Thursday, October 11, 2012

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.


  1. Zl svefg vzcerffvba jnf pebj, ohg V'z tbvat gb thrff ghexrl onfrq ba fvmr (naq jvyy abj tb naq purpx n obbx). V pna'g svther bhg jul gur hccre genpx vf fb qvfgbegrq pbzcnerq gb gur pyrne ybjre genpx.

  2. Nffhzvat gur genpx vf nobhg 3" ybat, naq gung ybjre genpx vf npghnyyl va n X funcr, V'q unir gb thrff Oneerq Bjy nsgre erivrjvat Ermraqrf' puncgre ba oveqf. Gur cebzvarag gnyba znexf nyfb fhttrfg encgbe.

    V fgvyy qba'g haqrefgnaq gur hccre genpx.

  3. Guvf vf n gbhtu bar. Gur genpx vf ynetr; V'z rfgvzngvat n srj vapurf. Gurer ner pyrne anvy/gnyba gvc vzcevagf. Vg arvgure ybbxf ureba-l be ghexrl-yvxr gb zr, abe vf gurer nal vaqvpngvba gung gur oveq jnf jnyxvat. Fb V'z tbvat gb thrff unjx - erq-gnvyrq unjx.

  4. All good thoughts. The accepted answer was great horned owl, though barred owl might have been acceptable, too. Dan, you mentioned puzzling over the upper track - I think the bird stepped twice with the right foot, and only 2 toes registered clearly with each step.

    The K configuration is typical for owl. A red tailed hawk, which Susan mentioned, would have more of a classic bird track configuration. But not having spent much time studying bird tracks, I wondered how consistent a given species is, in terms of the angles between the toes. Mammals can splay their toes and tracks can mimic those of other species in certain substrates and conditions, so I wondered if birds do too. The impression I got from George (and I hope I'm not misquoting him), is that birds are more consistent, and even just one track of that size in that configuration means GHO.

    I was reluctant to say owl based on 1 track, and the behavior seemed odd. I think the substrate was such that small rodent tracks would have registered, but all we see are the 1 pair of owl tracks, no tracks prey species, and no sign of feather or beak marks suggesting hunting behavior. I thought it was unusual for an owl to come down just to land and then fly away, but I've since read that they do it pretty often. As I said, the area around the circle was already trampled by the time I got there, but when we were discussing the answer, I was told there had been no tracks in the trampled area.

  5. A little post script ...

    I came across this photo of nice, clear Great Horned Owl tracks when looking through a very interesting blog entitled Backyard Beasts by John Van Niel.

  6. Thanks to this discussion and photo, I was able to identify a very similar set of owl tracks found while out with a group on Sunday at the Oxbow. Unfortunately, I neglected to take a picture, but the "k" configuration was unmistakable. There was a rodent-sized hole at the site, but no visible rodent tracks - not surprising given the generally poor conditions.