Saturday, November 28, 2015

Grizzly Bear Poop

Bears are omnivores and berries form a substantial part of their diet, especially in the late summer and autumn.

While hiking along the Shadow Lake Trail in early September, we came across bear poop filled with seasonal berries. The photos below show the bear scat.

The poop was definitely fresh and we had been advised by other hikers that a Grizzly was in the area, but we saw no other signs of the bear. There were lots of hikers that day and likely the bear had used the trail the prior night or earlier in that morning.

Below is what the poop looks like once time has passed. The poop in the photo below was taken in October and was likely weeks or even more than a month old. 

1. Naughton, Donna. The Natural History of Canadian Mammals. University of Toronto Press. 2012.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Common Goldeneye - Bucephala clangula

Common Goldeneye are common where I hike along the Elbow River and some of these ducks choose to winter here. 

The autumn colour and setting was perfect for this female Common Goldeneye. 

The duck remained still enough that the photo includes a good reflection of the golden eye.  

This is a Common and not a Barrow's Goldeneye because the bill is black with no hint of yellow. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Raven Harassing a Bald Eagle

Ravens commonly pester raptors. This Raven took offense to the presence of a third-year Bald Eagle and hounded him out of the area. 

The white line above the eye and the yellow color to the proximal portion of the beak are the tell-tale signs that this bird is a third year. Next year the head will be all white. 

When more than one smaller bird is involved the behavior is referred to as "mobbing." 

Mobbing is clearly a defensive strategy to minimize the perceived threat of a predator. 

Why don't the eagles fight back? My best guess is that the raptors are loath to risk even minor injury in an airborne skirmish with another bird, however small. Survival includes the need to stay fit and healthy. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

More on Nature's Palette

The previous post showed the photo below of a natural phenomena on the surface of the Elbow River. 

I returned to the site five days later. The pigments had dispersed and the water was covered with a thin layer of ice. I searched for and found the source of the pigments and the photo below shows the orange organic material on the ground beside the river.The organic pigments on the surface of the river included shades of red, orange, yellow, and green. The organic pigments on the shore were exclusively orange! 

How did this happen?

My sense is that the factors involved might include the very slow movement of the surface water (shallow rivulet with pigment restricted by beaver dam at one end and surface ice at the other), the incident light from the sun (south-exposed location), the temperature at the water-air interface (cold November mountain water but warmer air in sunlight), the chemical nature of the orange organic material, and time. These and likely other factors allowed the orange pigment to separate into the other colors. 

The photos below show close ups with water seeping over the organic material towards the river. Originally I considered the organic material to be from autumn leaves, berries, and lichen. I thought the colors fit well with the xanthines that are visible once the chlorophyll disappears. However, the organic material in the photos below look more like an algal growth? 

If any readers have other thoughts, please let me know. Thanks. 

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Nature's Palette

Very exciting discovery!

I came across this natural phenomena on an offshoot of the Elbow River in early November. 

The Elbow River is neither deep nor fast in the fall. The river meanders down a valley and encircles numerous small forested islands. The tiny rivulets that encircle the islands are often only inches deep and during exceptionally dry summers the water sometimes dries up.

At the north end of this rivulet was a beaver-built dam. The dam allowed a deeper wetland to form and this marshy area is home to Mallards and Wigeons that nest there in the spring and summer. The wetland is also a popular food source for a Moose that lives nearby. The dam this year kept the wetland about 6 to 12 inches above the natural water level of the Elbow River where this photo was taken. 

At the south end, the rivulet opens into the Elbow River and some ice had recently formed on the slower moving portions close to the shore.  

This phenomena was therefore bounded by ice and by a beaver dam. The photo shows the "colors" moving from the dam to the ice. 

The banks on the east side of the rivulet were stained with natural pigments similar to the colors in the photo. The leaves, berries, lichen, and other plant material are the source for the natural pigments. 

The pigments likely gathered on the surface at the beaver dam end of the rivulet and must have moved very slowly towards the south. I presume the ice that formed at the north prevented the surface water from moving faster.

Much like litmus paper separates out chemicals based on the molecular weight of the substances in a solution, the natural pigments (chemicals) separated out on the surface of the rivulet. This created a palette of colors. Nature's Palette. 

The close-up above shows the details of the tiny wave motion on the surface of the water. Looks like "brush strokes."

The close-up above shows the "sheen on the surface" that implies the oily nature of the pigments.


Friday, November 06, 2015

Walking in the Path of a Grizzly

Grizzly prints are not common because the ground must be just right for an impression to form and last.

This print of the right hind paw of a grizzly was a solitary find in the middle of the Big Elbow Trail in Kananaskis. There were no prints ahead or behind. There had been rainfall in the last 24 hours. The grizzly likely chose this forest freeway to move quickly during the night to a new destination. The print likely formed when the grizzly stepped into a depression with mud that was just the right consistency to form a distinct impression. We were lucky enough to come along before other hikers disturbed the print.

1. Naughton, Donna. The Natural History of Canadian Mammals. University of Toronto Press. 2012.