Thursday, December 1, 2011

An Afternoon at the Muller Field Station

This semester I am enrolled in a course titled Field Natural History, taught by Dr. Rob Wink. We meet once a week, on Thursdays, and take the whole afternoon to go out and explore. Each week has a specific theme of study, for example: pond ecology, bogs and fens, succession, geology, fossils, and this week was supposed to be winter ecology. We went to FLCC's Muller Field Station at the south end of Honeoye Lake. As I think I mentioned in a previous entry, we've had unseasonably warm weather here in Upstate, NY, so the ground is no where near frozen, no snow, and mild temperatures. We couldn't really study and learn about the subnivean zone, so we just took a leisurely stroll along the channel looking for signs of wildlife. The following are things we saw along the way...

A buck rub.

Deer scat.

A bird nest, unsure of species.

Beaver chewed tree stumps (Castor canadensis).

Otter scat (Lontra canadensis).

AND THEN...the best personal find for the afternoon!

 Black bear (Ursus americanus) tracks across the main driveway at Muller!

Front foot in front, rear foot in rear.

If anyone is reading this (at all), and knows'll understand that this was a GREAT find for me! I love black bears. These tracks were fairly fresh, I'd wager less than 12 hours and definetely no more than 48 hours. On either side of the black-top the soil was soft and pretty wet. I was walking the length of the driveway looking for salamanders (they're know to make a pilgrimage at Muller) and was noticing deer tracks every where. And then I came across the bear tracks! I was alone, my cla ssmates were far off in front and behind me, so I stopped for a minute and tried not to yell to the others without being sure that the tracks were in fact bear, and not human tracks (which I have mixed up before). Well, it was quite obvious to me that these were bear tracks. It was very easy to see the track pattern, and individual feet prints. Bears have a notoriously pigeon toed gait, which you can see in the pictures.

Here's another for some scale:

The print in the front is actually the rear foot, and the one in the back is the front foot.

 This was a thrilling find for me! I love finding sign left behind by wildlife, and especially bears! This winter in January I'm taking a Winter Ecology course which is based at Muller. I am very excited to get some camera traps out to document the movement, although at that point the bears SHOULD be in their dens, nice and cozy!

As a parting thought, I'll leave with you this image. This was taken a year and almost a month ago at the Muller Field Station. This bear evaded a culvert trap set out by the DEC, but got his/her picture snapped! This was taken on a Cuddeback Capture IR.

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