Archive for the ‘trails’ Category

Pine Marten Pair

Monday, March 18th, 2013

 

  A Pine Marten, martes americana, in a bound (a fast sprint using four legs).  Two Marten trails wove in and out of each other through the alpine wilderness near Tahoe , California. The distance between their trails would widen and narrow, and at times speed up or slow down in relation to what I assumed was  the plentiful population of Douglas Squirrel that frequented the forest area.  One trail held footprints slightly larger than the other, which led me to assume I was following a male and female of the species in the process of acquiring sustenance not only for themselves but for a soon to be embryo, young that would join their wild family sometime this month or in April.

 In the background you can a second Marten trail intersecting it’s companion’s, along with some Douglas Squirrel tracks, likely the sumptuous dinner they feasted on that winter day.   

   A “sitzmark”, where an animal lands in a deep substrate from a height , causing it’s body to register more than just  feet.  In this case a small pine tree, no doubt harboring a terrified squirrel, was the object from which the Marten returned to the ground.  Notice the impression of the belly, neck and what appears to be muzzle in this photo.     

  The enormous leaps of a Long-tailed weasel trail looks surprisingly similar to that of its tree-bound cousin, only mini.      

Martes Americana

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

 

  

       Martes Americana, or the American Pine Marten.   

     It’s amazing how the weasel family has adapted to cover all sorts of terrain and habitat. The Long -Tailed and Short -Tail weasel have taken to the marshes and wetlands, the Mink and Otter to lakes and stream, the Badger has gone underground, the Wolverine took to the harshest of alpine and tundra climates, the Sea Otter to the salty ocean and the Fisher and Marten to the trees.

   Both Fishers and Martenshave a unique foot structure which allows their hind feet to turn around in a complete 180 degree half -circle. This affords easy movement up and down the trunks of trees. This is helpful to the Marten who wreaks havoc on the squirrel population as he hunts though the canopy in pursuit. I always wondered why the red and Douglas Squirrels where such tense little creatures, often alarming at me as i walked afoot, to the point of significant frustration.   They have giant ferocious weasels crawling after them through the trees, ripping them and their young right out of their hollow-tree trunk nests!! Nowhere is safe. No wonder they are on edge. 

 

 

       Here is my wrist watch next to the trail for a size reference.The tracks where in between the size of a Mink and a Fisher, about one and a half to one and three quarters inches long. Its bounding trail paralleled that of the Douglas Squirrels all day long, leading in and out of root cavities and entrances to various underground spaces.  Supposedly they can spend a significant portion of their time  underneath the snow in certain areas.

   I got the impression that the Marten was a smaller, cuter version of the Fisher. But more alpine. They moved very similarly, bounding about in between a 2x and 3x lope.

       Towards the end of my sojourn the Marten left a scat right atop a much larger animal trail. It looked like a dog trail but was moving about in a lope. It kind of reminded me of Fisher but bigger. I dismissed it as a local dog, but now i wonder what it was. 

Pine Marten atop a Snowshoe Hare trail

Fire and Ice

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

  Some cool ice formations i came across on the gravel road one chilly morning at Donner State Park in the Sierra Mountains of California.  Frozen in time, gone by the afternoon’s melting sun.  What hidden messages does the crystallized water have for a wandering wayfarer? 

   I was reminded of the poem “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost, which my English teacher had us memorize in high school. I thought it was a cool poem then but i remember she was kind of excited sharing it with us at the time. I never really got why she was so excited, but reading it now i get it. It  talks about Nature and Destruction. Nature and Destruction are Awesome!!

                               “Some say the world will end in Fire

                                                  Some say in Ice

                                   From what I’ve tasted of desire

                                 I hold with those who favor Fire.

                                        But if it had to perish twice

                                     I think I know enough of hate

                                    To say that for destruction Ice

                                                    Is also great

                                              And would suffice. “       

  Now i even get why she accented and spaced the words the way she did. Adults are so…………. entertaining. 

   Robert Frost spent a significant portion of his life in New England, writing, teaching and walking about in the woods among other things. Many of his poems are about Nature and his interactions with Her.  I guess in this poem he was linking two human qualities that would tend toward the dark side of our beings, with elements in Nature, and then personifying them.

 

Wandering bears in the snow, flocks of Hooded and Common Mergansers, (lophodytes cucullatus), chattering kingfishers, minks and beavers. This well- used beaver trail connects a pond with a nearby mountain stream. It rises right over a well used hiker and auto trail. 

 

  

 You can see the hand-like beaver tracks intersect with the tire prints. I figured the beavers used the trail to drag brush from its foraging area, pond, to its burrow/lodge  in the bank of the stream.

  The interesting thing about this park is that it has a railway  going directly through it. So all of a sudden you will be hiking along and a giant freight train blazes by with much ferocity and clamor.

  A downed, weathered Pine, with accompanying beetle trails, a mysterious and silent melody written on the staff of Life, now past and dead.

Northern California Autumn

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

  A gorgeous Autumn here in Northern California.  The Black Oaks are a rich yellow to gold, which mixed with the bright greens of the Pines and Madrones, turn the hills and canyons into an artist’s palette, the brush of the brisk breeze making the colors dance  in a symphony of worship to the bright Sun-God above, sitting regal in his azure palace. 

    I enjoy Northern California because it shares some similarities to my home in the Northeast; snowy winters, somewhat of an autumn, deciduous trees, yet lots of sun and a Mediterranean climate.

  Some nice rounded stones on the shores of Lake Tahoe. A red glowing sunset over the snowy mountains. Chipmunks scurrying beneath the downed logs. Gulls lazily transversing the air overhead as people walk their dogs and search, beset with anguish, over their lost portable communication devices.

Calusa

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Didelphis virginiana

The walking trail of the Virginia Opossum along the Sacramento River in Calusa State Park. The opossum is a curious creature. One can see them waddling through the fields and woods at night somewhat awkwardly, in search of delicacies.  They have a human-like track with five toes and an opposable thumb on the rear foot. This can be seen in the photo above.

That’s a trail of the common Killdeer in the upper left. A gorgeously marked shorebird found along rivers, streams and lakes ,that boasts a stark black and white neckband.

Once i was sitting, leaning up against a hemlock tree in upstate New York enjoying the night when i heard a shuffling though the leaves behind me. I turned around to see a pale ghostly mammal making its way towards me, unaware of my presence.  It was a possum out for its nightly forray.

Possums are our countries marsupial, meaning they have a pouch that the young spend time in just like kangaroos. Pretty cool.

castor canadensis

A flurry of beaver trails dragging branches and vegetation in and out of the water.

Beckworth

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Beckworth is a rocky peak that sticks up into the sky outside my apartment window here in Portola, California. My roommate and i have been wanting to climb it so today we finally ventured out. The very top one hundred feet is a rocky crag that somewhat resembles a curved dome. I walked right up to it and found the most amazing lichen covering the stone.

I felt like i was in some kind of underwater tropical reef, it was so colorful. With the Sierra Valley spread out below and the sweet smell of some kind of scented bush below me, it was quite spectacular.

I scaled the wall to the top and found Woodrat scat -latrines and a nest fifty feet up the cliff! It was amazing to see a non-winged creature living in such a dangerous environment. I thought that the potential benefits might be that they could avoid predators.

One interesting thing about climbing is how mindful and present it forces you to be. It is a rare situation in which moving your foot two inches to the left results in death. When’s the last time you were sitting at a table having lunch and you were afraid to move your hand cause you didn’t want to die?Never. Minus the “afraid of falling to my certain death” part, if i could feel the way i felt seventy feet up that cliff every moment of my life, i would be all set. Complete and utter focus on the task at hand. Complete and one hundred percent conscious movement of every foot and forearm.

The cool thing about Nature is it can serve as a blueprint for the human mind as to how to be, meaning how to be alive in this world. You go out in the wilderness and you look around. The trees are not worrying about their bills they have to pay. The stones are not worrying about finding their soul-mate. The birds are not angry that their colors aren’t bright enough. You look around and you see that the essence of these creatures is stillness and peace. And you get to match up your own mind and soul with that essence. In this way connection with Nature serves as a spiritual practice.

The Ponderosa Pine is such a magnificent tree. Long green needles stick out in every direction forming wispy green orbs at the end of each branch. The bark has the most amazing Vanilla-sugar smell when it’s warmed by the sun, that brings me back to a flour-covered counter-top in the kitchen of my childhood.

New England Lion

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

A mountain lion (puma concolor) was struck by an SUV near Milford, Connecticut in June. DNA samples showed it had come from South Dakota! Pretty wild. Folks have been spotting and tracking lions in New England for years. They used to be native to the northeast before all the development.

Feather River

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Mustela vison

The American Mink, a weasel found often  in waterways throughout North America and beyond. I walked along the feather river in Portola California today in search of wildlife. Some co-workers said the river has otter. I wanted to find out. I found some otter-like scat, but i couldn’t ID it for sure. I did come across the other riparian weasel however. His trails and scat were all along the banks in the mud and up on the rocks. The scat was almost entirely filled with crayfish remains.

Yesterday I picked up John Muir’s “My First Summer in the Sierra” for the first time in years. I opened it up and was absolutely blown away. Everyone remembers him as a mountaineer, but honestly, I have never heard anyone else write like that. The mans mastery of words is phenomenal.  He makes Nature sound like Heaven. I’ve never heard anyone write about Nature like that. He was so enthralled by the wilderness and conveys it so well in his writings, I almost couldn’t relate, and i’m a naturalist. That guy was some kind of alien or something. Truly inspiring.

Castor canadensis

The Beaver, also a common resident of rivers, ponds and almost any place with water. If you look in the top right portion of the picture you can see a fairly large three-toed track that looks like a giant bird track, that’s the hind foot of the beaver. The hind left is also in the photo in the bottom left, but it’s jumbled up amongst other animals tracks and is harder to see.

The beaver has five toes on its hind feet, but usualy only the outer three show up. Not sure why honestly. It probably has to do with the fact that they spend a significant amount of time in the water swimming as apposed to travelling about on land.

Spotted sandpipers, ospreys, and a green-tailed towhee shared the banks of the Feather with me. The Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, makes a unique kind of shriek-call as he flies, that makes him sound like the dominant resident of the river.

bear trails

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

a walk in the snow

The walking trail of a black bear (ursus americanus) near Yuba Pass, one of the passes over the sierra that highway 49 uses.  This particular trail was less than forty five minutes old, likely minutes old. Sun was melting the snow pretty fast that day and these tracks were crisp. Plus he walked right on top of my trail that i had made forty five minutes earlier.

It was a stunning walk. All the snow reflecting the light like some kind of brilliantly lit lab room. I walked in the slush for a few miles out then turned around and came back the way i came only to find the sign of this wandering omnivore. He broke into a run just a few feet up from the photo above. I was singing pretty loudly on my return walk and i wondered if that is what scared him. I am saying him just cause of the size of the tracks. Not actually sure of the sex.

little one

Here’s a smaller one that crossed the trail earlier on my walk. That’s an AA battery for size comparison. I wonder how old this guy was and why he/she was alone.

Connectivity

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Black-tailed jackrabbit

Recently saw an amazing talk by Fraser Shilling of the UC Davis “Road Ecology” department. That is, the study of how wildlife relates to human transportation systems. He said according to the Humane Society :

ONE MILLION

animals die

DAILY

from auto travel in the US.

He started a website called www.wildlifecrossing.net in which citizens of California can enter roadkill observations onto the site as a means of making an accurate picture of roadkill patterns statewide. Its incredible. Check it out.

This is a Black-tailed Jackrabbit (lepus californicus) that was killed on the local highway, Hwy 49, last week.