Archive for the ‘invertebrates’ Category

Tennessee Valley

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Gorgeous cliffs at Tennessee Valley beach in Marin, CA. Otters and Owls. Dangerous tides and vast ocean views. Love it.

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.

Lutra Canadensis

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Northern River Otter

  These tracks are somewhat difficult to see, but if you look in the upper left corner of the photo, you should be able to make out an arc of toes and a palm.

  This is the track of the playful, aquatic weasel known as the River Otter. I have lived in Nevada City for over three years now, a couple miles away from the South Fork of the Yuba river. I have spent considerable time along the banks of the Yuba swimming, exploring and observing wildlife. Never once in all this time was i aware that otters frequented this riparian habitat. I even thought to myself, ” i am bored , i know all the animals in this area too well.”  Hahahahaha.

   That’s what is great about tracking. It’s humbling. You get to thinking you know all that and then something pops up that reminds you how abundant and prolific the life is in this vast Universe.     

otter scat

  Here’s some otter scat. Check out the crayfish shell remains in it.  I was sitting with a friend along the side of the river when she suddenly exclaimed, ” Look!” I had my back turned to the water. I turned around but missed it. She said a slick, dark, cat-like- looking creature slipped down a crevice in the rock into the water. From her description it seemed that she had seen an aquatic mustelid, a mink or a weasel. ” But we don’t have those here.” i explained.  The next weekend i went out to investigate and scoured the banks of the river for an afternoon. Low and behold, an otter haul-out. Scat, tracks, fishy smells, everything.

  Perhaps part of the reason that i wasn’t more earlier aware of their presence was the fact that the banks of the Yuba look like this :

 All smooth stone. Very little substrate that i can track in, such as mud and sand.  But it got me to thinking: mammals will usually follow very defined trails, just as us humans will follow the same exact road to work everyday for years. It’s convenient. The otters trail is the river. That’s why , in this case, the sign was more difficult to spot. The tracks were left behind in the whirls and jettis of a rushing mountain stream, gone downriver just as soon as it appeared. What else in our lives is there, yet invisible to us for years on ened until someone points it out?

  Otters are brilliant in the water, like an underwater, professional dancer. They have webbed feet which you can kind of see in the top photo.  And very bulbous toes. If you see some very fishy smelling scat along a body of water along with a flurry of small grapefruit sized tracks and a whole messy flattened out area, you have the tell- tale sign of the river otter.

  And some amazing flowers found along the way.  The blossom did this fascinating thing where it would fall down the stamen after it was done flowering to hang upside down below the new growth.

Old Nevada City Airport

Friday, June 4th, 2010

lepus californicus

It was a true joy to find out there was a tracking club in my new backyard, other people who are actually interested in staring at the ground for hours on end like myself. good fun.

We met at the old Nevada City Airport just outside of Nevada City. Supposedly it was an airport in the 60’s. Now its a vacant lot that is used by “recreationalists” and a small group of people interested in wildlife tracking.

This is the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit. Check out the hind right foot -the track in the top right portion of the photo. Looked at by itself it could easily be mistaken for a small canid track. Notice how it’s slightly off-kilter  or asymmetrical. That gives it away as a rabbit print.

Rabbit feet are odd. They have five toes on the front foot and only four on the hind. My guess is that this is an adaption for speed and quick manuvering.  You can see the fifth toe on the front foot on the track in the very center of the photo. This animal was moving in a bound so the front feet land before the back feet do. That makes the tracks in the bottom of the photo the front feet.


The substrate was incredible on Sunday. It had rained Friday so the mud was sticky. Incredibly fine detail, and  gorgeous, like chocolate. Here’s a trail of a milipede.  The individual footfalls are actually visible as tracks. Incredible. Harder to see in the pic but amazing in the field.  In dust or sand milipede trails usually just show up as two rows running along parallel next to each other like railroad tracks.  The trail width in this pic is about half an inch.

psuedacris regilla

The hopping trail of a small frog, i was thinking the pacific tree frog (psuedacris regilla). The trail was a sloppy cord running through the mud. These tracks here were some clear ones.  None of us saw it in the field but when i showed this picture to a friend she pointed out that you can see the imprint of the body surrounding the tracks. The color is a little darker right where she /he hopped. Amazing. I didn’t even notice that.  Of course she doesn’t even do tracking much.

mystery invertabrate

The trail width on this guy is about half or three quarters inch wide. Some suggested  beatle. A bit large for a potato bug I thought.

callipepla californica

The walking trail of a California Quail. I have been in California for years and i still can’t get over how stunningly beautiful these guys are. There coats are just stupendous, dark blues fading into grays, with black diamond patterns surrounded by white.  that’s the males. The females are browner. One of these tracks is about an inch and a half in length.

spermopholis sp.

A spermopholis species, I think the Beldings Ground Squirrel but perhaps the California. I think all the yellow stuff is pollen from the pines. One can differentiate ground squirrel tracks from tree squirrel tracks by the front feet. the fronts on ground squirrels are asymmetrical while the trees are more symmetrical. In this photo the front track is the lower right print on the bottom. Notice how it has somewhat of a curved appearance in the toe structure.

pinus ponderosa

The new needles of the Ponderosa Pine.  The ground and cars were covered in bright yellow powder, pollen from the abundant pines in the area. Life is beautiful.

Cross Country

Friday, March 19th, 2010

field in Maryland

I first landed in Maryland on my venture west. I drove through New York and Pennsylvania and spent the next morning taking in the countryside. The pictures above are from that morning. An old corn field and some red fox tracks in the frozen mud of the field.  Well, part of it was a corn field. A bunch of woodpeckers making alot of noise, perhaps Red-headed? And a giant flock of Grackles, swarming the sky. There was also a huge flock of crows that stretched across the sky at evening and during the next morning. Probably going to and from their roost.

DAWN-MD – Audio sample from Maryland, USA.

here is a sound recording fom that same field.

Tennessee Sunrise

Next i landed in Tennessee, surely one of the most special places ever. Driving through Virginia was incredible. The Shanendoas are magical and i wanted to stop and just explore, but another part of me just wanted to drive. I can’t beleive how cool Tennessee is. The smokeys are so amazing and Nashville is unbelievable, the people, the music, the land, the southern warmth. Just awesome. i listened to gospel the whole way through and was converted. Thats that!

I got the sense that Tennessee is a great gift to the world.

Here’s an audio sample from Tennessee. Recorded in the same horse pasture as where the picture above was taken:

DAWN-TN – Audio bit, Tennessee.

Arkansas Swamp

After i hit Tennessee i turned and headed west! Woohoo! That night I got to Arkansas (Tennessee is a really long state!) Driving over the Mississippi was awesome. Trees of some sort growing out of the water and tons of white egrets. there were these strange little mud- minture, animal houses of some sort in the mud of the swamp. About two inches high and 2” across. Like some sort of insect house in the mud. It had a hole at the top abouthalf an inch wide that ran all the way down into the ground. Pretty cool little huts.

Open Road in Texas

Texas was next on my pathway. Texas had the nicest rest areas. The one i saw was huge and fancy, kind of like some fancy outdoor arena. Everything in Texas seems to be huge. The cars, the wide open land, the people. Some hellish cattle lots though, which was really horrible. the worst part was that the one i saw was the same on that was there when i drove through there six years ago. Texas was Frigid! It was mostly the wind. there are just no wind blocks and everything is so open, the wind just rips across un-blocked.

Here is an audio recording of roadside Texas. The bird is a Western Meadowlark, one of a few that was  serenading my morning:

DAWN-TX – Texas audio sample

Albuquerque New Mexico

Nest stop was the high desert of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a truly majestic place. i was fortunate enough to visit a friend there were i could rest and recuperate for a few days.  He showed me around the desert which is a tracking heaven! Unbelievable. here is a buck rub on a small sapling in the desert:

Antler rub, New Mexico

Male deer will thrash up saplings in the spring by rubbing their new antlers  in an attempt to remove the velvet fuzz that covers them. I guess it itches pretty bad which makes them want to rub. Tracks of Coyote, Bobcat, Skunk, deer and many more.

MRNG-NM – audio sample, New Mexico

(Thats a Canyon Towhee trilling)

Albuquerque was bloody cold. It was warm once i hit Tennessee and I thought it would be warm there on out but I was mistaken. New Mexico is high and dry. It was snowing on and off most of the time i was there. Or rather a kind of hail thing. It was weird as it would often be completely sunny and be hailing/snowing at the same time. Usually from a cloud that covered only part of the sky. The cool thing there was that it was so expansive you could see a couple different weather events as you looked out across the landscape. Snowy, sunny, snowy, etc.

Back on the road. A long drive, an incredible, undescribeable drive, going through some of the most beautiful landscapes, to California. My body started to hurt at this point from being stuck in the same position for a week. My elbows started to hurt. weird. Desert. cactus. wildflowers. bikers. green rolling hills. Rollercoaster like road. Oil mines. Incedble land. beauty. excitement. Pacific Ocean. California. It felt awesome and weird to be back in California. Awesome cause it was beautiful and weird cause this was the first time i had driven solo across the counrty, so suddenly i was on the other side of the world.

i drove to Morro Bay a stunning seaside tourist town north of Los Angeles and baptized myself in Mother Ocean. A Volia’ :

Amazing Morro Bay , California, USA

MROBYCA – some seaside music

Ground squirrels scampering among the rocks, Black Oystercatchers calling loudly and feeding at the waters edge, Brown Pelicans, Surfers riding the waves, a Sea Otter floating so contently in the channel on his back feeding on something i couldn’t see, And a huge stunning tan-brown dome rock rising right out of the water. Gulls nesting all along the cliff edge and sparrows singing lush-ly.

Awesome. I drove up Hwy 1 along the coast and soaked in the expanse of ocean. Picked up some young hitchhikers who were also headed to the bay area. The girl was quite the talker and informed me of a great number of things. Many words. I was glad for the company. Got to San Francisco late that night and woke up the next morning to watch the sunrise on the bay. Gulls, a harbor seal, A kingfisher  (which was awesome seeing as i had never seen one there before) and of course the everpresent homeless people, of which, technically, I was, this time, one of.

Thanks United States of America! The trip was truly stunning and life changing. I feel alittle differnt in a way that I can’t quite pinpoint yet having driven across the county. Some sort of Independance or something like that.

Teeming with Life

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

It is  a crazy world out there. Northern Rock Barnacles (balanus balanoides). A crustacean and a fascinating creature. I was at the beach, looking at them under the surface of the water, when i realized that they were moving- they all had antenna-like wisps moving in a “scooping” fashion throught the current. These little plumes, kind of like a peacock tail, moved in and out of this little crustacean in a rhythmic, undulating pattern. I was shocked. I had never noticed this before yet have walked around on these little guys all my life. I knew they were alive but not this alive! I guess they feed by filtering something from the water. ….. and that would be “planktonic organisms and organic matter” floating in the current. The antenna are called “Cirri” and are actually their legs? strange and incredible. It is a crazy world. I was struck at how rich the salt pond i was exploring was. Simply teeming with life. Unbelievable.

Hugest Mink Ever

Okay, so then i walked a little ways down the breachway and was blown away again. This time by witnessing the tracks of the biggest mink ever. At least the largest that i have seen. He was a beast. The mink (mustela vison) is related to the weasel and lives in aquatic habitats. This was the first time i have tracked the animal in a salt water system so the rich abundance of marine life must keep him plenty healthy and robust. At first i thought i was looking at the trail of a small dog, until i recognized the characteristic “lope”, a gait it often uses to get around, stretched out in the sand before me. He was so large he actually left impressions in some firm sand. Staggering.  For a size reference look at the mouse print in the middle-left of the bottom mink picture above (you should be able to get a blown up view if you click on the picture). Its a little difficult to see, but that’s the hind foot of a mouse heading in the opposite direction of the mustelid.

deer trail along edge of pond

A deer trail skirting the edge of the salt pond at sunset.  The trail paralleled the waters edge  and was partially underwater at times.

Who made these tracks?


That’s right.  Snail. Or more specifically the Common Periwinkle ( littorina littoria). If I had just seen the prize for the biggest in species, than this was the prize for the slowest.  This is ten minutes of trail right here. But i watched him move. He was actually moving his body one side at a time: left, right, left, right, like a human being with legs except in slow motion. It’s a whole different world for these guys.

The breachway had some cool rocks in it. Mergansers, Grebes, and Gulls chilling out on the current, fishing or following me around ( hoping I’ll feed them! -gull-).  See the snails mixed in there?