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Thursday, April 30, 2009

And the Answer is....

Thanks to Madonna and Filip for playing my "name this track" game. It was fun. Filip is correct - an Eastern Gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensi) left these beautiful tracks.

Compare them to the tracks of the Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) to the right. It's interesting how different the tracks are considering that they are very similar animals...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Can You Guess Who Left These Tracks?

I stopped so suddenly that I almost hurt
myself when I saw these tracks on my
way to work recently...They were so clear and gave good front and back prints - I usually only find one or the other. I had to check with my Tracking Intensive instructor to make sure I had the ID right before I shared with you.
I'm still unsure when I first see a new track, and even though I thought I knew what it was after checking the field guides, I doubted myself...mainly because I thought I had a resident one of these mammals in my yard!

Turns out I was wrong, and after a closer look at the track photos I'd taken in the snow and realized that my resident critter is a different member of this family. My neighbor hood critter is smaller, and is a Pacific Northwest native. These tracks were in a residential area, just a few blocks from the office. This tasty animal lives back in Missouri, Arkansas and Oaklahoma, and is really an introduced species no reason for all my friends back home not to make a guess about it...I'm not telling until someone leaves a guess in the comments area...Click on the word comment below, and give it a shot!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Knotweed Crisp

The weather has been lovely here the past few days, and I enjoyed getting out on Saturday to play with the Tracking Club...They make me be a station master, which is kind of fun, and really scary...I don't feel like I know anywhere near enough to tell other people anything about tracking. My station was a nice set of rat tracks in the sand on the riverbank.

I picked some Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) , enough for my favorite spring treat. Knotweed is an introduced and invasive species, one which the state of Washington would love to get rid of, so I do my part by eating as much as I can before it gets too big and tough. I only pick the young shoots, no higher than my knee, or bigger around than my thumb. I clean off the leaves, wash and cut into inch long sections. It can then be added to your favorite Apple Crisp recipe. Mine goes something like this - its a very forgiving recipe, so the measurements don't have to be exact. Knotweed has a taste similar to Rhubarb.

(Be sure you have properly identified Japanese Knotweed before you harvest it. Folks who can't eat Rhubarb have told me that they can't eat this plant, either, so use your common sense and try a small amount to see if it agrees with you before you go crazy.)

Linda's Strawberry/Apple/Knotweed Crisp
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 91/2 x 13 pan. In that pan, toss:
  • One package of frozen strawberries, thawed until they can be cut into halves or quarters.
  • Three apples, cored and cut into 1 inch chunks (can be any type - I use what I have on hand)
  • An equal (more or less) amount of chopped knotweed.
  • Sugar to taste - about 1/4 cup for me

Top with a mixture of about 1 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup packed brown sugar, with a stick of butter cut in. The mixture will be crumbly and dry.

Bake in oven until the fruit is done - about 30- 45 minutes. Top warm crisp with vanilla ice cream for a real treat.

It's easy, and a bit tart...and a good way to use a noxious weed! (Jonathan tells me he has used the leaves in stirfries, but I haven't tried that yet.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Hare-foot Dog

left to right - Hoss, Surley, and Addie - Addie's hind foot, showing the elongated structure
Addie is just 2 weeks off the race track!
I was begining to think I'd never get a hare-footed dog for my project, but Ellen Haas gave me the name of someone who is active in greyhound rescue, and I took a chance, e-mailing a request for help.
Moira Corrigan bravely agreed to meet me with her own 3 greyhounds, 2 she's fostering, and her 10 month old Great Dane, Cheif, too! Anticipating that it might be somewhat crazy, I also asked Shondell Kelly, one of this year's Rezzies, to go along to assist with the measurements.
Moira began by telling me that I might not want to track Hoss, as he's missing a toe...OH Yeah, I wanted to track him, and I'll share those photos later...
The dogs were delighful and we quickly laid down tracks because the weather was a bit uncertain. Shondell proved to be a great scribe, and it's the first time I didn't get my papers wet, sandy, and messed up. Should have thought of that before.
Did I learn anything? Oh yeah - the elongated hare foot has a HUGE gap measurement! This was proof that I'm on the right track with my original idea...It was exciting! Now I have some real data to work with and am so glad I got brave enough to ask - and that Moira was brave enough to respond.
Here's the link to the web site for the rescue group...they are in need of donations, supplies, foster families and forever homes for retired racing

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Olympic Firsts

Since my last check in I've had some interesting 1sts in my life!
  • First and second ferry rides - the Tracking Intensive folks said that Norfolk Lake in Arkansas didn't count! It was really COLD on the deck, but I enjoyed watching the gulls and cormorants! The return trip was the best-sunny and great views of Mt. Baker and Rainier. The Space Needle looked like a toy from the far side of Puget Sound.
  • First trip to the Peninsula!
  • First time in Olympic National Park!
  • First mountain lion tracks! At the Sol Duc snow...It was funny because they were of a size that could have been big bobcat, but as Marcus pointed out, the stride was 3 1/2 feet long.

Wonderful trip, good weather, fun group. I love TI weekends!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Off on Another Adventure!

I'll be leaving in about an hour for the Olympic National Park, yet another place I haven't been!
With luck, we will find tracks of the fisher ( Martes pennanti )...a rare animal that looks somewhat like it's kin, the mink and weasel. I'm hoping for clear tracks, and good weather...right now the sun is shining, but we are about 5 hours and a ferry ride away from the campground. I'll report back next week!

My Favorite Fiction Authors and Books

  • Suzanne Arruda- the Jade del Cameron mysteries: "The Mark of the Lion" "Stalking Ivory", "The Serpent's Daughter", "The Leopard's Prey" and "The Golden Cheetah"
  • Ken Goddard - "Balefire" and others
  • Stephen White - the Dr. Alan Gregory books are all great. "Kill Me" is my favorite.
  • Harlan Coben - anything he writes is great
  • Elizabeth Peters - Amelia Peabody mysteries

My Favorite Nonfiction Authors and Books

  • "Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown- 2nd edition coming soon!
  • Gavin De Becker - "The Gift of Fear"
  • "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales- the best survival book I've ever read! Not a how-to, its more of a who does,and why.
  • Candice Millard - "The River of Doubt -Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey"
  • Anything that starts with "Peterson's Field Guide To..."
  • Tom Brown, Jr. - "The Tracker" and others
  • Mark Elbroch - "Mammal Tracks and Sign" and "Animal Skulls"