Black-backed Woodpecker Nest

Emily Gibson discovered this active black-backed woodpecker nest while she and I were teaching a program in the Salmon River Mountains of central Idaho.

Do mink (Neovison vison) have webbed feet?

While researching and writing my field guide I encountered various published accounts of the foot structure of mink (Neovison vison). Because of these discrepancies I sought out specimens to examine personally. I examined the feet of 3 recently deceased mink, all from western Washington as well as about a dozen museum skins at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington. All of the green specimins I examined showed mesial webbing on both front and hind feet. Some of the museum skins did as well, while others where dried in such a way so as to make analysis of this impossible. None of the green specimins or museum skins were clearly lacking webbing between toes. The amount of webbing is slightly less than in their larger cousins, river otters (Lutra canadensis) but is none the less quite clear. As is typical with the tracks of most web-footed animals, webbing can be detected in footprints in deep substrates but is often not apparent where substrate is firmer.The photos of actual feet bellow are from a male mink which was killed by a vehicle in the Snoqualmie River Valley, King County, Washington in 2009.

mg_48512.jpg?w=200 Left front foot.
mg_4852.jpg?w=300 Left front foot with toes splayed showing mesial webbing between toes.
mg_4847.jpg?w=300 Hind feet.
mg_4848.jpg?w=300 Toes splayed on hind foot revealing webbing.
mg_4854.jpg?w=300 Top view of a hind foot also showing webbing.
mg_4305.jpg?w=200 All four tracks of a mink in a typical loping pattern for the species. In this deep substrate the webbing between the toes has registered. Tracks from along the Snohomish River, Snohomish County, Washington.
mg_4307.jpg?w=200 Closer view of two tracks (left hind on top of left front) from the same set of tracks as above.
img_8254.jpg?w=200 Tracks a small (likely female) mink from along the Yakima River in Kittatas County, Washington, also in a typical loping pattern. In this firmer substrate the mesial webbing has not registered.

Clayoquot Sound Revisited

A week of journeying by land and sea has yielded some great results as I continue to collect material for my forthcoming book on Wolves of the Pacific Northwest. I am tremendously grateful to Steve and Susanne Lawson for their invaluable assistance in my fieldwork here in Clayoquot Sound thus far! Stay tuned for more photos and stories to come!

mg_01622.jpg?w=300 Sea Otter patrolling coastal waters north of Ucluelet.
mg_0170.jpg?w=300 The return of extensive bull kelp forests along the northern Pacific coast has been associated with rebounding Sea otter populations, a classic example of a trophic cascade. Bull kelp was released from heavy browsing pressure by sea urchins with the return of otters which love to eat urchins.
mg_9852.jpg?w=300 Rocky coastline close to Wye Point, north of the town of Ucluelet
mg_9933.jpg?w=300 Guess the beach brings out the playful side of more than just juvenial people. Here two yearling wolves play with washed up seaweed on an island in Clayoquot Sound.
moskowitz_9819.jpg?w=300 Wolf crossing a lead of water at first light.

 

mg_0154.jpg?w=300 mg_0154.jpg?w=300We watched this randy male black bear following a smaller female bear earnestly, stopping only to rub vigorous on a large drift wood log, a behavior which increases during the breeding season.
mg_0160.jpg?w=300 Oystercatchers are one of the most common shorebirds in the Sound this time of year.

Freeloading Chicken Update

IMG_0736.jpg American marten poses after dispatching the freeloading chicken.

“Dave-  I checked the White Pine camera on Sunday the 20th after two weeks, got about 640 shots of a Pine Marten, two grey jays, and a few wind triggers.  I replaced the batteries, card, bait and scent.  It only took that Marten two days to get all the bait.”–Pete Jenkins

The Curious Case of the Freeloading Chicken and the Wolverine

This weekend, following up on several sets of likely wolverine tracks biologist and backcountry skier Pete Jenkins discovered, a small group of intrepid citizen scientists set out to place a remote camera in the vicinity in hopes of capturing a photo of the illusive carnivore. Grey skies and a very thin coat of fresh snow beckoned.Clouds covered the high peaks of the Chiwakum mountains south of Highway 2 in the Washington Cascades when the group met early Saturday morning. For the project, a few unusual items were called for, not usually included in the field kit of backcountry skiers: a hammer, some chicken wire, a motion sensitive camera, and, much to my chagrin, a frozen chicken and the contents of the scent glands of a beaver (these two items ended up in the bottom of my backpack). More typical of such a ski trip, Samantha Goff insisted on the addition of a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer to each of our packs (see my blog post on climbing around the Eldorado Massive, http://davidmoskowitz.blogspot.com/2009/08/climbing-in-north-cascades.html, for background on Sam and PBR).We departed bright eyed and bushy tailed as heavy wet snow fell, providing some reprieve from the hard raincrust. A couple of hours later, a gain of 2000′ elevation, skinning on an old logging road and then up through uncut mixed conifer forest, had left us quite wet and me feeling a bit upset about the freeloading chicken weighing me down.Pete identified the location he had determined would be the best spot to set up the camera based on prievious track sightings and how animals general moved across this particular set of drainages descending from a large alpine cirque above. Not a minute too soon. I was totally fed up with my chicken (and had a sneaking suspicion it might be leaking chicken juice into my pack.

mg_86911.jpg?w=200

mg_8668.jpg?w=200 Writer Chase Edwards (http://poboxtheeurovan.blogspot.com/) looks on nervously as Pete attaches the bird to the tree.mg_86712.jpg?w=200
mg_86712.jpg?w=200 Pete attaching the chicken, wrapped in chicken wire, securely to the bait tree with remote camera in background.
mg_86732.jpg?w=200 Chase unwrapping the strong smelling scent lure.
mg_8681.jpg?w=200 Chase, clearly relishing the opportunity to smear the bait tree with beaver castorum, an irresistible scent for many creatures.
mg_8710.jpg?w=200 Chase and Sam celebrating a job well done. Much of the skiing that followed, while punctuated by (brief moments of) fine turns, might otherwise be described much like dancing with a partially frozen chicken across a floor of slide alders, avalanche debris, and thinly covered raincrust. Stay tuned here for photos we get from the camera!

mg_8642.jpg?w=300mg_8641.jpg?w=300

Seattle Times Article

moskowitz-184811.jpg?w=200 American marten (Martes americana) track in snow.

Seattle Times Article on wildlife tracking in snow, and the Cascade Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project.Check it out!Animal trackers read dramas in the snow by Kathryn True. November 17, 2010.

Bears, for a change of pace

mg_6810.jpg?w=300 Black Bear feeding on huckleberries. East of Heart Lake, Olympic National Park

A few images from a recent trip to the 7 Lakes Basin in Olympic National Park.

Black bear, Olympic National Park.
mg_6856.jpg?w=300 Black bear, Olympic National Park.
mg_7685.jpg?w=300 Darcy Ottey with the Hoh River Valley and Mt. Olympus in the background.
mg_7686.jpg?w=300 Darcy Ottey watching a bear feed in the meadow beyond her. An Olympic marmot was also watching the bear with much scrutiny. West of Swimming Bear Lake, Olympic National Park.
mg_7702.jpg?w=300 Western Heather Vole (Phenacomys intermedius). Lunch Lake, Olympic National Park.
mg_7671.jpg?w=199 Stream in the Sol Duc River Valley, Olympic National Park.
mg_6962.jpg?w=300 Black bear, feeding on huckleberries. Olympic National Park.

Clayoquot Sound, B.C.

mg_659211.jpg?w=200 Wolf tracks along west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
mg_60071.jpg?w=300 Bald eagle above a foggy forest.
mg_63641.jpg?w=300 Carcass of juvenile humpback whale on beach of island in Clayoquot Sound
mg_59511.jpg?w=300 Racoon foraging for sand flees on beach of island in Sound
mg_57831.jpg?w=200 Black-tailed deer feeding on seaweed on island in Clayoquot Sound.
mg_58041.jpg?w=300 River otter scent marking on seaweed as tide goes out.
mg_57691.jpg?w=300 Black bear foraging for invertebrates in the intertidal zone by rolling rocks.
mg_63841.jpg?w=300 Large Sitka spruce in ancient forest on island in the Sound.
mg_59931.jpg?w=300 A gray wolf trots along the beach early in the morning with ravens in the background. West Coast, Vancouver Island.
mg_69701.jpg?w=300 Tofino Inlet, Clayoquot Sound.
mg_60701.jpg?w=300 Harbor seals lounging at low tide.
mg_56901.jpg?w=300 Atlantic salmon fish farm in Clayoquot Sound with uncut forest in background. Several rivers with no clearcuts or roads in them are seeing massive declines in salmon numbers due to sea lice and other issues associated with fish farming in the Sound. The smell is overwhelming, far worse than a dairy farm and totally shocking in such a wild setting.
mg_56691.jpg?w=300 Active clearcut logging in Clayquot Sound. Top of the photo is uncut oldgrowth. Bottom is regrowth from a previous clearcut.
mg_69601.jpg?w=300 Growth rings: over 200. Destination: ?
mg_68601.jpg?w=300 Huge western red ceder stump set amidst second growth forest of planted Douglas firs. Note that the original nurse log that the ceder tree started growing on in still under the stump, attesting to the volume of biomass in the previous ancient forest and the literally centuries it took to create the structural diversity so important to many Old growth obligate species.

Despite decades of conservation efforts, Clayoquot Sound, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve,  faces numerous severe threats to its ecological integrity including clear cut logging of roadless old growth forests, industrial Atlantic salmon fish farms, and proposed open-pit copper mining. Learn more about the region and how you can support conservation in the region at the following websites:Friends of Clayoquot Sound Clayoquot Biosphere ReserveFirst Nations Environmental Networkmg_62982.jpg?w=300mg_68261.jpg?w=300mg_68751.jpg?w=214

WILDLIFE

mg_770211.jpg?w=300 Western heather vole (Phenacomys intermedius). Olympic National Park, Washington.
mg_471411.jpg?w=300 Winter Wren with insects in its mouth bound for hungry young. Western Washington.
mg_68371.jpg?w=300 Black bear.Olympic National Park, Washington Wilderness, North Cascades, Washington
mg_5848.jpg?w=300 Male Franklin’s spruce grouse. North Cascades, Washington
Black-tailed Deer BuckKlamath Mountains. Northwestern California
Western Grey Squirrel feeding on acorns in an oak tree. Klamath Mountains. Southwestern Oregon
Western Jumping MouseSelkirk Mountains, southeastern British Columbia
Grizzly Bear on Elk carcass. North Fork Flathead River, northwestern Montana.
Bull Moose. Northeast Washington.
Mountain goats in mist. Goat Rocks Wilderness, Washington Cascades.
Bighorn Sheep Ram. Clemens Mountain, East slope Washington Cascades.
Great Egret. Bolinas Lagoon, Northern California.

 

Northwest People

mg_60251.jpg?w=200 Outward Bound Instructor Jacob Anderson climbing the Horsefly couloire on Reynolds Peak, Sawtooth Range, North Cascades, Washingtion.
mg_55381.jpg?w=300 Naturalist Marcus Reynerson inspects a black bear den discovered by David Scott who looks on along with Gabe Spence and Brian McConnell. Western Washington.
moskowitz-10132.jpg?w=200 Climbing guide Forest McBrian shows off some stylin’ moves. Bellingham, Washington.
moskowitz-16681.jpg?w=300 A taste of winter for Emily Gibson.Washington Cascades.
Casey McFarland prepares goose feathers for photographing for his forthcoming text on Bird Feathers of North America (co-author David Scott). Redmond, Washington.
Naturalist Emily Gibson inspects a marsh wren nest she discovered. Potholes, WA
Darcy Ottey on a sunny fall day in the Cascades
Rosa Levin taking a photograph,North Cascades, Washington
Mountaineer Steve Smith applies sunscreen on a bright day.Ragged Ridge, North Cascades Washington.
Forest McBrian reflects on life and love. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, Puget Sound Washington.
Bling Bling takes a well earned rest bellow High pass. Glacier Peak Wilderness, Washington.
Drawing badger tracks from a plaster cast.Vashon Island, Washington.

 

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