Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I was surprised to see this quail pop up on the snag. I don't see quail often in the region and hadn't heard them calling. But after I had been sitting for awhile I heard a commotion and up popped the quail. It kept calling and after a bit I heard another respond on the other side of some bushes. They called back and forth for a bit and then disappeared. The one seemed pretty agitated. I'm assuming it wasn't because of me since it started its kerfluffel before it was in my sightline. It did seem mostly focused on me once it got to its perch though.

I think this is a female california quail (Callipepla californica). I don't really remember seeing quail that looked like this before, I guess I have just not paid attention to female quail before.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

American Dipper

My timing on this one was impeccable. On my way back from my camping trip I stopped to look for tracks under the bridge. I was listening to a podcast about dippers and the speaker was just talking about finding a dipper's nest. Then, under the bridge I noticed a dipper chirping at me, then all of the sudden it flew up to the bridge rafters and was greeted by a chorus of little chirps.

After feeding the young it would fly down into the water and dive under, presumably catching something edible, but would then fly over to the shore and do a bit more hunting.

After it got enough food, it flew to a log in the water and bopped up and down for awhile (where it gets its name) before flying up to the nest.

I saw a bat under the bridge too. There was a big pile of scat and they appeared to be made up of insects. The location and contents made me suspect bats, I looked up and noticed that there was a large gap (a couple of inches across) in the concrete above. I looked for bats, but didn't see any (it was pretty dark and far away) until I heard a noise coming from up there and after several seconds of looking I noticed it crawling further back into the crevice. It was almost as though it noticed me looking up there and decided it was too exposed and needed to hide better, but its hiding actually made it more noticeable.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Camping Trip

Last night I went "camping" at a sandbar I like to go tracking. I was going pretty minimalist, using just wool blanket to keep me warm at night and a few snacks to eat in the morning. In retrospect, it might have been nice to at least have brought a hat as well. I was warm enough to get to sleep, but woke up several times feeling a bit chilly. This worked out pretty well though, as it made it easy to get up when it got light out. After spending most of the past week staying up till two or three am, this morning I was up and moving at five.

I was hoping to see some large mammals (coyote, bobcat or maybe deer). I think I heard some animals in the night, but didn't see any. The birds were quite active though. Lots of robins, I think there were a bunch of juveniles and I noticed some male aggression - perhaps they are starting a new round of nesting.

I still feel a little frustrated with bird language at times. It was pretty clear to me when the robins were reacting to me, but sometimes I would hear a robin or two alarming while another robin (and other birds) carried on singing in the same area.

It was a lot nicer walking around in the cool peacefulness of the morning then after it heats up around mid-morning. I think I will continue to make a practice of it (though probably not on a regular basis).

The white crowned sparrow (Zonotricha leucophrys) above was quite vocal most of the morning. Often from the same perch where I took this picture. I ended up getting a little too close and he flew off. I waited around for awhile and though he didn't return, several other birds did come by, some of which I will probably post about later.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Little Fish

I spent the holiday weekend on Whidbey island. It was quite nice.

We went out for a walk at Double-bluff Beach. There were quite a few things of interest there, including moon snail egg collars (looked like a funnel made of sand), various crab, a heron fishing in the low tide, and these little fish. We found several of these fish in the sand a fair distance from the sound (several meters), though there were small amounts of water nearer on the beach. This one at least was alive and got a free ride back to the sound courtesy of the nine year old who is attached to the foot.

I'm not really sure what would be a good resource for identifying fish like this.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bug Inspector

There were some transients (I wonder if that is a preferred term) under the bridge today. Three grizzled men sitting in the shade, talking and relaxing. I went about my way looking for tracks and after awhile one of them asked me what I was looking for.

I said "animal tracks" and one of the others exclaimed "See?! I told you! He's one of those bug inspectors!"

The first guy said he had thought I was tweaking.

They asked what kind of bugs were around there and I told them what I knew, though explained that I was more of a mammal tracker than a bug tracker. The first one joked about mosquitoes making tracks on his arm and mentioned that there had been animals through a couple nights before. I think the "bug inspector" one had been sitting under the bridge when the tracking evaluation did some stations there and probably picked up on the fact that we were discussing bug tracks (among other things).

I'm not sure what kind of tracks these are, think they might be a beetle.