Trans: Latin prefix implying "across" or "Beyond", often used in gender nonconforming situations – Scend: Archaic word describing a strong "surge" or "wave", originating with 15th century english sailors – Survival: 15th century english compound word describing an existence only worth transcending.

Category: Sit Spot Observations (Page 2 of 4)

Addendum to “Secret Beach Area” Natural History Class Walk

"by Christopher Myrick - Thursday, April 20, 2017, 5:38 PM
 Bomber day in the woods. We saw a dead frog and a dead turtle. Multiple little insect varieties and some eggs which I will raise as my own. They are in a Gatorade bottle next to an open window to keep the water cooler than room temperature (updates will follow). A great blue heron flew over head as well as some black birds and a hawk. Also Sean ate it in the river. "

...This is a brilliant depiction.  Best of luck rearing the kiddos.  I will add:

hop-hornbeam was in there, with yellowish/crackly bark.  Lots of silver maples in the puddly areas, and a sugar maple.  Lots of black cherry trees.  A few aspens with "sunscreen" bark.

2 river otters, a small crayfish, 2 pre-flight dragonflies.

The 10 most notable birds:

  1. Coopers hawk - Looked like a broadwing hawk or even a merlin (falcon) at first sight, but had a longer, more triangle shaped tail with more horizontal bars then the broadwing, and had straighter wings and a slower soaring flight pattern than a merlin.
  2. Common loon pair - sits low to the water (them solid bones) with a giant, fish-gobbling head.
  3. horned grebe - tiny diving bird with a fuzzy head.  They often are seen (in my personal experience) where loons are floating.
  4. Belted kingfisher - KA-KA-KA-KA-KA-KA...
  5. goldfinches - 'potatochip"
  6. song sparrows
  7. downy woodpecker  (NEIGH!)
  8. flicker  (HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA...)
  9. red-bellied woodpecker (bwbwuuraack!)
  10. GHB - in flight, looks like pterodactyl but isn't, trust me...

-Jess

Fox Park #18: 4/19/17, In Class Roamings

At around 9:35 yesterday morning, the natural history class gathered in Fox Park under an amazing clear sky and a light wind.   Instead of going into the level of detail as I did over the winter (there were quite frankly less details to be had over the winter) I will try to summarize the two most significant findings .

 

  • Porcupines are everywhere.  It turns out these giant walking pinecones are leaving traces of themselves all over the place (though the chances of seeing one are still quite slim).  In the winter, they climb up hemlock trees and nibble.  Everything.   They sort of just sit up there and eat the tree, trying to move as little as possible and thus will everything within reach.  These foliage holes in hemlock trees  are a dead giveaway of this activity, and will often have dangling branches with rodent-esque chop marks.  I have seen a stands of hemlocks with large amounts of debris underneath at Fox Park, which is extremely indicative of a porcupine's munching habits.
  • The magnolia warblers have arrived.  These are magnificent little birds.   Famous for their "necklace with pendants",  these warblers have officially arrived, and in full getup.  A pair of them were calling to each other (which I did not get right away- they have a few calls) then chasing each other through the forest.  What fun!

-Jess

Fox Park #16 and #17: 4/16/17,Big Toad.

I was in and out of Fox park today as well as yesterday, so I will not put a time.  The sun was hot (77F), the skies were clear, and the birds were singing.  Loudly.  I did a sit spot yesterday, which kind of rolled into today- there was not a peep yesterday.  I do not have the foggiest idea why; regardless, it was soggy and drizzly, and  I did not make any great achievements worth writing home about.  I did, however, find this extremely large and incredibly dead American Toad.  Observe it in all its massiveness.  This fellow was around 6 (6!) inches long.  Key things to note about a toad:

  • the bizarre patterns with no discernible regularity.  This one has leopard print pants and a camo shirt.  This seems to have to do with where it lives; forest floors where yummy worms and grubs reside are where these toads make their homes.
  • The poisons in the bumps behind the eyes are "not weak".  Toads have toxic glands, excreting "bufotoxins" (bufo really just means toad) which are a sort of steroid chemically mangled with strange and hard-to-synthesise-in-the-lab compounds.  The toxins in this American (and "eastern") toad are "weak" because they should only kill your small dog if eaten.  🙂   The even larger South American cousin however (Cane toad) can not only grow to have a 9 inch long body, but simply licking it will kill most humans.  As a result, they are not commonly eaten in the wild, so toads are generally not endangered.

Fox Park #15: 4/12/17, “1 if by land, 17 if by ear”

Again, Just getting through the small backlog of sit spots.  All by ear, many with a visual confirmation at some point.

Species Count:

  1. Mourning Dove 1
  2. Eastern Phoebe 2
  3. Blue Jay 4
  4. American Crow 3
  5. Black-capped Chickadee 3
  6. Tufted Titmouse 4
  7. White-breasted Nuthatch 1
  8. Carolina Wren 1
  9. American Robin 5
  10. Northern Mockingbird 1
  11. Chipping Sparrow 7
  12. Dark-eyed Junco 3
  13. Song Sparrow 3
  14. Northern Cardinal 2
  15. Common Grackle 18
  16. American Goldfinch 2
  17. House Sparrow 4

Again, I am just recounting the notes I took with eBird.  Other living things and systems are to come!  Hurrah!

-Jess

Fox Park #14: 4/10/17, “1 if by land, 16 if by ear”

Just a quick sit spot walk through.  Every bird was found be ear first, or only by ear.  They are singing!  Wah hoo!

  1. Phoebe
  2. Crow
  3. Blue jay
  4. Carolina wren
  5. Chickadee
  6. House finch
  7. tufted titmouse
  8. Downy woodpecker
  9. Canada goose
  10. Brown creeper
  11. Robin
  12. Mourning dove
  13. Goldfinch
  14. Hairy woodpecker
  15. Chipping sparrow
  16. Junco

...Getting through a sit spot backlog.  Please excuse the short post!

-Jess

Bird Observations Today- Langdon Woods

This is in lieu of a wonderful 2 hour walk around PSU property during my natural history class.

Firstly- open the below link to see the 25 species we encountered today:

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S35873502

I want to also point out how spectacular and special the 3+ courting yellow bellied sapsuckers were.  These birds are relatively rare to find- here are the first things off the top of my head you all should know:

  • They do not suck sap.  They eat bugs like all the other woodpeckers...
  • They are farmers.  These are the only birds to my knowledge who literally farm for a living....  They peck a matrix of holes in trees with sap- often perfect rows and columns- into which bugs fall and get trapped. Then, at their leisure, the sapsucker will visit its "sticky bug fields" and gobble the bugs up.  This not only makes their life of pecking and eating super laid back, it allows them to have personal property.  🙂
  • They were pests not long ago.  Because of the whole farm-the-tree thing, human farmers of high octane fruit trees and other trees pushing a large amount of sap would generally shoot the sapsuckers ASAP to avoid the sapsucker killing the tree.  As scary as that is, the humans are correct- the sapsucker will win,  One sapsucker doing some farming can spring a significant number of leaks in young trees, allowing bugs and parasites in, killing the unassuming orchard.
  • They not endangered.   These birds are rare because, as any farmer will tell you, they have lots of work to do around the active bug-sap-hole farms.  They each have their own space, and respect each other's trees and areas.  This makes the concentration low, but the overall population number still healthy.
  • They are a wild card for at risk forests.   Sapsuckers don't mean any harm, but fragile ecosystems with just a few sap filled trees can get a makeover after a few sapsuckers move in.   Sometimes, this is fabulous: old trees die, allowing other animals and organisms to move in, including other species of woodpecker.  New plants will grow, and the space will move on and evolve.  On the other hand, as our orchard friends know, a tree bleeding sap is undoubtedly going to have a problem sooner or later.  Woodpeckers are fine with that, but other species are not...

 

...So those who saw the sapsuckers today, consider yourself lucky; that was spectacular!

-Jess

Wolf Pine @ Fox Park #13: 4/9/17, The hills are alive, with the sound of…

I walked into Fox park at around 6:25am.  I did not leave until 7:35am.

Forgive this post for being entirely about birds.  There are tracks (the melting prints from happy-go-lucky dogs, mostly), there are trees (haven't changed much since that time I covered the trees on my route), there are plants (budding beechs for the most part) and there are....  Birds!  Today is the first day of spring (albeit for the third time), and the forest was singing to celebrate.  Without further and in no order besides memory:

Crows:  Making merry and causing raucous, the crows were gurgling and grunting around with the blue jays, who actually did not have a real reason to cause tomfoolery, but did so anyway.

Blue jays:  Yelping about with cheer and a general noisiness, the blue jays are no longer saving their breath for owls and hawks.  I watched them zoom around, babbling at the top of their lungs, with absolutely zero objective concern for getting eaten, or whatever they usually are concerned about.

Raven:  At least one.  A lower burp of a sound, these may have been causing some mischief with the crows.

Mockingbird:  This one mockingbird yodels atop its thicket as I enter Fox Park.  I have observed it only speaks when people are around, making it just another attention getter.  This one has less of a vocabulary than the one near Allwell at PSU, singing "robin" and "cardinal" instead of "barn owl" and "wood pewee"- the latter two I heave heard in the same breath from the other mocking bird.

Chickadee:  DEEEE - doo!  These chickadees plan to make babies, with a call like that.

Titmouse:  PETER PETER PETER!  Peter?  Pete?  The local titmice say this a lot.  This seems to be a dialectical decision- even though all titmice are programmed with between three and four real songs, the boston titmice choose to say whaah, whaah, whaah! more than these ones do.

Robin:  So many everywhere, they are in with all stops out.  They have a truly fabulous thrush song (indeed, they are a "true thrush"- unlike the euro-asian ones, who just occupy a subfamily of old-world chats... Don't even worry about the australian or japanese ones, it just gets worse).   The song is parsed in a almost questioning fashion, with clear whistles and swooping notes.   Easy to tune out during a walk in the woods, but amazing to really listen to.

Downy woodpecker:  Found a few at the bend in the trail closest to the houses, after exiting the wolf pine clearing.  They whinny when the call, as opposed to the single, dull "chek" of the hairy woodpecker, which occupies the same pitch.

Hairy woody pair:  Chek, Chek!  I found two hairy woodpeckers flying around upon entering the park looking for bugs.

Nuthatch:  These were hopping around the area the hairy woodpeckers were.  They like to be with the titmice and other woodpeckers.  White breasted ones in these parts, but the red breasted could still show up.  They both "honk" or 'toot", but the red breasted ones sound really tinny compared to the white breasted.

Goldfinch:  Well, they have arrived, with the finchy song and "PO-TA-TO-CHEEIP" flight call.  I know it is hard to overlay "potato chip" on a monotonous, 4 note chip call.... But that's how I learned, and it has worked rather well so far.
Phoebes:  I saw at least two pheobes at a time in 6 instances.  That is a large number of pheobes, no matter how you slice it.  The big fuzzy grey head, the tinted-olive sides (but not like a olive sided flycatcher, mind you) and the perpetual tail pump.  They also are OCD to the extreme, and will do a kind of circuit from specific branch to specific branch.

flotilla of golden crowned kinglets:  Yay! the fuzz-covered golf balls are at it again, with their unique, rolly-polly approach to the world.  The like to hop up a coniferous tree (the love hemlocks),  then valiantly leap into the air, but without the wings in gear.  They then stick their wings out to slow their descent, thus causing them to tumble through the air until daintily alighting on the branch below.  This way they can look cool and catch a flying bug on occasion.  This may or may not actually work out for them- they also glean insects like other passerines- but it certainly keeps they busy and happy.  They are marginally larger than an adult ruby throated hummingbird, though significantly more puffy.  They are also rather unintelligent, and get so absorbed in tumbling about in the trees approaching them is easy- requiring nothing more than knowing where they are.

Brown creepers:  Though not too crazy, these are great winter birds- always looking up (birder joke, they only walk up, and need to fly back to the base of a tree to get back down)....   And taught me something very important today.  The song I heard in the middle of the winter from the short video I made?  Brown creeper.  It turns out they have a beautiful song, one I had not heard before.   The sound is akin to a smaller wren, but slower and more distinct.  Huzzah!
-Jess

Wolf Pine @ Fox Park #12: 4/7/17, Evening Checkup

I trundled into Fox Park at around 7:15 pm on 4/7/17.   The sky was overcast (as it has been for the last few days), kind of rainy/above freezing, and provided just enough evening light to let me do a proper sit spot.

There were some fantastic tracks.  I did not take any pictures, but I am fairly sure there are some extremely large dogs wandering these parts.  One issue I have been having with some of the medium sized tracks is the position of the toes.  I know there simply are not 4 bobcats and 4 catamounts wandering around my sit spot....   But these dog tracks seem to sometimes show very forward toes, which is is indicative of a cat.  Alas.

another problem I became acutely aware of is the highway.  On my way up the hill to my wolf pine, I began hearing all sorts of crazy sounds....   Animal?  Owl?  Alien?  Upon getting to the pine however, it became evident to purrs and chirps were indeed car sounds from the interstate.   🙁

I did not hear much in the way of singing, but over the last day or two, the song sparrows, cardinals, titmice, and robins have definitely been singing more than before.

To be continued...

-Jess

Parking Lot/Sit Spot @ Fox Park #12: 4/3/17, Owling 2 Hours Before Sunrise

It was very dark when I left the parking lot variant of my sit spot, and still it still is.  Was it worth it?  Maybe.

I entered the parking lot around 4:35am this morning.  After spending a while just listening to the sounds of "nature", finishing my coffee and trying to not make sounds into what they weren't, I gave in and decided to play some screech owl trills.  Unfortunately, an issue I have not yet addressed was beginning to get in my way for real: the highway.

Even when I play calls from my phone, I could tell the white noise from the interstate not far away was cancelling the sonorous sounds of my owls.  That part isn't a big deal, but I know my inferior human hearing will  struggle to pick out a chatting owl even within my part of Fox Park.  The frequencies are just too similar, often exhibiting a similar timbre.  This means a sound carrying more energy (lower frequency rumbles and what not) will not only mask the weaker and more refined owl toots and hoots, but could "phase cancel" them out altogether.  Phase cancellation is obviously not a standard concern of birders, but I happened to know from recording sounds in this frequency range (lower end of a medium grand piano and acoustic guitar for example) achieving a mini "Bose noise cancellation" is quite easy.  All it takes is two sounds going the opposite direction and/or of similar magnitude or at least frequency (a  distant truck with a Jake brake and closer GHO for example and whoops! there goes the owl hoot.

I mention all this because in the ~50 minutes waffled around in the parking lot (10 degrees below freezing mind you), during which I played screech, saw-whet, and GHO, I heard lots of mumbles and whoos and blops...   ...yet I can only take one seriously.  One toot, that's all.

I had played screech, then saw-whet, and screech once more at this point.  The toot sounded much lower than a saw-whet toot, and there was just one.  It was not dainty, and had a nice conviction and resonance.  I have never been  compelled to describe an automobile this way, so I can say with good faith this was an owl.

But was it Barred or GHO?  Both make single toots in this way sometimes.  Indeed, I've seen it done on trips where the either owl may want to just put a small idea out there, a pleasantry maybe to the owl it listened to from a birders phone, or perhaps just to test the waters on who could call back.  For whatever reason, more than half of my hearing/visual owl encounters involved a single toot instead of a full blown dissertation of whoos and haws.

So, I will tentatively stick with the current idea this is a GHO, because my other evidence seems to support this.  As I played some GHO after the toot, I quite honestly could not listen between the cars and trucks from, say, half a mile away.   Thus, while the tooting owl was not in spitting distance of my mini encampment on a bit of ice in the parking lot, it could easily been in Fox Park or an adjacent landowner's pine tree and I would never have known.

The saga continues...

-Jess

Wolf Pine @ Fox Park #11: 4/1/17, It Is A Snow-Show, Debunking The Melanistic Dogamount

I slipped and slid my way into Fox park Saturday, 4/1/17 at about 4pm.  About 7 inches of snow had appeared on the ground over the last 24 hours, which (for the second time) definitely stifled and spring-like activities for the critters and what not.  Yet, the still powder-like snow was melting already.  This stuff hadn't really had time to settle and compact, it just came down from the sky just below freezing, then bobbed above freezing at about noon and rained.  This made for perfect postholing snow.  Indeed, I saw some dogs who took it hard- leaving postholes almost 3 feet deep.

I heard some confused titmice and a lonely Hairy woodpecker over (almost) the whole time out, though a the crow crew started up yakking away just as I left.  I had really come for the tracks in the snow, but because of the rain and rapidly melting cover, I could only make out big dogs.

"Big Dog"

Here we have one of these big dogs.  things to note:

  • triangle shaped claws
  • very symmetrical
  • creates a distinct circle-oval shape
  • Can easily be broken into left, right, two leading toes and rear pad quadrants

 

 

These traits are interesting, though they get way cooler and silly when we look at the crazy, unique, and very artistically rendered "black panther" prints I found in the PSU dining hall:

 

I realize this is the worst iPhone-picture-while-scooping-ice-cream example, but...

 

...I do not think these prints are for a black panther.  I do not think they are for a dog.  These are the one of a kind "melanistic dogamount" prints!

 

 

Here we have the local catamount (cougar) vs the dog (similar to the big dog I found).

Remember, the PSU mascot is a melanistic jaguar named "Pemi".   Jaguar prints are anatomically very similar to the puma/cougar version that is theoretically in new england, if only on occasion.   Indeed, these "uber crazy level" cats have an (average) range of about 300 square miles.   Which is 192,000 acres, if you weren't so hot on math.  🙂

This range makes tracking a single cougar extremely difficult, and as far as I can tell, nobody has been particularly successful- thus, finding photos of actual paw prints is really, really hard, and makes the far larger melanistic jaguar prints impossible to find.  Below is a cougar paw from captivity.

{{Information |Description= {{en | paw of cougar (''Puma concolor'')}} |Source=From: No Place for Predators? Gross L PLoS Biology Vol. 6, No. 2, e40 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060040 [http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=slideshow&type=fig

So, what are the good and bad parts of the PSU sign?

Good:

  • Toes are mostly in front of the pad.  This is indicative of a cat.
  • Rear pad is wide, (almost) a cat trait in this example

Bad:

  • Rear pad is too oval shaped.  Real cougars and jaguars have deep scallops creating three distinct parts of the pad
  • THE NON-RETRACTABLE CLAWS ARE TRIANGLE SHAPED, LIKE A DOG'S CLAWS!!!

All cats have retractable, grappling-hook shaped claws.  These are rarely out and about when walking, as they are really best for catching one's balance and slicing stuff to shreds.  They are usually seen as dots with a groove toward the toe on a paw print.  Dog claws on the other hand are designed to be a permanent part of the foot, and are shaped like a wider "V" to generally help with transport.  These are what we see, making this paw print completely and unforgivably wrong.

That concludes today's sit spot observation.

-Jess

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