It is quiet this time of year and last nights cooler temperature has hushed the chorus of cicadas, crickets and tree frogs so that only the sun’s explosion of light and the tweets of soon to depart sibling Ruby-throated Hummingbirds break the silence of night. Migration of birds and butterflies are underway . . . one begins to feel lonely for all their cheery chirps, bright feathers and scales. With the sunrise many silent beasts are stretching and finding their way along the awakened forest floor, fields and gardens, while others may be curling up . . . to sleep away the day.
It is in this backdrop of a new day that I begin my tenth installment of ‘A Bestiary‘ featuring the rather extraordinary Virginia Opossum Didelphis virginiana. The name opossum comes from our Native Americans and is a translation from an Algonquian word meaning ‘white animal’. The Virginia opossum is the only opossum native to the United States and is of a solitary, nomadic and mostly nocturnal nature.
Well, sometimes they may break the rules of our adjectives, as on a mild winter day of 2010, when I eyed this unique marsupial out in the snow. Food may be scarce forcing the opportunist, omnivorous opossum to search during the day. Perhaps that is why it was so curious about me . . . hoping for food. Not myself, of course, but with their superior olfactory potential perhaps the opossum caught the aroma of warmed bread drifting out.
Virginia opossums do not hibernate which makes searching for food difficult in the harsh winter months.
When I opened the barn studio door to take some of these photographs I thought the timid beast surely would dash off . . . as much as any opossum can dash anywhere. Instead the beast that is said to be shy and often hisses and growls with fifty sharp teeth when feeling threatened, just turned around and came back over towards where I was standing, as I captured a number of portraits.
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