Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wing Prints in the Snow

Birds that spend time on the ground during winter might leave wing prints in the snow. The snow needs to be an optimal softness and texture to record the imprint. The bird needs to cooperate and sit still with enough wing pressure to make the impression.

The photos below shows the wing print and snow burrow of a Gray Partridge.

The photos below were created by Canada Geese resting by the side of the Elbow River.

The photo below shows a Northern Goshawk wing print. I came across the raptor on a hiking trail. The hawk was feeding on a small animal with grey fur. The hawk used the talons to pin the animal on the ground and the wings to keep the body stable, while the beak tore away portions of the prey.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tracking Moose

Moose - Alces americanus

The photo above shows a hoof print in the snow. A typical print usually shows the 3rd and 4th toes. The two dimples behind the hoof are impressions from the dew claws, which are the 2nd and 5th toes, and these are more commonly seen with the front feet, which carry more of the weight of the animal. The photo below shows a more pronounced impression of the dew claws.

The photos above and below show Moose prints in the ice along the Elbow River. The river freezes along the shallower sides and creates a smooth, albeit slippery walkway for many forest animals. The photo below is deeper and shows the impression of the dew claws. 
The photo below shows typical Moose poop. This poop is typical of scat produced with the autumn and winter diet. The Moose in my region prefer willow and dogwood shoots. The poop still has a bit of a sheen and has not dried out, which implies the scat is fairly fresh and likely only a few days old.
The adult male Moose below was photographed browsing for plants in the wallow close to Mount Engadine Lodge. Both male and female Moose urinate in wallows and the scent is important in the autumn mating ritual.
Naughton, Donna. The Natural History of Canadian Mammals. Univ of Toronto Press. 2012. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Tracking Red Squirrels

Red Squirrel - Ecureuil roux

The photo below shows the toe pads and feet of a red squirrel who was standing on a snow-covered log.
The photo below shows typical tracks of a red squirrel. The smaller front feet (lower tracks in the photo) have four toes. The outer toes point away from the foot and the middle toes point straight ahead. The hind feet (upper tracks) have five toes. The middle three point straight ahead and the inner outside toe points away at a larger angle.
The evergreen bow and cones below are a nip twig sign that a red squirrel has been feeding in the tree above. The squirrel bites ("nips") the terminal end of the branch, which falls to the ground with the attached cones. On the ground, the cones are easier to retrieve. The ground under this tree was littered with nip twigs. The squirrel nipped off many more cones than the animal ate or took away.
Below is a photo of a winter den for a Red Squirrel. The den is under a fallen log. The entrances are evident. The cones and the cone debris left over after feeding forms a midden, which is confirmation that a Red Squirrel lives and feeds at this location.
Proximal to the winter den in the photo above, there was a cache of cones lying on the ground, stored for future feeding. Red Squirrels create some of the largest cone larders of any squirrel in North America.
Naughton, Donna. The Natural History of Canadian Mammals. U of T Press. 2012.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Tracking Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare - Lepus americanus - are common in my neighborhood. At dawn I often see an urban hare hopping down the road after a night of browsing the residential gardens. Many, however continue to live a rural life in the forests behind my home.
The photo above shows the classic print pattern of a larger Snowshoe Hare moving along at a good pace. The larger prints are the hind legs and the smaller prints are the front legs.
The photos above and below show a smaller Snowshoe Hare that is moving slower and has put both front paws in the same spot. The photo below shows a good imprint of the four toes in a hind paw.
The photo below shows some Snowshoe Hare poop between the hind legs. The hare stops, poops, moves along, poops again, and so on. I often see long trails of single poops. Hop, Stop, Plop. 
The photo below shows more pellets and also the yellow stain and hole created by body temperature urine. There are lots of prints in this location. The hare stopped long enough for a poop and a pee. This location might be a daytime resting location.

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

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Tracking Deer

This adult male Mule Deer - Odocoileus hemionus - was looking for a place to cross the Elbow River but the depth, the current, or the cold was daunting.

The deer in the photo is a Mule Deer. The larger ears, white rump patch, and darker brown tip to the tail are the markers for this species.

This male had all four points on the antlers, which confirms he is at least two years old. The average male lives about 8 years. Females live longer and up to 12 years. 

The tracks in the snow above and below might be either a Mule Deer or a White-tailed Deer. The tracks are too similar to differentiate. The usual track impression (photo above) shows only the larger third and fourth toes (hooves). When the snow is deeper (photo below), you can see the 2nd and fourth toes (dewclaws) behind the hooves. 

The scat below is very fresh (glistening so still a bit wet) and might be either from a Mule or a White-tailed Deer. 

Based on the pattern, the deer urine in the photo above is likely a male (strong straight stream) and the urine in the photo below is likely from a female (scattered stream). 


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