Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bird Eater at the Bird Feeder

This Cooper's hawk must have gotten bored waiting for my neighbor to open up her chicken coop this morning.  It perched on the same limb as one of my bird feeders, patiently hoping for a feathered breakfast to present itself.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bolton Barred Owl

Here are some shots of a barred owl that was hanging around our yard one
evening about a week ago. It was waiting for a chipmunk hiding in our
wood pile to run back to its home in a stone wall. The chipmunk made a
couple of attempts while we were watching, but the swooping owl sent it
back into the wood pile for cover. Don't know the outcome -- it grew
too cold and dark for us to continue watching.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bobcat and barred owl

These pics were taken by my wildlife camera in a rocky, cliffy area
central Mass., in early October. There was one other picture of the
bobcat on a different day, and no other pictures of the owl. Lots of
porcupine, gray squirrel, and a few raccoon photos.

Bear claw marks on beech (Maine)

On a Thanksgiving weekend hike in central Maine, we were treated to a
stand of diseased beech trees with old claw marks of black bear. We
discovered them after realzing we had taken a wrong turn onto an old
logging road. As we bush whacked our way back to the trail, we found at
least 6 such trees, all within the same few acres. Shown are two of them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Long - or Short - of It

I recently set up my camera in a dense thicket and was rewarded with photos of a variety of mammals.  A new one, or two in this case, for me was weasel.  Here are two shots of what I am taking to be separate animals.  The photos were snapped less than a minute apart, so I'm assuming that the very different colors of the two are not due to lighting conditions.  I am not sure whether these are long-tail or short-tail (a/k/a ermine) weasels.  Anyone?  The third photo is a butt shot of weasel #2.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Peromyscus Maniculatus

This deer mouse was scared out of its hiding place yesterday morning by a nosy terrier.  I'm posting its picture so we can all have a close-up and personal look at what ate those cherry pits in CyberTracker Quiz Question #2.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CyberTracker quiz question #9

Still in the sand quarry, we were asked to identify the animal which
made the tracks. George pointed out how it was sort of an alternating
walking pattern, so in the 1st photo I added a red dot to each
front/hind pair, in case the alternating pattern doesn't jump out at
you. It didn't jump out at me. I included the same photo without the
red dots so you can see the tracks clearly. Well, as clearly as possible.

Looking at it now, I kind of think the animal traveled back and forth on
the trail, which is why it appears to be somewhat of a mess.

I don't think anyone in the group got this right, so if you know it,
you're a rock star tracker!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

CyberTracker quiz question #8

What species made these tracks? We're still in the sand quarry.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

CyberTracker quiz question #7

What species made that little trail? Remote measures almost 2.5 inches

Monday, October 15, 2012

CyberTracker quiz question #6

The 4 old tracks in this photo were the only ones we could see in this
animal's trail. We were asked what species made them, and whether the
track directly above the key was made by a front or hind foot.

Friday, October 12, 2012

CyberTracker quiz question #5

The question here was what animal made these tracks. You're at a slight
disadvantage here, because a bit of a trail pattern was evident, but I
unfortunately did not photograph that. On the other hand, the photo
takes you right to the best track there was, and you get to see an
enlarged version without having to fight for a magnifying glass and
kneel in the mud. Plus, I'm pretty sure they'd put a track like this on
the cybertracker exam, even if no other tracks were evident. Go for it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

CyberTracker quiz question #4

In this part of the quarry, the sand was quite soft. There were many
digs (10-20?) in an area of (very) roughly 20 ft x 20 ft. There were no
clear tracks or runs among these holes, but we had also done a lot of
trampling. The holes were not tunnels - they were maybe about 6 inches
deep. We were asked what species made the holes.

Seedy Mystery

While you're pondering your answers to Janet's very entertaining tracking questions, here's another for you.  I was out in the rain yesterday in shrubby, early successional habitat (i.e., a field in the slow process of turning back into woodland), bordered by a marshy wetland.  In a narrow trampled-down depression - not worthy of being called a "path" - through very tall grass, I came across a scat, reddish in color, comprised almost completely of large seeds.  I then found some funky-looking, bumpy "fruits" with a white, pulpy interior that was clearly being feasted on.  Upon examination, I discovered that the seeds I'd noticed in the scat were the same type as those in the white pulp.  After a little research back home, I figured out what was being eaten, but can only guess as to what animal was doing the eating.  What's being consumed here?  Any thoughts on the consumer's identity?

CyberTracker quiz question #3

This was in the sand quarry, and we were asked what animal made the
tracks. The circle was made by the examiner, to delineate the item in
question for us. By the time I got to this one, the area all around the
circle had been trampled, so I did not see any other tracks made by this
animal, if indeed there were any.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

CyberTracker quiz question #2

These were found in a nook amongst the rocks of a stone wall in a
residential area just outside the sand quarry. What animal made the
sign? We were not required to say what they are, but if you know, you
can get extra credit!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cybertracker quiz question #1

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a CyberTracker Evaluation
workshop in southwestern NH, with evaluator George Leoniak. With his
permission, I am going to share some of the exam questions. I'll try
posting the photos one by one as quiz questions, and hopefully some of
you will take a stab. I have about 10 I'd like to share and will keep
going as long as people are interested. Feel free to ask any questions
about the evaluation in general, as we go along.

For some background, I attended the 1-day eval, which was basically
pass/fail, with passing scores receiving a level 1 certificate. But if
you attend a 2-day eval, it's possible to get a level 2, 3, or 4,
depending on your score. The certification eval is described in more
detail here:

We were not given any info about the testing location or types of
habitat, other than the fact that it was in southwestern NH. After
meeting in Keene, NH, we car pooled to a sand quarry and spent most of
the day tracking there, and then a little time in the woods near a wetland.

This first photo was in the sand quarry at the side of a sandy, gravelly
road. There did not appear to be any tracks associated with the small
dark thing in the center of the photo. The question was which animal
made that sign. Any takers?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Moose mama and calf

So many people say they've seen "hundreds" of moose in Maine, yet the
experience was still on my bucket list until this past August. Even the
expensive moose safari to a remote pond in the summer of 2011
disappointed us. It was only the 2nd time in the career of our seasoned
guide, we were told, that the no moose were seen on one of these
typically magical adventures. So, this year, we didn't bother with the
guided expedition. But one morning, while in the car en route to a
trail head, I caught sight of a moose in a beaver wetland as we whizzed
by. "Moose!!!", I screamed. "Go back!"

So we spent the next 15 minutes watching mother and calf through
binoculars. The "calf", by then almost as large as mom, is noticeably
lighter in color.


Southborough Turkey and Coyote

Just a couple more of the better photos from my game camera which spent
May through October 1st in a small wetland in Southborough, MA.

While I got many pictures during that 5 month period, most of them were
from just a few days. The camera was placed where I had seen many
tracks of fisher, coyote, and deer last winter/spring, but I used no
attractant. So I guess it's not surprising that I never get much of
anything when I leave a camera out for just a few weeks.


Southborough Cervids

Not nearly as interesting as Dan's video of a buck scraping, these pics
from my camera I left all summer at a small wetland in the woods in
Southborough, MA are my first half way decent ones.

Deer visited the area frequently, and as soon as I glimpsed all the
photos of the buck, I wondered if it was a scraping area. However, then
I realized from the dates on the photos, that he visited most often in
late August, well before the rut.

I'm really happy with the quality of the photos. You can see just how
velvety that velvet is!

Also I am struck by how curious of the camera all the animals are. A
turkey examined it just as carefully as this buck.

Red-Spotted Newt Juvenile: The Red Eft

It was overcast and rainy at the Quabbin Reservoir yesterday - perfect conditions for certain salamanders to be out and about.  Red efts are particularly high-profile at this time of year.  Some, having recently transformed from their aquatic larval stage, are just starting the terrestrial part of their lives.  After several years on land, others are going back to the water for the final stage of their development.  We saw quite a few efts while exploring the shoreline, all in various hues of reddish-orange.  Here's a photo of one inside a coyote footprint hear the water's edge.

Red efts are bold in color and their attitude seems to match.  I guess there isn't much need to worry about predation when your skin makes you poisonous.  I read that it's not uncommon for a snake or toad to throw up an intact and unharmed eft a half hour after eating it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Scent-Marking Buck

The rut must be beginning! I've had a camera at the Delaney WMA for
several months, and have been getting video of nothing but does and
fawns. About a week ago, a spike buck showed up on camera, and then
this monster moved in. I guess he liked the location I picked, because
he chose the same tree I did to leave his calling card for the does.

I was in a rush when I picked up the camera, but noticed that the ground
was torn up right in front of it. I didn't realize it was a fresh
scrape from the largest buck I've ever seen, or I would have left the
camera in place.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bear Sign?

Lately, there have been several sightings of a black bear around here, though none to my knowledge in our particular neck of the woods.  However, I recently noticed that several large boulders were overturned in an area I regularly walk.  One has what could be bear claw scratch marks - hardly proof positive of ursine presence, I admit.  But then there's also potential evidence at the pond just a little further through the woods.  I saw that the plant growth at the edge of the water has been raked ashore in several places, and took a photo of long scrape marks left on the pond floor at one of those sites.  Lots of crushed grass in places, too.  Could this be the result of a bear pulling in and sifting through the plants to glean the various frogs, crayfish and other small critters that hide there?  It wouldn't surprise me, since my dogs routinely do something similar.  And bears are known to forage for food up to 20 hours a day at this time of year.  It's conceivable that these are legitimate signs of the bear so many have seen.  I'm keeping my eyes open, though, for that clawed-up tree, big pile of scat, or perfect pawprint that will make a true believer out of me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Camouflaged Toad

I almost stepped on this beautifully camouflaged toad.

Muskrat in Northern Maine

I got these shots while silently floating in my kayak near a beaver dam
in northern Maine. I watched for about 15 minutes, until the kayak hit
a rock and startled the muskrat. I noticed it would occasionally lift
its tail up in the air, as you see in one of the photos. Was it
pooping? They certainly leave a lot of scat on the shore; maybe they
poop in the water, too.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Deer Without Fear

During a recent trip to Austin, Texas, I had the opportunity - many opportunities, in fact - to photograph a local herd of of remarkably tame deer.  The setting was pure suburbia, and the deer seem to flourish.  That is, if you don't take their size into account.  Their populations are out of control, and they are noticeably smaller than the white-tail deer in our neck of the woods.

The first photo shows a doe and a young spike buck.  Those two were often together, along with the doe's twin fawns.  The second shot shows the same doe and fawns along with another doe, also the mother of twins.  The final picture is of the four babies all hanging out together.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Name That Tune

This recording of a bird song was taken in Southborough, MA on June 8, 2012:
The habitat was a mosaic of forest and field (hayfield and pasture)
dotted with clumps of shrubs. The song starts at 2 seconds and repeats
every 10-15 seconds. I never saw the bird, and don't know of any bird
found in this area which sounds exactly like it. I am wondering if it
is an unusual variation of the common yellowthroat, the typical rhythm
of which is often described as witchity-witchity-witchity. Other ideas?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Muskrat is Not a Fish

But don't tell those of the Catholic faith who live in Detroit.  A special dispensation there allows them to consume muskrat during Lent, when meat-eating is prohibited.  Because it is a water-dweller, the muskrat is considered to be in the same category as fish.  (And it's said to taste like duck.  Yum.)

These three photos were recently taken by motion-sensitive camera at the edge of a wetland.  The muskrat is seen with a mouthful of vegetation in all but one of the several pictures I got.  Hard to say if that's dinner, or something to line a birthing den.  From what I read, this is right around the time when muskrat kits are born.  Litters range from six to eight, and a healthy female has two or three litters a year.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fungus Feast

This morning's interesting find...  At first we thought we'd disrupted a ladybug love-in, but now understand that we were witnessing fungus beetles dining on their namesake food - in this case, birch polypores.