I went for a walk this evening in the extra hour of daylight, and while I was in the dunes something white half-buried in the sand caught my eye. It’s common to find fragments of bleached-white shells back in the swale, but this wasn’t a shell – it was a bone! Digging in the sand gently with my fingers yielded what appeared to be most of a complete skeleton, and while some of the pieces, like the vertebrae, were so fragile that they fell apart when I tried to pick them up (they must have been exposed to the elements for quite a while), I managed to find all the pieces of the skull – the cranium with the upper jaw, and both halves of the mandible. (Bones are not something I know a lot about, so I apologize if I have the terminology wonky.)
Definitely a rodent with those incisors, right? And too big for a mouse or shrew or something? So that leaves squirrels. If someone who knows skulls wants to confirm or correct this ID I’d love that. I can’t remember whether I’ve ever actually seen a squirrel down in the dunes – I feel like I mostly see them at the edge of the woods. Of course, a hawk could have killed it further up and then carried it down into the dunes to eat…?
(Updated: Bruce Neill of the Sanibel Sea School was kind enough to solve the mystery – it’s not a squirrel, but a young rabbit. I see marsh rabbits in the dunes all the time so this makes perfect sense.)
Also: completely unrelated, but I just have to share the fact that there are currently SEVERAL Chuck-will’s-widows calling outside! Maybe to people who live around here they’re old hat, but to me they’re incredibly exciting. Life bird #553!