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Raptors, Reptiles and Rabbit Promote Reading

Essex Free Library Summer Reading Program

by Irene Wrenner

July 23, 2021

Michael Clough showcased live specimens and spoke about native wildlife on the Essex Free Library lawn on July 15th. 


Caregivers of all ages and their youngsters were rapt as the Managing Director of the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum spoke on a warm, sunny afternoon.


Clough referenced classic books, films, and cartoons as he introduced raptors, reptiles and a rabbit to his curious audience. He invited participants to touch most of the animals presented.


Among the scientific knowledge and fun facts he shared about their collection:


  • The gray tree frog has two survival skills: camouflage, and the ability to come back to life in the spring after literally freezing each winter, during which time its heart stops beating.

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  • Snakes get portrayed as villains throughout literature. Why? They aren’t poisonous -- that is, they are safe to eat -- but some are venomous. A rat snake, like the one Clough held, has the ability to mimic the behavior of a venomous species in self defense.

  • Michael’s red-tailed hawk, named Bill, was secured to his glove with leather strips, called jesses, a 4,000-year-old invention from central Asia, which allowed him to hold that raptor safely. 
  • A box turtle can live up to 150 years.

  • The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on the planet. It can dive for prey as fast as a racecar -- over 200 miles per hour.

  • Rabbits eat over 400 species of plants, hence his describing them as “fuzzy little lawnmowers.” A rabbit can run as fast as a horse but can also defy physics by turning a corner without slowing down.

Events in the Town’s Summer Reading Program, Tales and Tails, continue through mid-August. Info here:


Essex Free Library is open for browsing and computer use Mondays through Fridays from 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am to Noon.

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