Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wildlife Photos from Petersham, MA

Here are some of the better photos from my motion activated camera
which was placed near Quabbin during March.

The camera was placed on a porcupine trail leading back to the dens
from some hemlock trees where the porcupines had been feeding. The
camera captured photos of porcupine, raccoon, squirrel, turkey, and
pileated woodpecker.

Looking at the camera timestamps when I got home, I realized that the
turkey crossed in front of the camera less than 10 minutes before we
arrived to pick it up! Further proof that the woods are full of
animals who simply hide in plain sight while we pass through,
oblivious to their presence.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Quabbin 3/25/09

Dan and I (Janet) spent the morning at Quabbin on this beautiful early
spring, nearly snowless day. Very few tracks, but lots of interesting
things to ponder, regarding such items as plants and scats, not to
mention other random topics of conversation, ranging from climate change
to propaganda and social change.

We picked up the group camera, which, disappointingly, had nothing much
more than a few rear views of a raccoon. I think Dan's camera caught a
few more interesting shots.

Without the snow and ice up on the hill, it is possible to safely
descend the east face of the cliff. On that east face, in the nooks and
crannies between the rocks, are many porcupine dens with their tell tale
piles of fresh-looking scat (fresh as in this winter). I wonder how
many different porcupines spend a given winter there. Are there really
lots of them (I would say we found around 10 dens, and I doubt we found
them all), or do only a few individuals occupy the face in a given
winter, moving from one den to another?

Perhaps the most interesting finding was a scat in the shelter of a rock
overhang on that east face. See photo. Note that the scat is full of
grass at the bottom end. I thought the top end contained some deer
fur. Well, all that grass is certainly more consistent with canid than
felid, but I wouldn't rule out bobcat, here. It is not twisted the way
canid scats often are, the cliffy face is more consistent with bobcat
than coyote, and we know from our snow tracking that a bobcat lives in
the immediate area. I'm not sure why it would eat so much grass. Maybe
it was starving and just wanted to fill its stomach with anything.
Starving people sometimes eat dirt, not a typical menu item for most of
us. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Following the power lines back to the car, we noticed the ground was
covered with what we thought was wintergreen. I will not forget the
look of horror on Dan's face as I popped one of those bright red berries
into my mouth. Definitely wintergreen. Edible and delicious.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Turkey & Fox Pix Redux

Gigi asked me awhile back if I would post these photos taken a year or so ago by my brother Paul. Finally, Gigi, here they are! Many of you will recall that these pictures were originally posted on the now defunct scat-chat site. I don't remember the particulars of the scene, other than the fact that the fox merely observed the turkeys, and never made any predatory moves.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Marked Otter

Lars posts two photos from 2/8/09. I followed this otter's trail across several hundred yards of one of the northern marshes of Delaney Complex in Stow. Throughout the trail, there were marks of distinctly red to reddish-brown color. The color was not found while the otter was in the woods, only on a long stretch of the trail in the open marsh. What is the color spectrum of scent gland markings? It seemed to have the color of blood. Rezendes' book speaks to otter scent secretion not only for marking, but also at times of fear or rage. Thoughts?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Flatley Beaver Pond

Donna and Amy (potential tracker) spent some time tracking behind the Flatley Building on Rte. 117 in Bolton on Thursday. The surface was 6-10 inches of powdery snow. In the area south of the abandoned railroad bed they found abundant deer and potential candid tracks. On the southern perimeter of the pond was abundant otter sign – tracks, slides, pullout and plentiful amounts of scat. These are findings consistent with past trips to the same area.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Quabbin 3/5/09

As Dan said, the mink slides were impressive - I (Janet) couldn't resist
adding one of my own photos. I've never before seen minks slides longer
than a couple of body lengths.

The other picture is of porcupine tracks. Because they tend to use the
same runs repeatedly, you don't often see individual tracks, so this was
a bit of a treat.

The bobcat tracks were interesting - I don't have a good photo of the
bounding pattern, but I had the impression it was bounding through open
areas, as if it didn't like to feel exposed. Typically, (at least in my
own experience), they accelerate to a trot to traverse open areas, and
slow to a walk when they reach cover. Is trotting more difficult than
bounding in deep, powdery snow?

Another notable tidbit is that the bobcat did not leave the hill top.
The tracks emerged from the cliffs, presumably where the the cat dens,
traveled to several lookouts where it sat and considered the landscape,
but then circled back to the cliffs, as if the animal had decided to
make do with the wee-beasties of the hilltop, rather than struggle
through the snow for a nice, big hare. This reminded of my own cats,
who make many trips to the door on winter days, but turn around in
disappointment after a long, thoughtful viewing of the snow.

We also found a trail of fisher tracks coursing through the area, the
first I've seen of fisher in this particular area.

On our way out, we visited the overturned tree that I mentioned in my
summary of my last trip this area, and placed the camera there.

Mink Slides at Quabbin

Janet, Wendy, and Dan spent the morning tracking at Quabbin. One of
our most interesting discoveries was a series of mink slides leading
down a slope toward a small wetland and stream. This mink was sliding
for up to 20 feet at a time, leaving a perfectly-shaped trough down
through the soft snow. This is by far the longest mink slide I've
ever seen.

We found fresh porcupine scat beneath freshly de-barked hemlocks.
The scat was well away from the trunk of the tree and away from any
tracks in the snow. Moral: when you're standing directly underneath
a feeding porcupine, don't look up!

We also found several places where a bobcat had switched to a very
fisher-like bounding pattern (but without a leading, offset foot). We
saw this mainly on hills, both ascending and descending. Perhaps
Janet or Wendy has a photo - I didn't take one.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Otters on Ice

Lars is posting photos of 1/21/09 on the northern most section of Delaney Complex/Stow. I found many holes in the ice, and a variety of otter slides. Two examples shown, plus a bounding snow track,too.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cat scratch posts #2

See text under "Cat scratch post #1".

Cat scratch posts #1

This is in reference to another topic, "Bolton Bobcat - 2/27/09". There
are two more photos that go with this post, but they wouldn't fit all in
one email, so I'm sending them under "Cat scratch posts #2".

House cat scratch posts - see photos of the cedar logs that my 4 cats
have scratched many, many times, and note all that splintering/fraying.
Note that the damage starts about a foot off the ground and goes to
about 3 ft off the ground. Note that you cannot see actual claw
gouges. These logs are their favorite scratch posts, but I have seen
them occasionally scratch other trees and logs around the yard. When
it's a tree that they do not scratch repetitively, you can barely tell
that the tree had been scratched at all.

Basswood tree: (for photos, see subject "Cat scratch posts #2"): Was
the fraying caused by antler rubbing, cat scratching, or both? Well,
those gouges (upper part of the close-up photo) look like antler tine
marks to me. They are going in different directions, not parallel like
claw gouges are. I think antler rubbing could account for everything
you see there, but that doesn't rule out the possibility that a cat then
scratched the rubbed portion of the tree.

What do bobcat scratch posts look like? For one, I'd expect the marks
to be higher than those of house cats, since the bobcat is twice as
large. The ones I've seen photos of have actual claw gouges, like those
shown here:

....But that doesn't mean that bobcats don't also do something similar
to what domestic cats do. And, if the bobcat doesn't scratch on the
same tree repetitively, the marks it leaves might be quite subtle. Or,
if bobcats like to scratch on already damaged wood of buck rubs, we
might miss them because we attribute all of the damage to antler rubbing.

So, I am glad you brought this up, Susan. You have reminded me to look
more carefully for scratch posts.

Obviously, another thing to do when examining the damage done by rubbing
or scratching, is to take the substrate into consideration. The marks
are going to look different on different tree species, and on logs at
different degrees of decay. The basswood above, for example, has a lot
of stringy fraying, but that is characteristic of the tree. (Native
Americans used to make rope out of the stringy inner bark of basswood.)
Other trees will look different when rubbed or scratched.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Raptor Trail

Lars pulls out an old photo. On 12/12/05, I was in the fields between Idylwilde Farm and Guggins Brook/Acton, the day after about a foot of powder snow had fallen. I came on two different print sites where a raptor had "grabbed a bite." The wing prints were dramatic. I am very happy to publish these photos on this blog. Until now, these photos have sat on my hard drive collecting digital dust.

I was going to title this post "Raptor Grab". But then I looked up "rapio," the Latin derivative of raptor (verb - to snatch, grab, carry off). So, I didn't want to be repetitive, or redundant. Ideas of species? Sorry, no reference measure. See the vegetation in the background of the photo for scale.