Snowshoe hares in winter feeding on dry alder leaves.
Snowshoe hares in winter feeding on dry alder leaves.
1850 still photos into a one minute video.
Each winter dall sheep migrate to their rugged, windswept slopes. It is here that their dramatic rut takes place.
I braved the twenty below night temperatures, took 1,159 photos over a four hour period and linked them into a munute long video.
Teenage Alaskan wolf discovers her awesome abilities.
Tundra swans migrating south Along the Alaskan Range.
At nearly four weeks a fledged great gray owlet has jumped from its nest to the forest floor. Free from the confines of the nest, (I too am finally freed from the solitary confinement of my photo blind) the owlet walks and leaps to a place to perch.
Fledged owlets move about fifty to a hundred feet every day, picking out a slanting tree to climb. The ground is a dangerous place for the young, flightless owls. The mobile owl family becomes more difficult to locate by the day.
Adult female drinking.
Female great gray owl holds another red-backed vole just delivered by her mate. The well fed owlets are not hungry at the moment so the vole will be placed in the nest for later. For nearly four weeks I had a rare and intimate view of the owls family life at the nest.
The owlets hatching over a period of about a week account for their age and size difference. Competition among the owls for food favors the older owlets. The smallest owlet, here just a couple of days old, could not hold its own and one morning it was gone.
Watch video of male delivering a red-backed vole. (above)
After a couple of weeks there is no longer a need for constant brooding and the female finally gets a little time to herself. But even then she stays close and alert for danger. One day a pair of ravens hung around the nest in an attempt to harass her from the nest long enough to steal a chick. She held tight and her mate arrived to chase the ravens about. Eventually the ravens left.
Visit next week for the final post in this series, SECRET LIFE OF A FOREST HUNTER-PART THREE
A female great gray owl spreads her wings as she gently lands on the edge of her nest to resume incubating her four eggs. For two months this nest is the nucleus of activity for a pair of great gray owls. Owls do not build their own nests. Instead they use a variety of ready-made and vacant nests, like this one built many years before by northern goshawks. The great grays I had photographed three decades ago in Idaho prefered the bowled out tops of large broken pine trees for their nests.
To gain access to the nesting great grays, more than fifty feet above the forest floor, I scabbed two long extensions ladders together and added an additional extension using two by fours. I had located the nest thirteen years ago. The three-foot wide nest was built by northern goshawks in a towering quaking aspen. Every spring I’d hike to the remote nest site to check its status. Goshawks had used the nest only once during the last thirteen years.
From my self-imposed confinement in the lofty, swaying photo blind, I witnessed much more than just the daily activities of the great gray owls. The female owl and I watched red squirrels, that rarely seen red squirrel predator, the marten, groups of migrating caribou, and a variety of bird life. Early one morning, not long after arriving, a huffing grizzly bear sow and yearling cub who had caught my scent quickly moved off beneath the blind. Once a curious cow moose who could hear my camera clicking finally looked up.
The male hunts for his mate and has just arrived with prey, a baby red squirrel. The male, who hunts during the day using sight and sound, is an opportunist and preys on a variety of small birds and mammals. Red-backed voles are by far the most important prey but shrews, small birds, and young snowshoe hares are also prey. Adult red squirrels are usually too alert and quick to be given much attention by the hunting male. But young squirrels, probably raided from their grass and sphagnum nests, are regularly on the menu.
Snowshoe hare welcomes a change of diet as spring finally arrives. Continue reading
In early March, snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) tracks began to appear where none had been all winter long. I guess the solitary males are out and about looking for females. The snowshoe hare cycle has been on the upswing for a couple of years but the hares are still uncommon in most of the black spruce forests around our place on the northern edge of Wrangell/St. Elias National Park. High quality hare habitat, mixed forests with willow and alder thickets are the nucleus of hare populations and often the only places where hares are common during low-cycle years . These “bunny patches” are where snowshoe hares multiply and disperse. A rising (or falling) hare population has a big impact on most predators and their prey. With snowshoe hare populations locally low, their main predators, lynx, red fox, northern goshawks, great horned owls and even northern hawk owls are low as well. Low numbers of predators has relieved pressure on prey species such as spruce grouse and snowshoes allowing them to recover. Grouse populations have the ability to rebound rather quickly as we have seen them do locally. All these cycles are driven to a large degree by the rise and fall of snowshoe hares. Continue reading
A tireless traveler, the marten (Martes americana) leaves an endless line of tracks through the Alaskan wilderness. Like other members of the weasel family, martens successfully hunt quick prey like the red squirrel and snowshoe hare in deep snow. Tracks are the most common sign of the presence of martens. Following or backtracking marten tracks will tell a story of what this tough, little predator has been up to and gives clues to their habits. Though they are seldom very common, martens are not endangered over most of their range. But martens are so shy and secretive that little is known about their mysterious lives. Old growth forests with large trees and numerous standing and fallen dead trees are a martens prefered habitat, providing cover, food, shelter and cavities for their dens. Continue reading