuclei.” While the dust or smoke particle is floating around in the air, the water vapor up there collects on it and than the cold air freezes around the dust particle and completely hides it. The result is a beautiful snowflake design. The snowflake falls and the dirt particle is removed from the air. The snow falls on the ground and covers everything to make it look so beautiful and pure.

Remember King David in the Old Testament? He also wrote about snow. He said this to God in one of his prayers, “…Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow…” (Psalm 51:7b).

He wasn’t asking God to throw him into the bathtub. He was confessing his sin and he know that only God could cleanse his heart. We also can have our hearts clean when we do the same thing. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

If you are feeling dirty because of the wrong things you have done, ask God to forgive you. Tell Him what you did wrong and agree with Him that it is wrong. Turn from it and He will forgive you and cleanse you. Wow, that’s neat. It’s just like waking up in the morning and finding the ground covered with pure, white snow. We are all clean and fresh.

Snow is neat in many other ways. As you know, it’s fun to play in, ski on, ride sleds over, and it provides us with a way to store the water until we need it in the spring and summer. We should thank God every time we see the snow for His grace and mercy and the blessings we have because of His creation.

The next time you see a snow scene, and I’m sure you will see many over the Christmas holidays, think about your life and how God has cleaned you up and made you pure so that you can fellowship with Him and go to Heaven in the future. If you take the time to think about it and study about the snow, I bet you can find out many other amazing things about these little jewels of ice.