11 October, 2015 Making tracks
Good evening! I hope your week’s been a great one. The river’s down to a reasonable level now (just dropped below five feet) but last weekend’s rain pushed it up some. It peaked at slightly over eleven feet. Whenever it drops after a flood it leaves a thin, slippery layer of silty mud, excellent for looking at animal tracks. Mackey and Turner and I were hiking on Thursday and there were plenty of tracks in the mud. We found some clear raccoon tracks (I’m relatively certain these are from a raccoon). Front paw prints, you can see the claw marks just in front of the toes:
Closeup; you can see the claws more clearly:
We hadn’t gone much farther when Mackey started nosing something in the tangled honeysuckle beside the trail. The river bank here was about four feet above the water level and this was about ten feet away from the edge:
It’s an Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina). My friend Cris sent me a note that the Virginia Herpetological Society is collecting data about Box Turtles. I looked on their site and learned the following: “Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier III – High Conservation Need – Extinction or extirpation is possible. Populations of these species are in decline or have declined to low levels or are in a restricted range. Management action is needed to stabilize or increase populations.”
They have a form for reporting Box Turtle sightings and I filled it out for the one we saw this week. Here’s a link to the reporting form if you see a Box Turtle in Virginia: Eastern Box Turtle Reporting Form
Part of what made me think about this post was how much the markings on this turtle’s shell look like raccoon tracks. Maybe it’s just me and maybe it’s because I’d just been looking at raccoon tracks, but I think there’s certainly at least a suggestion of a raccoon-track pattern there. ymmv.
I’ve said it before, as long as I continue to photograph hawks I’ll put at least one picture here. I’m still learning about them, especially about what I believe are the “local” red-tails. Monday morning I was coming down my street and a hawk flew practically over my hood! One house away from me! I stopped when it landed in the bushes. I put on my flashing lights and rolled down the window. He (I don’t really know the gender) popped out of the bush and flew about ten feet and landed on a wire. Almost at eye level. He was around fifty feet away. Or not quite. Hawks are in my experience skittish around people but I think he thought I was a parked car. So my car served as a blind. Here are two pictures of him, with the siding of my neighbor’s house in the background. Very fun:
I’ve been watching Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) closely since May (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) and this didn’t look quite like a Red-tail. I thought it might be a Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), also common in our area, but it didn’t look quite like that either. So as always I sent it to my friend Kim, a bona fide Virginia raptor expert. She said it’s a juvenile Red-tail.
I saw another one on the power line the next day. I’ve been watching them so much I’m learning some of their patterns. They sit up there facing south now most of the time, watching for an unsuspecting rabbit or chipmunk or mouse to move. Their “tell” when they’re about to take off is they hop up and turn around to face north. That’s where the prevailing breeze is coming from in nice weather and birds (and airplanes) always take off into the wind to get that extra bit of lift. This one had just turned around. Soon I’ll get a picture of one taking off. Look how red this tail is:
I got a “double” on Wednesday although it’s an unlovely picture; the light is miserable and the birds are scruffy. But it’s always a treat for me to get a double. My “grail” is to get a triple – and I may be getting closer. Here’s the pair I got Wednesday:
This is interesting weather wise. The picture above is time-stamped on my camera at 10:00 Wednesday morning. The picture below was taken on the same tower precisely seven hours later:
I am seeing lots of Northern Flickers this week, including one on the edge of the woods while I was photographing those hawks. And I saw three at Bryan Park Thursday afternoon but I didn’t have my camera with me. I’ll get my lens on one (or more) soon, they’re attractive birds.
Speaking of attractive birds, I also photographed my first Pileated Woodpecker in some time on Thursday morning at Pony Pasture but they’re crummy pictures. One might get in front of my lens soon.
Until next week,