Hi, friends — it’s midsummer and I’ve been wanting to try a diary-style thread for animal encounters, a place to add any creatures you’ve seen. I’ll keep adding mine here, and it can be a bit of running inspiration. Add your questions, too. Maybe we can figure some things out. — Amy Jean
Here are a few to get started:June 17, Connecticut: Little chippy running. There haven’t been that many this year and it’s strangely quiet in the rock walls. June 20, Massachusetts: Went to the Connecticut River with friends and we were surrounded by dead shad (I don’t know much about shad, but apparently they die after spawning and then float downstream and sparkle in the sun).June 21, Connecticut: While driving I noticed a pretty rock on the road and realized it was a box turtle. I pulled over and picked it up, a real cute one, with a super smooth shell. I placed it under the trees (in the direction it was heading).Add your small (or big -- who has seen a bear this summer??) animal encounters by commenting at the link below. Happy summer!
August 28: Mountain goats on the Mount Timpanogos trail in Utah. We also saw a mule deer, some pika, and a few chipmunks. Oh, and a ladybug at 11,752 feet elevation! My favorite were the mountain goats, but I was probably most impressed by the ladybug. What was it doing up so high? There were hardly any plants around to speak of. And it was so windy! Maybe it blew up there with the wind?
Aug 27 Hello from Vermont! I saw a large and ugly insect perched on some rocks in my yard. It would rise clumsily and land again Ugh! With the help of my binoculars and my iPhone camera, I saw is was a dragonfly with a large white abdomen and four wings (the usual) but striped translucent and brown which gave it its odd appearance from a distance. I identified it as the common white tailed skimmer, one of a zillion beautiful and vericolored members of the dragonfly family. I wonder if there’s such a thing as Dragonfly Watchers? The UK, I discovered, does have a Dragonfly Society.
Aug. 11, Utah: a snowshoe (I believe) hare! I’ve seen lots of little cottontail rabbits, but this was my first hare sighting.
Aug. 16, Connecticut: my first barred owl swooping through the trees. It landed on a high branch and I called up to it. The owl looked down at me calmly, like I was a toddler.
Aug. 12, Connecticut: American goldfinch daintily plucking seeds out of the purple hyssop, swinging in the slight, hot breeze.
Aug. 7, Ocean City, MD: two skinny red foxes romping through the small protected dunes between all the many buildings and the beach. They stepped over the cacti and dug holes and sat in the shade under the shrubs. It is good to realize these small narrow spaces we leave to the wild are occupied.
July 28, Connecticut: great blue heron flying low on the Housatonic river. There have been a decent number of great blues this year but not very many egrets. I'm not sure what's happened to them. Back home an enormous eastern cottontail barely flinched when I drove up. They are much less skittish than last year.
This year, I am hearing our least goldfinches completely anew. The call and response routine of the pairs that forage in our yard is a catchy hook, taking over my brain.
As we parked for a night hike recently, we heard barn owls screeching in unison from a eucalyptus branch, then watched as a large parent barn owl flew over the road to a pine tree and (noisily) coaxed each little fledgling to follow suit, each successful landing greeted with a ruckus. One fledgling wasn't ready and flew back to their owl box instead, followed closely by the parent owl expressing that that wouldn't do.
I'm also thinking back to the peregrine family that kept us entertained while we were counting zero gray whales towards the end of this year's survey at Piedras Blancas lighthouse. At the time, I imagined that a pair of parents feeding three hungry fledglings must terrorize the small inhabitants of that little spit of land. But that must pale in comparison to mid-summer, when the fledglings should all be half-decent hunters too after many weeks of patient instruction. They should also be better flyers - no more awkward, desperate landings at strange angles in high winds. I look forward to seeing the parents again next year, rearing their next brood in their rock cavity high above the waves.
July 7, Connecticut: bald eagle cruising over the Housatonic river; great blue herons flapping low and slow
It's a bit of an obsession, but for me, it's a ghost I've been close to many times, but have never seen. It has seen me. Mountain lion. I've found razor sharp tracks in wet sand, a couple of hours old at best and followed them, naively thinking I had a chance. My daughter was with me and asked why we would follow a lion. Randy, during a bighorn sheep survey, saw a lion while he sat 40 feet from me. He didn't yell, but by the time he signaled us, it was gone. John was sitting next to him, never saw it. Before I learned animal tracking, it was still an obvious encounter, no domestic dog these ....asymmetrical feet with teardrop shaped toes and a heavy trapezoidal heel. Hiking along a section of Pacific Crest Trail in 2012, I stopped to eat at a place called Comb's Camp. There were tracks. I took out my notebook. "What is the sound of a mountain lion stalking you? It's the breeze, chirping birds, leaves rustling, your own breath. You would never know. The lion has been here again. Tracks in deep sand, days old. I eat my lunch with my back against a tree."
June 25, Connecticut: At the grocery store, a giant crow landed on the handicap parking sign and cocked its head to watch me walk by.
June 27: I stopped to scoot a tiny garter snake across the road. They always turn to look up at me and it's a little uncanny. I ran a stick under its belly and it finally slithered off into the tall grass.
I'm in Omaha, NE for the month (travelling from Austin) and I've seen so. many. bunnies. Tiny baby buns. Big buns. Fluffles of buns. Also, there's a nest of robins under the deck and I've watched mama feed them many times. I went to KC for the weekend and they're gone! Hope they flew off... My parents also have a nice family of goldfinches and red finches (why is gold one word and red two?). Lots of fat squirrels in these parts too.
On vacation last week in Wrightsville Beach, NC, at a house on the sound:
1) Laughing gulls: many, many, many of them. Good jokes, apparently; so much laughter.
2) Great egrets, hiding out in the tall grasses of the sound but also sometimes blatantly lounging in trees.
3) Brown pelicans skimming the ocean in lines---one day I counted nine! I don't understand how they stay so low yet never get hit by the waves.
4) Black skimmers flying by, almost always with fish in their long, long beaks.
5) Least terns, tiny acrobats. So fun to watch them tracking the fish from on high; they're surprisingly flexible!
6) Mom-and-pop rock pigeons on the roof. We think they had some young'uns tucked into a nest under an enclosed bench on the dock. Lots of cheeping when the parents would pop by for a visit. Also, these guys did some very loving head bobbing at each other pretty much every day.
7) Great blue herons on the boat slip. Never saw one catch anything, just a lot of patient eyeing of the water. I had no idea they sounded like THAT! So loud!!
8) Green heron on the neighbor's boat slip, practicing much less patience than the great blue, and enjoying many more fish from the buffet.
9) Last one, last day: dolphins in the sound!
I live in Boise, ID and aside from the many, many squirrels I see in my yard and trees every day, the Western Tanagers came through this month on their migration! They're so beautiful. I also saw a young (deer) doe this morning while hiking in the foothills above Boise, minutes from downtown.
Last weekend a friend and I went for a hike in Ohiopyle. We saw:
- A baby snapping turtle, tail as long as its tiny shell
- A great blue heron catch a fish (impressive), try to gulp it down, realize the fish was too big to fit down its throat, and release the fish again
- A black rat snake about 4' long
- A tiny green stripey snake curled on a railway bridge
:) I love it! I don't know the exact dates, but in the last month I've:
- Watched a dragonfly capture and kill a fall webworm moth as I was photographing the moth!
- Saw an eight-spotted forest moth for the first time
- Found myself surrounded in a flock of newly hatched hackberry emperor moths
- Filmed a catbird proving he indeed is in the same family as mockingbirds and thrashers, singing a full repertoire of songs
- Watched baby red-tailed hawks, robins, bluebirds, grackles, ducks, deer and geese
- Had a visit from a ruddy duck, a male in full breeding plumage which we normally never see here (they only come through in migration)
- Photographed a very pregnant cedar waxwing and some very tired looking owl parents trying to gather food for those growing young
- Watched a scissor-tailed flycatcher build a nest and swallows gather feathers for their nest by picking them up off the water
May is busier for unusual encounters here with spring migration - so many amazing experiences (17 great egrets in breeding plumage, a flock of avocets that somehow got comfortable with me and walked right around me, my first visit by a marbled godwit and some Wilson's phalaropes among the many birds). The one that really sticks out though is the bobcat I've encountered a few times in the morning. She seems unfazed by and possibly curious about me. I'm getting to know her.
So, little things:
-Two herons in the rocks at Hog's Back park in Ottawa during a pause on an outdoor bike ride with a friend (now that we can see friends again!). Actually, I guess it's not so uncommon, as the org that runs the place has a snap of one in the rushing falls here! https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/hogs-back-park
-At Mud Lake, two pileateds with their (present but unseen) babies high up in a nest. I could only tell as the two parents kept coming and going from this one tree with a large hole in it!
-In the yard here in Little Italy, all the gray squirrels and raccoons. One of the raccoons has a liking for a shed in the rear of the property and some nights if we are out there we get a growl from it until it can make its way out (as it feels cornered in there if we walk bye...it's sort of a half-open shed thing). We also have a pool (!) which I have read racoons quite enjoy (!) so when we put the pool stairs in for the first time this year we constructed this elaborate chicken-wire thing to deter them, seems to work. Not pokey or dangerous but unpleasant for paws!
June 20, central Utah: pronghorn (or antelope as we call them here) in some farm fields. At first I thought it was just one, and then I spied a whole group of 8 or so.
Northern VT June 22: Wild turkeys are back with babies in tow. There's our usual flock but also a random solo turkey I've seen around who doesn't seem to be tied to any other flock. I have no idea if this is normal turkey behavior (are they even flocks?) but I always see them in big groups.
We've been living in Boulder, Colorado for 20 years, and for the first time this summer we've seen the following visitors in our backyard: a bobcat, a red fox, a half-dozen western tanagers, and a bullock's oriole : )
Tons of white tail deer. It’s really dry, so they’ve come down out of the hills to our yards. Lots of turkeys, of course. Several sharp shinned hawks. Crows. And nutria.
I’m heading to the Oregon outback tomo for a couple weeks. I suspect I’ll be able to add rabbits and coyotes to the list.