Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First Tracking Intensive Weekend 2012

September 1st and 2nd marked the first Tracking Intensive weekend for 2012. Ten students met on Saturday for introductions and an orientation of the year to come, then began lectures on track characteristics by family, sketching and journaling tracks, and track terminology. The students ranged in experience from novice to advanced.

In the afternoon we went into the field with the task of finding a deer which led to an interesting discussion of where and how to search for them in a Western Washington lowland forest. Groups found deer browse, and tracks from deer and Bobcat, but no deer. Where would they be on the landscape in the mid-afternoon? One group found some interesting eggs placed down a ~1/2 inch hole in the forest duff. Do you recognize them? They were about the size of green peas but opaque white.

Eggs found a few inches underground. Do you know what they are?
On Sunday we had a field evaluation to see what knowledge students were entering the program with. These evaluations are inspiring because they illuminate how much there is to learn about tracking in the Pacific Northwest. The questions that were asked included spoor from Mink, Old World Rat, North American River Otter, American Robin, Spotted Sandpiper, Killdeer, Stiletto Fly, Deer Mouse, Black-tailed Deer, Bullfrog, Coyote, Muskrat, American Beaver, bat, and Domestic Dog. We also got great looks and pictures of 2 to 3 Long-tailed Weasels along a stream. It was a greatly educational and fun first month of Tracking Intensive. Here's to many more! -DG
 Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata)

Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) left front and left hind tracks on a rock
River Otter (Lontra canadensis) tracks in a 3x4 lope

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Advanced Path Projects

The last weekend of May we wrapped up this years Tracking Intensive with a variety of field activities designed to test students tracking skills, a BBQ and potluck, and presentations from our three Advanced Path Graduates from this year (so far, two more students have parts of their projects yet to complete over the summer)! (DM)

 All the excitement got you hooked? Enrollment is now open for next years class at http://wildernessawareness.org/adult/tracking_intensive.html

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tracking Club on 5/19/12

If you wanted to know the differences among shorebirds, how robins move, the stories in deer trails, and how to tell vole from deer mouse tracks, you should have been at Tracking Club.  For intermediate trackers, these stations might have seemed elementary at first, but they turned out to be layered and challenging.  We had a good discussion about using the tracking funnel (big picture map to small picture track detail) to decipher partial and obscured tracks.  Participants were led to discover a beaver trail from a partial front and the dog-like toes of two back tracks.

The robins across the river began alarming at one point and those who were keeping themselves tuned to their surroundings caught sight of a Red-tailed hawk.  Later the bird wheeled over us several times putting the sun behind it to show us the red in it’s fanned out tail.

We had a great day in the sun on the banks of the river at Chinook Bend. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

April: Olympic National Park--more images from the Rainforest

Students traversing fallen logs on the floodplain of the Hoh River in Olympic National Park.

Dan Daly poses with incisors marks left by an elk on a small red alder tree along the South Fork of the Hoh River.

Dan demonstrates how these marks were produced!

Gazing up at one of the many magnificent trees of the Hoh Rainforest.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mallory's Journal from the Olympics

Microtus Townsendii: The humble Townsend’s vole.  This one hung from a tiny stick by its teeth.  When you see their feet like that, there’s no wonder their tracks have long skinny fingers in them.  The field we found him in was a warren of vole tunnels, trails, and sign.  Every step I took, I knew I was collapsing the roof of some small critter’s hallway or dinning room.  Take that, you midget nibblers!  Yes, relatively small, but so numerous.  What they lack in grandiosity, they make up in consequence.  I bet they transformed this field when they first arrived.  The “meadow” in the park next to my city home seems lifeless compared to this one.  It is not blessed with a single vole.  After any half hour exploring vole tunnels, you know what fields do for voles, but what exactly do voles do for fields?

Drew Middlebrooks inspects a Townend's vole (Microtus townsendii)

Cervus elaphus roosevelti:  They were eating sword fern!  They didn’t seem to care about the car stopped 10 feet away and went on crunching the vegetation without even a raised eyebrow.  The top two or three inches of each tough frond was ripped off and vanished.  Why swords and not all that tender spring green stuff?

A Roosevelt elk browses in the Hoh rainforest.
A bull elk grazing in a wetland in the Hoh rainforest.

Lepus americanus: Two snowshoe hare were sitting by the exclosure fence when we arrived.  I’ve always been startled by how their bodies are the perfect picture of hell-bent runner even when they go a short 5 feet and then stop.  How do they get so wound up in only the first few inches?  Zero to sixty to zero in half a dozen feet.  Then they execute those dainty hops that look so relaxed and floating they make me sleepy.

Snowshoe hare outside the elk exclosure.

Ursus americanus:  The black bear tracks were massive.  Almost every time I find a good way across a wild river or creek, (a downed tree, a beaver dam, or a perfect place to swim and climb up on the other side) there are the bear tracks.  Good shallow fording spots with the usual loose river rocks are not attractive to the bears.  They are the masters of crossing finesse and seem to protect their unshod feet.  I want to know if it used the human trail on the other side of the river or came to the tree-bridge bushwhacking.

Black bear tracks on a sandbar of the South Fork of the Hoh River.
Mallory Clarke crossing the South Fork of the Hoh River on a fallen log.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mark's take on the Olympics!

Tracking Intensive April:

Here are some images from the Tracking Intensive weekend in the Olympics. (MKO)
Elk Explosion
Hoh River Valley
Bear Bed
Elk Bed

Monday, April 23, 2012

April Tacking Club

We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day for our April Tracking Club. We went to the Stossil Creek area and found some really interesting track and sign.

 A good number of people turned up including four children. All were prepared to clamber over fallen trees, cross creeks and bushwhack when needed.

We found trees that had been marked and bitten by bears.

 We found beaver dams and chews, aplodontia burrows, racoon tracks, cougar scrapes, kill sites, and robin's nests.

An aplodontia burrow.

A cougar scrape:
And finally a mystery for our viewers:  A kill site, can you identify the partial skulls?