Monday, August 03, 2009

Office Fauna

Last week I provided a tour of my new office at the Idaho Bird Observatory. This week I thought it would be great to highlight some of the non-avian inhabitants of the area.
Snakes in the office. One of the things on our minds as we speed hike from net to net through narrow brushy trails is the fact that a number of snake species, and specifically the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) inhabit the area. While I have yet to see one, others on the team have spotted at least one adult Western Rattlesnake and one baby. Something tells me that there is also another adult not too far away and likely many more babies! I have also seen a Racer (Coluber constrictor) and a Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer), both non-poisonous species. Last year the team saw a Rubber Boa (Charina bottae), but it has yet to be seen this year. (Update 8/4/2009 - I found the Rubber Boa today!) The reptile family is also very well represented by Western Fence Lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis).
The most significant mammal sighting was an Elk (Cervus elaphus)! I'm glad it didn't walk through a mist net, there would have been nothing left. Over the weekend, Jack found a Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) while on a net run. This was later confirmed by Stephanie, but luckily, no one provoked the customary defensive response from the beast. Moving down in size, we have the Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). These guys chatter at us constantly. The brush is alive with what has to be the greatest number of Least Chipmunks (Tamias minimus) in the state. It's unbelievable how many there are. Stephanie petted one with a piece of grass! Finishing off the mammal category, at least that I have identified, are the bats. I have no idea what kind they are as we have 14 varieties in Idaho, but they are ever present in the evenings.
The insects are also well represented. Other than the odd mosquito, most go un-noticed by me. Jay did show me how to pet bees the other day. I'm not sure this is something that an individual that is allergic to bees should be doing! When the bees are sleeping on a flower, you can carefully pet them. In their drowsy state they wave there rear legs as if to get you to stop. It was pretty cool, but I haven't tried it myself.
Birds. The reason for us to be there. Most birds are just passing through as they begin their migration South. Our task on the mountain is to focus on these migrants. We do however have a number of residents. We hear the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) almost daily. The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) passes through camp. The other morning it was right above my tent hooting about 5am. Dusky Flycatchers (Empidonax oberholseri) have a nest on the South side of camp and Hammond's Flycatchers (Empidonax hammondii) on the North. Each species is in active migration right now, so these guys should leave any day now. Other known residents include Red-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta canadensis), Mountain Chickadees (Poecile gambeli), Yellow-rumped Warblers (Dendroica coronata), Western Tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana), Spotted Towhees (Pipilo maculatus), and Chipping Sparrows (Spizella passerina) among others. It really is a cool place.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

I dont think you were here for this, but another mammal species to add to your list: the mouse (dunno what type) that was chewing inside my car engine!! ;)