April 04, 2021

Chickadee Love Song

Most everyone can identify the bird that sings a rapid, nasal chickadee-dee-dee. It is the call the chickadee uses to challenge intruder or to express alarm and it can be heard anytime during the year. However in April, which is the beginning of the courtship season, the chickadee adds a less familiar tune to its vocabulary. It sings a sweet two-toned whistle of two or three notes, the first being higher and longer than the last one or
two. This "love song" sounds like feee-bee or if you listen closer to lunchtime it sounds more like cheezzee-burger. The song can be heard from now until the early part of the nesting season. It is a delightful ditty, which means spring is here.

Posted on April 04, 2021 03:48 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 29, 2020

Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl, an owl in hawk's clothing. It is a fitting description
considering the bird’s appearance and behaviour. At first glance, the crow
sized Hawk Owl resembles an overgrown Kestrel. The wings are relatively
short and pointed and its flight is swift and direct. The tail is long and
wedge shaped. Another hawk-like similarity is its habit of perching on the
tops of power poles or dead trees to survey the ground for movement of
small mammals. When the prey is spotted it drops from its perch and bullets
towards its meal (usually a meadow vole). Hunting during the daylight makes
the Hawk Owl even more akin to hawks. Yet, with all these similarities, the
Hawk Owl’s large head, soft feathers and large yellow eyes mark it as a
true owl.

The reason it is called Northern Hawk Owl is that they are essentially a
sub-artic bird. Occasionally, though, they wander south during sever
winters when food shortages occur in the north.

Posted on November 29, 2020 23:29 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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