There is a steep rocky ridge near Mt Agamenticus in southern Maine where the Hemlock trees are thin and the Porcupines are thick. Above and below you can see obvious sign of the damage Porcupines can cause as they feed on the bark of trees by nipping off branches to get at the tender ends.
I came here knowing I might run into the creatures and hoping to see other creatures as well. After wandering around for a few hours and seeing a lot of porky tracks and not much more I returned to the rocky ridge hoping for some bobcat sign. This spot is known for bobcat. They like to den and lay up in the same bouldery places as porcupines.
By now I had been out for quite some time and my body had relaxed and slowed. I climbed up the jumbled boulders toward a likely spot. I have been told it is better to hold no agenda in the wild, that it can be sensed by other animals and cause them to flee or that an agenda narrows one’s focus and other things can be missed. I had an agenda to get to a certain spot likely for Bobcat sign. Maybe I held it loosely enough because as I moved up I was a bit startled by this sleeping Porcupine beside me, napping on the porch of its den.
Porcupine, I soppose can afford to sleep more soundly than other animals having quills to protect them. I managed to maneuver around a little and take many pictures with a noisy shutter without waking it.
Eventually I got greedy and disturbed this cool creature. A good tracker gets in and out without the animals knowing, I have some learning still to do here. It clicked its teeth and moved slowly back to the deepest gap between rocks. I left slowly too, as not to disturb further.
Posted in Maine, Porcupine, Tracking, Trees | Tagged Mt Agamenticus, porcupines, Tracking, Wildlife, wildlife tracking | Leave a Comment »
Deneen and I went to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge on the coast of southern Maine. At the estuary we saw this harbor seal swimming around looking for a place to bask. The rivers edge proved to steep for it in the end and we got to observe it for quite some time.
Gulls and Canada Geese had been around all day occasionally calling or flying about. As we relaxed against a bank of sand some gulls and a couple geese all squawked at once which caused me to turn around toward the noise. This was not something I think I would have taken note of in the past. Last fall we took an bird language intensive course with White Pine Programs. Since then I have become a little more aware of what all that bird sound might mean. I am most often left wondering.
This day I had little time to wonder. When I looked back I saw half a dozen gulls and two geese calling and flying toward us all in a group. Above and behind them a bald eagle came out of the trees and flew over us. I did not get pictures of the fleeing birds (the movement they made is called a bird plow) but did get this picture of the eagle.
Bird language is an extension of tracking. One can “track” the presence and movement of animals by the reaction of other, more visible or audible, animals.
Posted in Bird Language, Birds, Maine, Seals, Tracking | Tagged Bird Language, Birds, Harbor Seal, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge | Leave a Comment »
The first day of spring brought me great tracking snow. I have been out often over the last few days and have a back log of great tracking to share with you. For now I will share something that happened to me today.
As I was walking up an old road in the woods I startled this Coopers Hawk out of the bush along the road and onto this tree branch. It had in its talons a chipmunk.
Right on the side of the road, just feet from me where the tracks of the capture. If you look carefully you can see Chippy’s tracks going from the middle left toward the rock on upper right as well as the wing and tail impressions of the hawk and some very fresh blood.
Above is some plucked fur on the snow and below the perch that I drove the hawk from as it fed. There is fur and some meat present.
I identified it as a Coopers by the size (too big to be a Sharpy), the slate grey color and rusty banded breast, rounded tail tip and darker cap that can be seen in the picture below.
Every time a go out with no agenda other than curiosity I am rewarded with something amazing. It wasn’t always like that and what I find is not always so dramatic as a hawk with its prey. The time I have spent looking seems to have broadened my idea of what is amazing and taught me where to look. In this case I was in the right place at the right time. Most days, anywhere but the couch turns out to be the right place at the right time.
Posted in Birds, Northfield, Small Mammals, Tracking | Tagged Coopers Hawk, right place at the right time, track, Wildlife, wildlife tracking | 4 Comments »
Three Red Trees lead a tracking walk at White Memorial Conservation Center a few days ago. I had gone ahead to scout and found these tracks pictured here. They were quite small and covered some distance in the open. They were beautiful and I was excited. I thought they were Longtailed Weasel and told the group so when they came later. I even convinced Deneen. We both thought on first seeing them that they were skunk but they were so small, much smaller looking that all the other skunk tracks we had been seeing recently that I called it wrong. It was not until I got home and looked at these pictures without the pressure of an audience, that I saw that the foot morphology was all wrong for weasel and all right for skunk.
In my defense the first bit of track I came across was this confusing section below that I mistook for some sort of 3 by 4 bound. I still don’t know what was going on there.
Posted in Animals, Skunk, Tracking, White Memorial Conservation Center | Tagged Skunk, Skunk tracks, Tracking, White Memorial Conservation Center, Wildlife, wildlife tracking | Leave a Comment »
I struggle with differentiating mouse from vole tracks when behavioral clues are not obvious. Voles, at least the commonest of souther New England, baseline movement (sometime known as harmonic gate) is a trot while mice move in a bound most of the time. Of course they are each capable of both gates as well as others. There are distinctions in the foot morphology but I have not looked at enough clear tracks of these species to reliably see these differences with confidence.
The creature in these pictures moved in a protected area close to cover most likely exploring the cracks and holes in the frozen sand at the bottom of a big eroded drainage. All kinds of things blow in there from the sand barren-like wild blueberry fields above.
The measurements I took fit into several mouse and vole species. Some of the morphology is apparent but not consistent. In some sets the right foot looks different than the left.
If I have it right the toes of voles show more connection to the pads giving them a finger like appearance. I don’t really see that in these tracks. These do however walk a great deal like a vole is more likely to do.
There were a few bounds mixed in as well.
Every time I think I got this tracking thing licked I find something else to learn.
Posted in Animals, Maine, Small Mammals, Tracking | Tagged Mice, Mouse, Tracking, Vole, Wildlife, wildlife tracking | Leave a Comment »
Woke up the other day to these wonderful tracks outside the house. A skunk, no doubt looking for a mate, galloped down the path from the driveway past the basement door. I can tell its a lope because to start with the track pattern is in a broken rhythm, there is a space between each set of four. The next thing to look for is where the front and hind feet fall in relation to each other. Above the tracks of the hind feet both land past the tracks of the front feet. In the below photo one hind foot does not land past both front feet but beside it. That is a lope.
What does it matter? Well it is reflection of how the animal is moving and possibly its state of urgency. Often in tracking information can be hard to come by and any more of it is welcome.
March 9 we are leading a free tracking walk at White Memorial Nature Center in Litchfield CT. Come learn more about tracking with us.
Posted in Animals, Northfield, Skunk, Tracking | Tagged Skunk, Tracking | Leave a Comment »
My friend Greg, a great bower, helped me out making this Holmegaard style bow. Its is make of Sugar Maple and shoots smooth and sweet.
Holmegaard is an area in Denmark where the first of these ancient bows was found preserved in a bog. Holmegaard’s have certain features that I have replicated, though not precisely, in this bow. I used a wider belly than back, narrow non-bending handle, and narrow tips.
A more true example would have been shorter, mine is over 6 foot, bent little in the narrow tips and been a little wider in the rest of the limb. I prefer a longer bow and therefor a narrower limb. Replication of history is also not my aim. My aim, so to speak, its to make good bows and learn to hunt with them. The second part is a longer journey than the first.
Posted in Crafts, Primitive Skills and Crafts | Tagged Holmegaard Bow, primitive skills, Traditional Archery, wooden bows | 8 Comments »