Friday, January 29, 2010

An otterly productive outing

Janet writes: Another Quabbin find from earlier this week. Note the
whitish goop on this spraint mound. Not that I have a tremendous amount
of experience with otter sign, but I have never see this stuff on a
mound. I've seen it just twice, I think, and both times at the mouth of
a den.

But the real excitement of this find is that it was a personal
milestone, of sorts. We were skirting a beaver wetland, hoping for
otter sign, and coming up short, when we looked ahead and saw an open
area at the pond's edge, protected on three sides by brush, and
overhanging vegetation. It somehow looked like a nice place for a mid
sized semi-aquatic mustelid to haul out, so we headed over. And there
is was. Scats, goop, mounds, and rolls.

No more Brownian tracking for us (No reference to David Brown, who is
decidedly unBrownian in his tracking habits)

Moose tracks

Janet writes: Dan and I found a fresh trail of moose tracks at Quabbin
a few days ago. We thought this was pretty lucky, given that only
patches of tired snow had survived the rain and warmth. I post this
photo because we were surprised to see how consistently the dewclaws
register, even in very shallow substrate. This is certainly not the
case for deer.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Porcupine sights and sounds

Janet writes: Amazingly, Dan and I saw 4 porcupines at Quabbin
yesterday. One was in a den, and the other three were srabbling up a
slope of boulders, one of which is pictured above. There were a lot of
porcupine dens in the crevices of this slope, many of which had piles of
scat spilling out of them, indicating heavy usage.

Perhaps the most unusual experience of the day was the sound emitting
from one of the rock crevice dens. I've been close to porcupines
before, and none of these well defended animals has ever seemed
particularly concerned, especially those which are safely concealed in
dens. But we could hear a sort of hum coming from one of the dens. We
could not see the animal, until it scurried out and slipped through
another crevice into a deeper cave.

If you google porcupine sounds, you will find some recordings of what
this sounds like. Dan says it reminded him of guinea pig vocalizations.
It reminded me of our rabbits' sounds of annoyance when we pick them
up. I am not sure why this particular animal felt threatened, but in
his book "The North American Porcupine", Uldis Roze writes that it is in
fact a warning sound. He calls it a "tooth clack" and says the animal
produces it by chattering its teeth.

By the way, I highly recommend Roze's book. It is beautifully written,
scientific, and hilarious at times, if you read carefully enough to
appreciate his subtle humor. An unusual mix. I laughed my way through it.

Porcupine dens

Janet writes: Dan and I saw quite a bit at Quabbin yesterday, despite
the less than optimal tracking conditions. Shown here are three
different types of porcupine dens. The scat outside the dens indicated
porcupine residence.

I'm guessing that a rock crevice in an elevated location would be most
desirable for winter denning, and you can see that the one we
photographed is currently occupied. The hole in the ground was actually
in a stream bank -- not the sort of location I would expect for this
species, but the scat outside it was very fresh. Perhaps the younger
animals get stuck with less desirable spots like that. All three dens
were close to hemlocks, favorite winter porcupine fare.

The tree den is interesting because of the large debarked patch. I
believe this is old porcupine feeding sign. I've seen porc. debarking
low on trees before, but never that large a patch, and never on so large
a tree. I think it was a red oak.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kill Site

While walking yesterday, I came across this kill site on the wooded edge of an apple orchard.  I have consistently seen fisher and fox tracks here, but yesterday I could see no clear tracks.  What do others think about this?  The bloody snow has little bits of white matter.  tTe fur has blunt edges where the predator cut it with its teeth (I  took some of the fur, if anyone would like that for further identification).  The scat up against the rock has a white discharge, along with that green color.  So, I'm looking for ideas!  And no, I don't know the answers.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Crow about it

Lars was on the northern end of Delaney Complex in Bolton/Stow on 1/10/10. These tracks were found across the snow-covered ice. In the first photo, each print is 3 inches long, and the length of the stride was 12 inches. This bird wandered for quite a distance, as can be seen in the second photo. The last photo shows the strike of the wingtips on the snow. I think crow, but appreciate input. My second guess would be Archaeopteryx. Are we still considered late Jurassic?

Seeing Red

Lars took these photos of deer prints on Flagg Hill Pond, Boxboro Rd Stow one week ago. The prints have some snow cover because of a day's worth of wind-blown snow.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Extensive mink sliding

Janet writes: Wendy, Teresa, and I (and Ken for a bit --
congratulations on a rapid recovery, Ken!), went down to the north-south
flowing (and nameless, as far as I know) stream in the Berlin portion of
Mt Pisgah yesterday. Conditions were not very good, due to quantities
of snow ploppage and a slight crustiness, but the weather was
spectacular, and the snow not yet disturbed by human feet. We found a
trail of small mustelid tracks (track width only about an inch), which
would be pretty small for a mink. However, the consistent stride length
was more suggestive of mink. And then we discovered the extensive
sliding, as seen in the photos, which is also more consistent with
mink. Must have been a small female. (But do we really know that
weasels don't slide? Why wouldn't they?)

Turkey Tumult

Janet writes: Donna and I found tons o' turkey sign on a southeast
facing slope at Mt Pisgah about a week ago. Many trails of turkey
tracks were traveling to and from the wetland at the bottom of the
hill. There was a roosting area (a large collection of scats under a
few oak trees) on the slope, close to the top. The top of this warm,
exposed hill already had bare patches (everyplace else was covered with
snow), and the oaks made for good foraging. One photo shows what the
top of the hill looked like -- it was covered with turkey tracks and
scratched areas where they had foraged under the oak leaves for acorns.
I've never seen so much turkey sign in one place.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bolton Bobcat on the Move

Leigh alerted me to these tracks on Saturday morning. The cat was traveling through the woods alongside the golf course on Wilder Road, occasionally making use of the trails. The tracks appeared to be fairly recent. This series of shots shows the cat's approach to a scent post. I'm having a hard time trying to figure how it positioned itself when leaving the scent, since there are no side-by-sine prints. Maybe some twisted Rosemary Woods-type contortion? I confess to having little interest or experience in watching my cat use his litter box; perhaps someone else can help educate me here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fisher body print in snow

Conditions in the woods were not great this morning, with all the
ploppage from the trees, but the fisher never fails to disappoint. This
was under an oak tree.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bobcat Tracks in Harvard

Sue writes:

On New Year's Day, I was lucky enough to come across some bobcat tracks
in the woods behind my house in Harvard. I didn't realize what they
were at first because the bobcat was walking in the tracks of the fox I
was following. Then the bobcat tracks veered off, and left good, clear
tracks. It walked along a log (Janet, it made me think of you out at
the Quabbin), jumped down, and then walked up and around a large rock.
As I followed the tracks, I saw that it had come across the frozen
brook, again leaving just beautiful prints. When it reached the shore,
it picked up the trail of a fox, and continued to follow that until it
veered off again.

Last Sunday, I saw the bobcat tracks again, closer to the house this
time. The motion activated camera is now out there, so hopefully the
bobcat will want its photo taken. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Eagles in Eastern Central NH, Western Maine Line

These pictures were taken on Monday by a neighbor of friends Michael stayed with. The neighbor had previously seen the bobcat that Michael had tracked there Sunday. Also lots of otter slides and sign. Michael had seen two of the eagles fly over the pond on Sunday. It was a marvelous sight. It would have been fantastic to have observed the following activity!

Michael didn't write the captions, but liked them!

Three adult Bald Eagles and four juveniles focus on one frozen fish. The juvenile (3rd from left) rightfully had possession of a dead, abandoned, partially eaten, and frozen pickerel.

One adult started pacing...too difficult to watch that juvenile chow down without sharing.

Perhaps this adult thought the juvenile was was time to share.

Everyeagle for flies the adult with the pickerel. Nice lesson.

Add Image

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The vicious, ferocious fisher-cat!

Dan writes:

The fisher-cat is a terrible beast, with huge fangs and a blood-curdling
scream. But they're still pretty darn cute.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Squirrel skull

This is the skull from the presumed fisher kill site I posted about
earlier. I cooked it (simmered gently for about 15 minutes) to remove
the rest of the meat and get a better look at the bones. It smelled
something like lamb stew, in case anyone is wondering. Funny, I thought
it would smell more like chicken for some reason, but, no, closer to lamb.

I used Mark Elbroch's book on animal skulls to ID it as red squirrel, as
suspected. But what is more interesting is the jagged edge around the
brain case. I don't think a fisher's huge canines would leave such a
delicate edging on a little squirrel skull. Perhaps that's more likely
the work of scavenging rodents, aging the kill at something more like
hours, rather than minutes, I would guess. So my fear that I was the
one who scared off the fisher was nothing more than self referential
ideation. A common trap.

How long does it take for rodents to enter the site and do this? Maybe
Dan's cameras will answer that question one day.

Incidentally, Elbroch's book on skulls is tremendous, especially the
initial section on comparative anatomy. I seem to recall learning about
skulls in the distant past, with a totally different
mission.........something to do with relief of human suffering and
reducing human mortality....Far less interesting than peering into the
private lives of other species.

O' squirrel an' fisher (not for weak stomachs)

Janet writes: I found this rather fresh looking kill site a couple of
days ago and figured I'd post these disgusting pics just to break up the
monotony of Dan's incredibly beautiful photos. But, really, this is
interesting stuff if you have the stomach for it.

There were a variety of tracks all around, but the freshest were those
of fisher, one trail entering the scene, and another exiting. So I
assumed the culprit was fisher.

In the photo showing the widest view, you can see the teeth of the lower
jaw, just above the center of the photo, and the skull at the bottom.
Most of the fur was reddish, although that doesn't show well in the
photo. I thought probably red squirrel.

Given the appearance of a relatively fresh kill, and that fisher tracks
were by far the freshest tracks in the area, I thought culprit was most
likely fisher. However, there were several unfisher-like facts:
1. The skull was present.
2. Neither tail nor intestines were present.
3. The site was not marked with a scat.

So maybe the fisher had been interrupted while feeding (perhaps by me
bumbling through the snow?), and raced off with the decapitated victim.

One photo shows a line of white goo that was at the edge of the kill
site. I don't know whether that came from the fisher or the panicked
squirrel. Do fishers mark with white goo? I've never seen that before,
nor have I seen reference too it. I have seen otters do something like
that, though. (But I'm pretty certain the tracks were fisher, not
otter. Feet were just shy of 2 inches in width, so a small fisher at
that, and moving in a 2-2 bounding gait both to and from the site.)

I popped the skull and jaw into a little bag for further study, which
I'll post about later.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Better view of annotated photo in pattern quiz

I couldn't figure out how to get the uncompressed version of the
annotated photo posted, so here's the uncompressed, unannotated photo,
for a better view of the pattern.

Tracking quiz: patterns in the snow

Janet writes: Identify the indicated pattern and the responsible species
in each photo.

O' mice an' fox

Janet writes: Bob Z. found and documented this drama off the side of the
road while running. The bare road was just beneath the photo, so the
snow impressions shown were the only ones. Looks like the mouse came
from the road and headed for cover in the stone wall, when the fox took
the plunge, taunting thusly:

"Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!"