June 09, 2020

House Finches are Singing

The songs of House Finches were not always heard in the Columbia Valley. In fact they were unknown in the province until 1935, when a pair of House Finches were reported nesting in Penticton. By 1937 they had also arrived on the coast and were observed nesting in Victoria. From these 2 small pioneering populations the House Finch launched its rapid range expansion into British Columbia. By 1970 it had moved east into the Southern Interior Mountains and was recorded near Cranbrook. House Finches first appeared on the Lake Windermere Christmas Bird Count in 1994 And now are a common sighting at local bird feeders.

Posted on June 09, 2020 13:45 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observation | 1 comment | Leave a comment

February 14, 2020

Columbia Spotted Frog Tadpole

For the last couple of weeks Columbia Spotted Frog tadpoles are changing (metamorphosis) into frogs. You can see the fully developed hind legs in this photo. The front legs develop inside the tadpole’s body and do not become visible until they pop out fully formed. This tadpole had also lost it’s gills and was seen swimming to the surface to suck in air. The tail is the last to disappear as it is reabsorbed into the body.

Metamorphosis is a particularly hazardous time for amphibians as they do function well in either water or on land. At this stage they are less efficient at avoiding predation than either tadpoles or frogs.

Posted on February 14, 2020 05:09 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Wolf Tracks

Wolves spend 8 -10 hours/day on the move and can travel great distances.

Wolf tracks, like those of all canids, show four toes on each foot with claw marks present. The tracks of a wolf and large a dog are indistinguishable, even to a trained wolf biologist.
The secret to telling the two apart is not in looking at the tracks, but in examining the behaviour of the animal that made them. A dog will move in a wandering crisscrossing path, stopping often to play, sniff, and dig. A wolf, on the other hand, moves more in a direct line. They march most often in single file and only stray from their course to investigate danger or potential food.

The wolf's front legs are close together but their knees turn in and their paws turn outward allowing their front feet to set a path which their hind feet follow precisely. When trotting, wolves leave a neat single line of track, an advantage when moving through deep snow.

Wolf tracks will wander more when snow is not too deep, creating a pattern of braided footprints and making it easier for observers to number individuals traveling in the pack. There were 5 in this pack.

So next time you are out in the snow - check for tracks.

Posted on February 14, 2020 00:53 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 16, 2020

River Otters

Observations of River Otters in the Columbia Valley have been increasing. The one pictured here was seen swimming in open water of the Columbia River

Otters rely upon the presence of clean, unpolluted water for their food, primarily fish. The ones in the Columbia Valley feed mainly on Northern Pikeminnows (Squawfish) and in the fall eat spawning Kokanee Salmon. South of Toby Creek you can often see the shell remains from where otters have eaten freshwater mollusks.

Because otters are high in the food chain, they are particularly susceptible to the accumulation of organic compounds and heavy metals. This makes them good indicators of contaminant levels in the aquatic environments. So it is a good sign that River Otter numbers are increasing in the upper Columbia Valley.

Posted on January 16, 2020 05:58 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 13, 2020

Stories in the Snow

One of the fun things to do this time of year is to go into the wetlands looking for animal tracks in the snow. Pictured here are tracks of a coyote and weasel that cross paths but what is the strange design over their tracks? The design was made by an elk slipping on ice.

Posted on January 13, 2020 03:17 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 10, 2020

Wintering Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles feed mainly on fish, either self-caught or taken from Osperys. But when fish are scarce they prey on smaller mammals like hares, muskrats and beavers. They will also take waterfowl and can be seen forcing ducks and coots to dive again and again until the exhausted bird is easily captured. However in winter when the waters freeze the Bald Eagles that remain in the Columbia Valley rely largely on carrion.

Photo immature Bald Eagle feeding on a White-tailed Deer carcass. The deer was likely kill by a train as it was near the railway tracks..

Posted on January 10, 2020 15:43 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Northern Pygmy Owl

The Columbia Valley has the highest diversity of owls (13 species) of any bioregion in Canada

Northern Pygmy Owl - Canada's smallest owl. They are smaller than an American Robin - about 7 inches high. They may be small but they can carry prey weighing up to 3 times its own weight. This White-footed Deer Mouse was an easy lift to the poplar tree perch.

Posted on January 10, 2020 02:44 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Pumpkinseed Sunfish discovered in the Upper Columbia River

"The Pumpkinseed Sunfish is native to southeastern Canada where it prefers weedy lake shore waters. The origin of the Pumpkinseed Sunfish in British Columbia is unknown, but its distribution seems to follow that of the Smallmouth Bass; it seems likely that these two species were introduced to British Columbia together in the early 1900s."

Pumpkinseed Sunfish are currently established in small lakes in Victoria area, the lower Columbia, lower Kootenay, Kettle and Okanagan systems below Cascade and Okanagan falls and now with this record the Upper Columbia River.

The introduction of exotic fish species into natural waterways can lead to a reduction in native fish numbers. Exotic fish affect native fish through direct competition for food and space, predation, habitat alteration and the introduction of exotic diseases and parasites.

"The proportion of endemic fish species found in the Columbia Basin in British Columbia sets the Columbia Basin apart from other large drainage basins in North America. At present, the Columbia Basin contains 43 fish species, of which 27 are native (9 endemic), and 16 are introduced 'exotic' species. The Columbia Basin presently houses over half (43 of 84 species) of British Columbia's freshwater fish fauna, making it the parent drainage for freshwater fish diversity in British Columbia." Living Landscapes, Royal BC Museum

Posted on January 10, 2020 02:39 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

White Sturgeon Release into Kootenay River

See Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqtwor6fpuY

There is antidotel evidence that White Sturgeon once lived in the Columbia River, up stream from Golden, BC.

"The Kootenay River sturgeon population is endangered in both Canada and the U.S. due to a variety of human impacts, including the operation of Libby Dam that has altered the natural flow of the river. There has been virtually no natural reproduction in the wild since 1974. There are thought to be fewer than a 1,000 adults living on both sides of the border.”

“We know that this is a stop-gap measure but it is a very important component of the conservation effort while we, and many other partners, work toward implementing habitat restoration measures that should provide conditions for fish to successfully reproduce in the wild,” says KTOI’s Fish & Wildlife Program Director, Sue Ireland. “This aquaculture program is critical if we are to avoid this population becoming extinct.” 

“The 10-month old juveniles weigh about 70 grams and are typically between 15 and 25 centimetres in length. They can grow to the length of a canoe and live for over 100 years."

For more information about Columbia and Kootenay River white sturgeon, visit , www.uppercolumbiasturgeon.org and www.fwcp.ca.

Posted on January 10, 2020 02:30 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 01, 2020


Kokanee are land locked Sockeye salmon. They were first discovered spawning in Kootenay National Park in 1984 when a fisherman spotted one in the Simpson River and reported it to Brian Sheehan (now retired park warden).
The following year thousands were observed spawning in the Kootenay River and by 1997 an aerial survey estimated nearly 500,000 spawners in the upper Kootenay River and tributary streams that flow into the Koocanusa reservoir.

Kokanee were introduced into Koocanusa reservoir in the late 1970's and have developed into an international fishery as well as a primary food source for bull trout. Now we know the effects of the bottled Kokanee but there are still questions as to what effect these introduced Kokanee Salmon have on the park's native fish and other wildlife.

Posted on January 01, 2020 02:46 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment