Sunday, February 26, 2012

Short-eared Owl

 After a great hike today at the Turkey Hill Green Belt property, I headed over to the Nelsons Island section of the P.R.N.W.R. I noticed a short-eared working the face of the hill the second I got out of the car. As I headed up onto the hill,  the bird was actively hunting the main field. I got to spend about an hour watching this amazing owl. Short-eared owls are my favorite bird by far. I went out to Montana to photograph them & watch them in numbers at Red Rocks Lake N.W.R, while we saw around 10 + S.E.O's, we never managed to get any good pictures of them.

After my latest B.C.P class, which the main focus was conservation the statistics for S.E.O's are terrible to say the least, with an 80% decrease in their population in North America since 1966. A beautiful bird that will become even more rare as the years go on. SEO's are a species currently listed in Massachusetts as endanged, making moments such as today all the more important to treasure. Places like P.I. and the surrounding marshes are some of the best areas to see these elusive owls if they are about. Marsh & grassland avian species are in critical danger due to loss of habitat and various human impact. It's so weird to see them knowing future generations may not get the same chance.

Aside from the debby downer info.... also caught my first Red Wing Blackbird today, singing at sunset !!!! Other weekend highlights were: 4 Snowy owls, a Great Blue Heron, a Northern Gannet, and 20 Dunlin. Spring is on the way folks.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lots of Raptors & some Harbor Seals

So its been a great couple of days for Raptors,  seeing: a Barred owl, Snowy Owl (6) , Merlin (3), Sharp Shinned Hawk , Red Shouldered Hawk, and the island regulars lots of Northern Harrier & Red Tails. I only took a few pictures this weekend, but the viewing overall was great. I also caught an Eastern Coyote leaving Pine Island for the Refuge at sunset, a very healthy looking animal. Along with the coyote were 4 Snowy Owls all seen from the tip of Pine Island.  The Barred owl was in Ipswich and was seen for the second time in almost the same location at the base of the conservation trail, thinking about putting up a nest box. Finally a pile of Harbor seals were enjoying the last rays on sun on this very temperate February day at the Salisbury Reservation.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

3 Snowys

Well the Parker today was a Zoo. However a quick 20 min ride got me great views of 3 Snowys. I  took a few pictures, but they were from a good ways out... you get the point though. Also a number of pintails in the pannes.

So funny how much these birds stand out

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Eastern Screech & Snowy

So thanks to Hans I got a good look at the Newburyport screech. Neat little bird, I love screeches. I had much better luck finding them last winter. An interesting crowd of photographers there, I cant imagine 10 people standing 5 feet from a bird, is good for the bird. Anyways I made my stop a quick one. Also an early stop in the Parker also yeilded a Snowy sitting across  on the Pannes pools edge. From Thursday to today I saw 4 different species of owl, not bad. They are as follows: Barred, Great Horned, Snowy, & Screech. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Great Horned Owl Mt. Auburn

Checked out Mt. Auburn cemetery after work with my work buddy Andrea, after a bit of driving we located the Great Horned Owl that everyone reports. After reading the recent massbird post about the female GHO meeting her end, I felt so bad seeing the male by himself. A few far off shots were all I could put together.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

when your spoiled on Snowy's

A quick stop in the Parker today after work found 2 Snowy's way out in the Marsh. I got a loooong shot of one, and didn't even bother to take a picture of the second it was so far out. While still seeing 2 owls, I felt almost jipped that I didn't see one closer in. Ridiculous I know.  No short-eared, which was the goal.  Did see a few Razorbill's off E rocks, always love them. ( no pics)

Tracking Fisher with Walnut Hill Tracking

                                                       Warning this post contains Scat.

Quabbin gate
View from overlook

So my dad and I ventured out to Western Ma this weekend for a tracking course on Fisher’s. We went out a day early for a light eve of frivolity, but I was struck with a case of terrible insides, and was bed ridden. None the less we went out the next morning to one of the Quabbin access gates to meet up with Walnut Hill Tracking. Leaving the hotel in the brisk AM, I saw a Northern Shrike and a small flock of Waxwings. ( no pictures)

We met up with a small group of participants, and after a quick but personal hello, headed out with our instructors Valerie and Nick. In lieu of the non- existent snow it was determined that we would focus on general tracking vs. the intended; find a Fisher’s tracks, and follow that animal for the day. No snow will do that. 

Out the gates Nick and Valerie pointed out various damage on some Hemlock trees & other tree species that had been eaten  / browsed by porcupines. We learned porcupines feed from the trunk outwards, causing the trees to seek sunlight in odd directions, misshaping the overall trunks. Signs of this could be seen through out the area. 

Eastern Coyote

 Further up the access road we picked up a trail of an Eastern Coyote, in addition to the great identification of the track. w.h.t. pointed a very interesting fact when trying to determine between wild canine or domestic. Coyotes are goal oriented, focused on maximizing their energy conservation, and will predominately hold a strait course. Domestic dog’s have no need to think about such things as food is predetermined, and will be all over the place on a trail. Just a great sparking statement for thinking about the mindsets of predators in winter. Never know where your next meal will be. Nick while checking a stump for signs of Fisher found a probable (or definite) Fisher kill, the skull of smaller porcupine. Fisher being the only species to actively pray on porcupines. Very cool find.

As we went deeper into the woods we came across a pretty active area for Beaver. Various dams, and flooded sub-levels. While I knew a bit about overall Beaver behavior and communal tendencies. Good factoid; Beavers eat the cambium layer of the bark, did not know what part of the wood they used for food. Next we crossed the Beaver Dam, a hilarious event to say the least.

Stick eaten down to Cambium layer

Back in the woods we came across a snow shoe hare kill by a woodland accipiter, possible Coopers Hawk due to their distribution and overall probability. Anytime I see large game taken by a woodland accipiter I think Goshawk, but I guess its not the likely choice. ( no pic )

Riley in woods
                              Nick looking at Accipiter Kill ( blue jay)  2nd raptor kill of the day

Deeper in the woods Nick and Valerie showed us some great pointers of tracking Fisher such as checking “landmarks” or stump markers along wooded conifer & mixed hardwood areas for signs. Stumps seem to be a good place to "pass information" on to other species. We found some fisher scat, and checked that out. I have newfound appreciation for the further investigation of scat. This fellow had been eating squirrels… it appeared to me, in some volume.

Large Fisher Scat
By the Quabbin shore we found further evidence of Mink, Racoon, Beaver, Coyote, and Otter. The waters edge is quite the quick stop for the forest life. Up the bank a otter roll area was pointed out with interesting scat containing crayfish shells & depressed areas where the otters scent rolled in seemingly mass numbers. Very interesting depressions from the rolls. 

I could go on and on about the day.  But other highlights were a large denning areas for Porcupines and a rocky over lay for Bob Cats, a number of Eagles out on the Quabbin, and another close look a the tracks of the Eastern Coyote. Very different habitat out there in Western Mass, great hiking in the woods. 

Much thanks to Nick and Valerie who had not only great insights into the animals behaviors and their habitats, but also a vast wealth of  knowledge about the species themselves & the various Flora & Fona about. Very impressive to watch them read the forest, I really learned a lot about tracking & many good facts about the various species. I do enjoy a good fact. Check em out & lots of great courses. What an amazing day out in the wood with a great group of people. I'll be going again next year so let me know if anyone wants to tag along! 

A few other shots from the day

Valerie showing riley porcupine damage

                                                           Riley heading down to the Quabbin

                                                                 More Beaver cuts

                                                                   Eagle Way off
Porcupine Den