Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's a Little Fishy

At the last tracking club the flood waters had recently receded. The substrate along the paths was a lovely silt and we saw a number of tracks we don't usually see out there. We also found some things left over from the waters going back down including this little fish.

I'm hoping that one of my fish-knowledgeable friends will be able to identify it. We think it is a salmonid. The only salmon I see in the river in large numbers are chum salmon so that would be my first guess, but I think there are others that it could be.

--New Pic--
I guess the picture above wasn't good enough to use for identification very easily. Maybe the picture below will add some helpful details although it is unfortunately quite washed out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Track of the Week 10

Sand dunes near Oregon Coast, October 2006

1. What species?

This is a raccoon. It's got 5 finger like toes (though they look less finger-like here than they often do.) It is moving in gaits common for a raccoon (and in the case of the 2x2 walk, rare for other creatures its size).

2. Which feet are the two at the left of the picture?

They are the left hind and right front. The inner toe on a raccoon hind foot is lower down then on the front foot. Also hind feet have a bigger heel pad when it all shows. It is hard to see in the left most tracks, but if you follow it out you can see in the later tracks and extrapolate backwards.

3. Describe the gaits.

It starts and ends in its standard 2x2 walk - checkout this cool video to see how a raccoon moves. The middle section of the trail is a couple of slow loping strides.

Previous Track of the Week
Next Track of the Week

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pretty Rocks

This is also from my trip to the Washington cascades last summer. Up near the head of the valley there were a lot of rocks around with these reds and oranges. I assume that those colors are due to iron. I particularly like the white streaks through this rock, almost like lighting.

This rock reminds me of glaze. The part at the top of the picture was in the dirt. I am curious if it turns the glazed deeper red from the sun, if it is from polishing in the elements or something else.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Track of the Week 9

November 16, 2008 at Bob Heirman park along the Snohomish river in Washington. The river had recently flooded.

This week's questions aren't so much tracks, but are important things for a well rounded tracker to know. If there are other features you would like to see for any of these questions, you can ask and I may have a picture that shows them from a different angle.

1. Who am I?

Ably identified by the commenter, this is a shrew-mole. In addition to what the commenter said, note that the nose is naked and the fur is uniform in color around the whole body. Shrew-moles are the smallest North American moles.

2. Who am I?

Also ably identified by the commenter, this is a shrew. I am not experienced enough to identify it to species. From what I can tell, the long tail, bi-coloration, size, and shape of the nose are useful in identifying shrews. I hadn't realized that shrew eyes were so tiny. One interesting thing I learned is that some species of shrews use echo location.

Bonus 1. Who am I?

I don't have the proper resources to identify this, but a friend who is a knowledgable naturalist tells me it is a bull frog. This seems quite reasonable to me considering the size of it. I was surprised to find tadpoles this time of year, but apparently it can take up to 3 years for bullfrogs to grow from eggs to adults.

Bonus 2. What evidence of the flooding can you see? (Definitely would be a good idea to view the enlarged image.)

The main clue is a bit difficult to see, but the bottom of the trees are all grey from silt picked up during the flood. There is a line at the same height on all of the trees where it shifts from grey to green. This line was also visible along the side of the valley.

Previous Track of the Week
Next Track of the Week

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rock Brake

I'm not sure which species of Cryptogramma this is, it appears there may be several species in the state. This was up in the Napeequa valley late last summer.

In the enlarged image it is easier to see that it has vegetative and fertile fronds. The vegetative fronds look somewhat like parsley which gives it one of its common names: parsley fern.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Track of the Week 8

October 25, 2008 along the river near Vantage Washington

1. What species made the clearer tracks?

These are classic tracks of a bobcat. Notice the overall roundness of the tracks, the asymmetry, as well as the flat, lobed front of the heel pad. These characteristics mark it as a feline and the size puts it at a bobcat.

2. Which feet are they?

They are on the right side of the body because cats have a leading toe 3 (the third toe from the inside counting the inner toe that generally doesn't show up in tracks). It is a little difficult to tell which is the leading toe of the foot closest to the ruler, but is more clear on the further track.

One way to help remember the leading toe is to look at your hand and pretend you don't have a thumb. Which finger sticks out the most? The middle finger, which is the third finger from the inside if you count the thumb.

The track closest to the ruler is the front. Notice how much wider it is the the other track which is a hind.

Bonus 1. What sex is it?

I think it is helpful to compare these tracks with the earlier bobcat track of the week. Notice how much more space there is between the toes in this week's tracks and that the tracks are smaller. There is also quite a bit of space between the heel pad and the toes in comparison to the previous set. For these reasons I think this was a female bobcat.

Bonus 2. What are the genera of the fainter tracks?

The track at the lower end of the ruler is from a coyote: note the symmetry and tightness of the track.

I think the track in front of the bobcat tracks is difficult to id from this picture, but I believe it is the left hind track of a raccoon. The toes are at least somewhat finger like and I can just make out part of the inside fifth toe low down on the right side of the track.

Previous Next

Friday, November 07, 2008

Great Horned Owl

(Bubo virginianus)

While tracking on the east side of the mountains a couple weekends ago I came upon this owl. I heard it shifting around in a tree in front of me, but had trouble seeing it until it flew off. On my way back I found it perched on a rock and shortly after it flew up into the tree in the picture. I didn't find any owl pellets.

I was a little surprised to find it like that - where it is pictured is the kind of place I imagine owls like to hang out during the day, but the outer branch it was in at the first tree and then the rock both seem exposed for an owl during the day. I didn't see or hear any birds mobbing it while I was there though.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Silence and Feet

I saw a couple of cool web pages recently that I want to share.

The first is an article on silence and soundscapes in a world where it is increasingly difficult (next to impossible) to escape human noise. It was written by Kathleen Dean Moore who has written a couple of books of essays that I would also recommend.

The next is a recent blog post by DeAnna about a wildlife rehabilitator she knows. Be sure to click the link for the slideshow. Of particular interest to me were the pictures of feet. Possum feet are so crazy!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Track of the Week 7

Central Washington, a week ago.

1. What species are here?

There are coyote tracks going through from bottom to top (as well as some older ones going the other way).

The trail going across horizontally is a snake. The divots are the most obvious parts, but if you look there is also sand smoothed out between the divots. I'm not really sure how to describe the trail, but I'm not aware of anything else that leaves a trail quite like this, so if you see something similar, there's a good chance it was left by a snake.

And of course there is the tire track on the left side.

2. What order did they come through?
The snake came through after the coyote and tire. It's a little difficult to see, but the snake trail comes out of the tire divot and although the coyote tracks are all visible, one of them has been partially smoothed over by the snake.

I don't know whether the tire or the coyote came first.

3. What directions are they going?
(The picture was taken at 9am if you want to give the compass directions.)

At 9am the sun should be shining more or less from the southeast. From the shadows it appears that the sun was shining from the right of the picture.

That would mean the coyote is travelling NE. The snake is a little more difficult for me, but I believe it is travelling SE. This is based on how the trail comes out of the tire track and I think it makes sense that the divots would be made in the direction of travel like that.

Previous Next