12-13-11 Field Note: Nest boxes, Big Sage, and Bobcat and Weasel Tracks

Lorinda Hunt and Beau Larkin's field note peers into the life of a bobcat and a long-tailed weasel as they travel through MPG North. 

MPG North Field Note Nest boxes, bobcat and weasel tracks, big sage 13 December 2011, MPG Operations, Lorinda Hunt and Beau Larkin
Dirty nestlings make messy homes. Nest boxes contain old eggshells, feces, feathers and other debris that host parasites and diseases. These boxes would threaten the health of future occupants if not cleaned out every year.
Swallows occupied all the orange-painted grassland boxes last year, but several unpainted boxes were va- cant (images 4 and 5). Even in close proximity with orange boxes (image 6), unpainted boxes showed little evidence of use. It looks like swallows appreciate a fresh paint job. If we paint them all orange, will more swallows nest in them next year, or are the boxes too close together for swallow territorial behavior?
Bobcat tracking. These day old cat tracks stood out in a forest littered with various other prints. Paw size matched that of a bobcat (Lynx rufus). The large gap between toes and foot pad (red arrow) suggests a female1.
The cat moved from tree to tree along fallen snags and then found cover under a bushy tree branch (below). Matted grass indicated a brief stop to rest.
I followed the tracks for 220 meters before I lost them in a meadow trampled by deer (image 9). Bobcats hunt mostly rabbits and squirrels, but will prey on small ungulates when hungry1.
I reconnected with the bobcat’s trail behind home pond and followed her tracks for 500 meters down Cooney Creek to the end of the property. The bobcat seemed to prefer the open path offered by the frozen creek bed to the dense understory on each side.
The bobcat did not pause during her jaunt down Cooney Creek. Consistent, short stride lengths indicate a steady forward pace.
Small domestic dog tracks can look like bobcat tracks. A three lobed pad (arrows), and lack of claws set bobcat tracks apart (image 13).
Lon-tailed Weasel tracking. We noticed a set of weasel tracks near home pond and followed them for about 183 meters through deciduous wetland growth (map, right). The tracks showed five toes (image 15) and measured about 1.25 inches in length and width (image 16). Long-tailed weasel tracks fit that description1 (Mustela frenata, image 17).
Start. The weasel took time to explore this woodpile (image 18). It stood and waited at a few spots (arrows) for an unwary rodent to appear. End. The weasel explored this old stump. Discarded seed husks betrayed the presence of squirrels. We lost the track here (image 21).
New Species. A big sage (Artemesia tridentata, image 22) seedling stayed above the snow in the west fire break near the solar array (inset map, star). This drought tolerant species competes best in drier habitats than the Swan Valley, but this individual found a suitable niche in the fire break.
Work Completed  Located and cleaned out 24 flycatcher, nuthatch, warbler, swallow, and blue bird boxes  Removed malfunctioning power converter boxes from 8 cameras for repairs












Posted on 12/13/2011 by Beau Larkin

Habitat Types: 


Field Guide Entries: 

Longtail Weasel