Archive for March, 2011

I got to help out banding birds and attempting to collect their tracks this morning.  The biologists were nice enough to let me ink up the little birds’ feet and let them hop around in a box with a paper-lined floor.  We had some success but not the clarity of what I’m looking for.  We need to use stickier ink and textured paper.  Once we work out a good system we’ll be able to collect a really nice database of tracks.  The next banding isn’t for a few months so we have time to practice.

orange-crowned warbler

house sparrow tracks


Anna's hummingbird from one angle...

...and from a slightly different angle

deciphering hummingbird traits with tail feathers


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I want to share something that everyone has heard before but I think another reminder never hurts.

I often feel like life is slipping away and time is flying by way too fast.  This feels like anxiety and discontent deep in my body.  It happens when I’m not slowing down or “seizing the moment” as they say.  When I first heard of this saying: seize the moment or carpe diem, I was inspired, but I didn’t know what “seizing the moment” felt like.  Now I have a strong image attached to what it feels like based on all of the times I have felt successful at doing it.  To me, a moment seized is a moment of full sensory intake.  Feeling my body on the inside – my breaths and heart beat.  And feeling my body on the outside.  Everything my skin is touching, the feeling of gravity pulling me down.  And also what I’m looking at (which is often very different from what I’m seeing).  Taking in the full range of what is in my field of vision.  Also the faint sounds that I wasn’t hearing, the smells, the taste in my mouth and the taste of the air as I breathe it in.

The fortunate thing about moment seizing is that it can be any moment.  It doesn’t have to be a quiet moment in nature.  It can be this moment now, while I’m typing.  Really feeling the keys of the keyboard, seeing the colors of my computer.  Or driving to work, talking to a friend, watching T.V. or any other random moment.  I have yet to find a task that I couldn’t do while at the same time living through my senses.  The hard part is remembering to do it and making the effort.

When I’m living this way, soaking in moments throughout the day, it doesn’t feel like my life is slipping away.  Time feels like its passing by just right and I feel content.  Especially if I am also making time to be alone in nature.  The way I see it, we aren’t going to have these bodies forever or this way of experiencing life.  Some day that will all be gone.  But right now everything is so tactile and real, even if it is pain, it is a real feeling that I can feel to the fullest if I just choose to do so.

common yellowthroat track?

I think I found yellowthroat tracks today.  Hard to say because the resources that are out there on bird tracking leave much to be desired.  Want to hear my plan to beat the lacking field guides?  We have a friend who does bird banding (catching birds in a fine net and putting a band on their leg).  He is going to let us take the birds, ink up their feet and let them hop around on pieces of paper.  This may or may not seem awesome to you, but for a person dying to see things like 100%-known perfect yellowthroat tracks, this is huge.  We could collect a giant database of perfect known-species bird tracks  and release them to the public (a lot of trackers are drooling right now).  Also, check out this horned lizard scat.  It is similar to normal lizard scats with the white cap but it has more girth.

horned lizard scat

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We (WTI) have been subcontracted to track bighorn sheep in an area where they want to build wind turbines.  If we find fresh sheep sign in the area it will end the project.  Most people are rooting for the sheep but it’s kind of funny because the battle is against green energy!  Environmental conflicts are often complicated and sometimes the right answer isn’t so clear.  I would like to find sheep sign because it is a beautiful desert that I would hate to see big turbines, a road, and lots of construction mess up.

Bighorn sheep tracks


Here are some very fresh Bighorn sheep tracks that we found this morning.  They can be distinguished from deer tracks by their roundness or “boxy” appearance and also the rise in the middle of the tracks that is formed by the shape of the hooves.





Bighorn sheep track




Here you can really see that rise of soil in the middle of the track.











There are some beautiful colors out in the desert.




Bobcat scat







This is a cool scat that I found today on a rock.  It’s about an inch long and I think it is a Bobcat scat but it sure looks a lot like weasel scat to me.  Can you see the small rodent jaw bone imbedded on the side?



We were looking at all these fresh tracks this morning when I had the thought:  I bet these sheep are watching us this whole time up on the ridge.  So I looked up and there she was!  Our first sighting of the project.  Unfortunately this animal and the tracks that we’ve found so far aren’t quite in the proposed windmill area.  If you look closely you can tell that this is a female by her horns.  The male horns continue to curl around more than the females.

Ewe (female bighorn)






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Went tracking with some friends today and saw a lot of cool stuff.  Really nice vole tracks, a rattlesnake, Red-tailed Hawk tracks, and a ton of owl pellets with perfect vole and pocket gopher skulls inside.  But the coolest thing that we found was a barn owl wing laying out in the grass.  Later we found a hollow tree and looked up inside to find the other wing and tail which we were able to pull down with a stick and examine.  I can’t think of what would have killed this barn owl and why half of it would be up in a hollow tree, and the other half out in the grass.  Very strange.  If anyone has ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Red-tailed Hawk tracks


Pocket Gopher skull and jaw bones









Barn Owl pellet


Barn Owl wing up in the tree

Barn Owl wing



















beautiful feathers



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Had a dirt time session this morning in Warner Springs, CA.  Got to see my first clear mole tracks (I’ve been looking for over a year).  Pretty exciting.  Also found great lion tracks, bobcat, fox, ground squirrel, wood rat and lots of clear mice.  And we found what I believe were scrub jay tracks.  Good day of trackin’.

mountain lion tracks

broad-footed mole tracks

broad-footed mole tracks

jerusalem cricket tracks

mountain lion track

scrub jay tracks

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