Tag Archives: fauna

Robins return (sort of)

Absent since spring migration sightings, a few robins have reappeared in the neighbourhood briefly.

Two juvenile robins… or possibly another type of smaller-sized, adult thrush… hopped and hunted their way through the yard – subtly rust-coloured, mottled breasts.

A single adult robin seen nearby another day. Most recently, an adult robin lying dead in the alley with a throat wound… the same bird?

Other places are alive with birdsong in the summer, while this area seems quiet by comparison.

I bear witness to the truth of this recent local newspaper article – in this neighbourhood owned by magpies and squirrels, “few town-nesting American robins ever succeed in raising a clutch of eggs to hatching.”

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Feathers

A week ago in the park, unusual feathers covered the ground. They were fluffy, with blunt tips. Yellowish fuzzy tendrils so fine that they clung to everything the feathers touched. Brown and white, barred with darker brown. It was hard to find any good ones to bring home because they appeared to have been through a lawn mower.

I assumed from all the feathers that a bird had met its fate there – perhaps a passing coyote?

I’m not familiar with identifying birds by their feathers (except for the brilliant yet ubiquitous Magpie) but my guess was an owl, based on my amateur intuitive reasoning that if the shape of the parts resembled at all the shape of the whole – that squarish, blunt shape & bars just seems owlish!

Today passing through the park again, I was surprised to see fresh feathers, these ones unmown and in great shape. This batch was less fluffy than last week’s, and didn’t have such square tips. Perhaps the bird is alive and well, after all!

It dawned on me that there may be a juvenile owl just getting her first adult suit – from the fresh supply and the reduced baby-fuzziness. Peering into the treetops in the bright sunshine I couldn’t see any sign of the little(?) one, though. If it is an owl, it’s come to the right place – plenty of young jackrabbits to meet any carnivorous appetite in these parts!

Three Feathers - Owl?

 

Looking again at the colouring, I remember the last mystery bird in the neighbourhood – the Ring-necked Pheasant… Maybe I’ll have to do some research on this one!

First Robin!

They are late this year! Finally saw one perched on a neighbour’s chimney after the big rain earlier this week. In other spring signs – rhubarb is up. And this morning my dog enjoyed her first taste of new green grass for the season. 😉

Spring Showers

Woke up this week to a winter wonderland – snowed all night and all day.
The world made new. Again.

A mouse lives near the entrance to the neighbourhood park. In the fresh snow on the remaining snowbanks she is busy tunnelling; across the bank, popping up and burrowing down again, leaving tiny holes in the snow. The fresh snow so soft and shallow her tunnel falling in behind her, leaving a path of churned up snow. Terminating at the heart of a leafless bush, stems offering protection from avidly curious snouts of canine folk passers-by.

A Blue Jay calls in the morning from the oak tree in a low buzzing rattle, ending in a middle-pitched *click* – a mating call?

 

Tracking reinspired

One of my childhood favourites was Mark Trail’s Book of Animal Tracks, a book brought into the household collection from one of my parent’s childhood bookshelves. (As a child I often pondered the surprising appropriateness of the author’s name – a penname? Or the inevitable outdoorsman career choice with a name like that, like lawyers with the surname Law? To my disappointment I discovered recently the solution to that puzzle –  this childhood figure’s perfect name is due to his fictional status.)

It was a delight to find a track around the farm and to take its features back to Mark Trail’s little illustrated book to play the matching game. A similar joy that birdwatchers (or listeners) find in identifying a bird call.

There’s something special about encountering wild animal signs first-hand. It’s a connection, tangible proof of asynchronously shared space with these often unseen near-neighbours.

Cross country skiing around Jasper earlier this winter I encountered several intriguing trails that rekindled my interest in track mastery. On the first afternoon’s trip we cut our own fresh trail, then on the 2nd morning when we followed it again, an interesting fresh track revealed that an animal had frolicked around the base of a tree. Backtracking, I saw it had come from the direction we had come the previous day. The trail shortly disappeared into thin air. I peered to the near and far side of our ski trail – a blank slate of snow – only to discover that the cheeky creature had trotted in right up our own ski trail: hidden its tracks in ours. We also spotted some Whitetail deer feeding on grass, and, as they thoughtfully vacated on our approach, we were able to look at their digs. Some stand-offish elk studied us from behind the trees, and I was delighted to later come across the field of snow they waded through to arrive there.

Obviously, track photography is another skill I can work on! It’s tough!

In Jasper I acquired 2 remote teachers: I discovered two excellent tracking handbooks to be my lesson books – Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species, by Mark Elbroch, and Tracking & The Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Sign, by Paul Rezendes – carefully selected for stock at the Friends of Jasper shop. Of course, first-hand mentorship is best for these kinds of lessons, but it’s a start.

Of course I am a beginner and a dabbler yet – to really become adept I have a long road ahead. Learning the appearance of a particular kind of animal’s track is one thing, but the layer upon layer of complexity makes it a lifetime’s study! Animal behavior – what attracts and repels each species; why they move and how; what speeds do they travel and what gaits do they use – which produces variation in the track arrangement and print registry. That old book of Mark’s initiated me, but I’ve got a long way to go!