Monday, September 06, 2010

Idaho Hawk

I was in central Idaho helping out with a wolf tracking class this summer. We were walking a trail into the area that the local pack had denned earlier in the year when we came into a small meadow and spooked up this hawk. The meadow was covered in vole and gopher runs, good food for the hawk!

As best I can tell, it is an immature red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Another one from up at the pass last weekend. I love how these leaves had a spot of dew on each tooth. I think they are palmate coltsfoot (Petasites palmatus) though they look a little different than I am used to.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Log Microcosm

I found this while out doing a mammal survey up near the pass. I'm guessing it is a slime mold or fungus of some sort. It reminds me of a jellyfish or sea anemone (or some really gnarly snot). And near the bottom of the picture it looks like it is forming appendages.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Deer Camouflage

While scouting out tracks before tracking club this month, I caught a glimpse of something at the edge of the woods. I thought it was a deer, but wasn't certain until I went over and found really fresh deer tracks. I still had awhile before we were supposed to meet up again, so I trailed it. It was pretty easy to follow at first as the deer had been moving pretty quickly and even when it moved into more duffy terrain the tracks were easy to see. After a few minutes though, it had slowed down and the tracks were more difficult to follow. Still I managed to get close enough where it startled and made some noise and I was able to see it again.

Hopefully in the future I will get a bit stealthier and start seeing the deer before they see me. But this time I guess I didn't scare it too badly, because it looked at me for a little while before walking off and I was able to get this picture of it. I think it is interesting how much more difficult it is to pick it out in black and white than in color (though color isn't all that easy either).

Click to show color version.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

March Tracking Club Mystery

This March's tracking club may have had the best tracking club weather of the year. We got out to our meeting place with the sun beginning to rise over the horizon and the spring colors (particularly the budding cottonwood leaves) were gorgeous in the early light.

There was a lot of coyote, robin, deer, hare and mouse activity evident in the sand. There was also a partial answer to a mystery I have been holding on to for awhile:

Two years ago during the spring we found a lot of little digs at the sandbar, but we were unable to determine what had made them or why. One of the nice things about going to tracking club on a monthly basis is getting to know what is normal. We did not remember seeing digs like those in previous months and they didn't show up in later months either. Were they specific to that season or did we just not pay enough attention other months?

I recently found a journal entry I had written about the digs and I have been looking forward to getting out this spring and seeing what might unfold with this mystery. Was it a one time thing? Would they show up again at the same time of year? Would there be any clues as to who left them and why?

I was not disappointed. We got out to the sand and there they were! Though not as many of them as I think there had been the previous year. Perhaps the digging behavior hadn't been going on as long yet, which is interesting because this was the third Saturday of March and according to my journal it was mid-February when we found the digs before. Considering how warm the winter has been, what factors might have made the occurrences later this year?

This year there was a clue to their identity. The condition of the sand was such that we were able to easily see deer mouse tracks (often the sand is too damp for their tracks to show up much). Around several of the little digs a lot of deer mouse activity was in evidence and I saw no evidence of other animals of the appropriate size near those digs. So it seems likely that deer mice were doing the digging, but there are still a lot of questions remaining for my mystery.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Birds in My Neighborhood: Sam

The last week or two I have been hanging out on my balcony for a little while almost every day. Mostly I will drink some tea and do a bit of stretching while I listen and watch the birds. I thought it might be fun to start posting about some of the birds I encounter.

This one is Sam the song sparrow (Melospiza melodia). He is a little shy, but most of the time I can see him hanging out on the ivy hedge bordering the yard next to ours. He is the only bird so far that I recognize as an individual (not that I could pick him out of a line up, but based on his consistent location and behavior). Fairly often he will get a bit sneaky and come over to the bird feeder in our yard. He likes to fly under the porch next to the feeder first, then hop out to where the food is.

Sam has been singing from his perch since before I started doing these sits. Recently I started to wonder if he would get a girlfriend soon. This morning when I started photographing him I noticed another song sparrow on the hedge a foot or two away. She would sit there quietly while Sam sang, or sometimes would hop down to feed on the ground while Sam perched on a shrub nearby.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on them as the season progresses.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Beach Pebbles

I don't tend to spend a lot of time look at pebbles. But these ones from up near Bellingham sure were pretty. I'm curious about all the different colors and textures. Most of the larger rocks I see are fairly uniform, why does this stretch of beach have such a high degree of variation?

Sunday, February 07, 2010


It has been a pretty warm winter here near the Puget Sound and from what I read, it will likely continue that way. Last week I picked my first batch of nettles (Urtica dioica), some of them were already nearly a foot tall. I have seen house flies buzzing around for the first time in what seems like a few months. Indian plum is well on its way to being leafed out. I'm not sure if it is related to spring or not (seems like it might be), but my cat caught and ate two mice (or at least that is how many he brought in to the house) after having had a pretty dry spell for the last couple of months.

It's an exciting time of year. I will be headed on a trip south for a couple of weeks and when I get back it will be time to start putting in some work on the garden!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Thanksgiving Walk

Thanksgiving vacation was spent on Whidbey island. The weather was lovely on Friday, so we went on a drive and ended up taking a walk on one of the beaches there (I think adjacent to Cultus bay). It was a protected little bay and there were large slow eddies out in the water; logs and other debris floating in lazy circuits.

There were several great blue herons out there. My favorite was the one hitching a ride on a log out in the bay.

There were also a lot of shore birds flocked up out at the point. Many of them were just standing there, but at the edges they seemed more active. I saw an individual of the smallest shore bird species hopping around on one-leg. I wondered how it managed to survive one-legged long enough to get good at it. After observing for awhile longer I noticed that there was more than one doing that, and then I saw one of them put down a second leg and pull the other up. I guess they don't mind hopping around on one leg while keeping the other warm.