Friday, November 19, 2010

When Trees Attack...

Dan writes:
I went to check on the group's motion-sensing wildlife camera last
night, and got quite a surprise. As I approached the camera trap
location on the edge of a wetland, something seemed off. It took me a
second to realize that there was a 50 ft white pine trunk where the
camera used to be!

Apparently that tremendous wind storm that followed the latest rain
system snapped off the top 50 feet of a huge white pine, and sent it
crashing down across my camera setup. Amazingly, the trunk only grazed
the stump that I had attached the camera to, angling it slightly
downward. After I cleared off a branch and righted the camera, it
dutifully took my picture.

This is actually the second bullet this little camera has dodged
recently. I got a call last week from someone who stumbled upon the
camera in the woods and called the number on the little card I always
leave explaining the project. Thankfully he called, rather than walking
off with the camera.

Hunters talk of cameras being mauled by inquisitive bears, and I've had
two camera housings destroyed by fisher over the years. Floodwaters
take out cameras each year in the South. Elephants stomp them in the
East. This may be the first documented evidence of a tree attacking a
wildlife camera, however.

I can't decide whether this camera is lucky or cursed. In any case, the
little guy has used up two of his nine lives.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Red-Tailed Hawk returns for Gray Squirrel

Dan writes:
A week ago I was walking through the pine forest in the north part of
the Delaney Project when I saw a red-tailed hawk being chased by a crow.
The hawk wasn't too happy to be chased, but he wasn't too eager to
leave the area, either. He'd fly to the next tall pine and perch
momentarily, before being driven off again.

A few hundred feet further down my path, I found a freshly-killed gray
squirrel. The squirrel was still warm to the touch, with fresh blood
around a fatal neck wound.

I moved off a ways and waited to see if the hawk would return to claim
his abandoned meal. But the forest was quiet, and the hawk and crow had
moved on. I hiked back to the other side of Delaney, picked up a remote
camera trap, and returned to the squirrel kill an hour later,
half-expecting it to be gone. But the squirrel lay exactly where I'd
left it, and so I quickly set up the camera and left the area.

When I returned a week later, the squirrel was gone, and not a trace of
the incident remained. A single image on the camera showed the
red-tailed hawk swooping down to fly off with the squirrel. The hawk
got his meal that same afternoon, about five hours after his initial
attempt was thwarted by the crow and the hiker.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Do otters like to play in piles of leaves?

Dan writes:
I've been resisting the temptation to jump in the huge piles of leaves
my neighbors have been raking up this past week. Do otters also have
these same urges? A recent walk at Delaney WMA suggests this might be
the case.

I was checking out some fresh deer scrapes on evergreen trees at the top
of a very steep slope that led down into the Delaney wetlands. Around
the base of a marked tree, there were these tunnels through the leaves,
which then plunged over the edge and went right into the water next to
an old beaver scent mound. It's hard to see in these photos, but they
were perfectly round trenches through the leaves, nearly identical to
what otters would leave behind if they were sliding through the snow.

I tried to rule out other causes - I didn't find any hoof or nail marks
from an animal slipping or sliding down the hill. I did a fair amount
of unintentional sliding myself. :) I looked for fresh-cut beaver
logs, thinking perhaps a beaver had dragged something down the hill. I
checked for otter scat near the water, and back up at the tree. Nothing.

My best explanation is that a buck came through, and worked over the
tree. An otter coincidentally used the tree as the starting gate for
his pre-winter bobsled practice, taking advantage of the steep slope
covered in dry leaves. Any other ideas?

As I walked further down the trail, noting fresh scrapes on the young
hemlocks, I realized that the sharp-needled tree I originally looked at
wasn't a hemlock. I went back and took a closer look. Sharp needles.
No lines beneath. Needles in two flat rows. Pleasant smell when
crushed. This keys out as Balsam Fir in my books, which would place me
in southern Maine, and not central Massachusetts. There are a number of
these trees, all about 8-15 ft high, in the north part of Delaney. What
are they?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Autumn Action at Beaver Bank Lodge

I set up my camera at a nearby beaver pond for a few days. Besides a couple of pictures of a neighborhood cat, I got several shots of a handsome buck, one of an inquisitive coyote, and a good number of the hard-working beaver himself. I've posted the more interesting ones ... showing him with a muddy mouth, positioning some rotten-looking vegetation on the lodge and finally, mooning the camera (such a rare tail shot, I couldn't resist).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Spike Buck working a scrape at Delaney

Dan set out the group's camera to take night video at a deer scrape at
the Delaney Wildlife Management Area in Stow. A young buck visited the
scrape each night, freshening and sniffing the scraped earth, checking
for does, and leaving his scent on the overhanging branch above the
scrape. At one point he notices the red glow from the IR LEDs on the
camera, and stamps the ground, frightening himself in the process.

A few hours later he returns, and while he's at the scrape a second set
of eyes appear in the woods. A doe? He rushes off to investigate!

Here's a direct link to the video on YouTube, if the embedded video
below doesn't work: