Friday, February 26, 2010

Dam it Damn it........part two.

In writing my last Blog , Dam it Damn it, I collected more material then I could get in there due to my excitement about getting the beaver’s picture posted for all to see. There was a lot more to what I saw on my quest to capture the pictures then the end result.
I grew up in Wisconsin and went to public school.  I remember science of the day made such a big deal as to how superior mankind was over the other animals. MAN ...the maker of tools.  MAN...the "namer" of things, MAN has an opposable thumb, blaa blaa blaa.  I struck me in a funny way,  just as much as science wanted to displace religion and dogma to answer the questions of life it was becoming a religion in it’s self with MAN as the pinnacle of what evolution was about, and we were there. So what was the difference? Man was the answer either way.

 I started some shit in my high school anthropology class while the instructor was going on about the superiority levels of the different hominids over the millions of years.  He and I got along very well but he was an ass and was quick to point it out when he introduced himself. He took pleasure in seeing how wound up he could get students to express what they thought and would argue the opposite view to make them refine their thoughts so they improve their skills at  how they expressed themselves.  ( This did however put him at odds with parents, fellow faculty members, school management and the school board ). “Tools” he claimed were the single crystallizing and defining thing that separated man from all other animals. We had walked on the Moon, end of subject.

My argument was that man was not the only tool maker and user. The examples I used came from the nature shows of the era. They showcased Egyptian Vultures using rocks to break eggs, Galapagos Finches selecting and using thorns to probe out insects from dead wood and Chimpanzees using plant fibers to tease termites out of their underground colonies. He argued each one on it’s own merits and discounted them in order. He lost it and had trouble finding his way back when I argued the role of the beaver as an urban planner and construction company.  He could deal with the others to a point but a rodent was not going to stand with MAN when it came to how the world was shaped.

“WE” have learned a lot since the Seventies about animals and what is a “tool” and what is a “tool maker”.   Language has also been redefined.  We do not stand all that far from the other animals we just tend to talk about them more then they talk about us. 

When was the last time you thought about beavers and how they shaped your world? Depending on where you grew up you fit in to one of three categories when it comes to beavers, love , hate or indifferent.  If it were not for beavers the exploration of North American would have been completely different.  The desire to wear hats and fur from the beaver drove whole national economies. Gold and beaver pelts were interchangeable in some economies. This had already led the beaver to extinction in Great Britain while nearly wiping them out in Europe. When they were found to be plentiful in North America, the English and French could not get here fast enough.  The Hudson Bay Company opened shop just six miles from where I sit right now to trade for furs in the early 1800's.  That was when this part of the country belonged to England, by the time the United States took possession beavers were not plentiful and other resources proved to be more lucrative.

In time the North American beaver faced the same fate as the European beavers. Low numbers and a change in fashion eased the trapping pressure. Beavers did eventually receive some degree of protection through hunting and trapping laws. Man's  need to reshape and claim land for him self brought beavers and man into direct conflict.  The beaver's brain is "hard wired" to be drawn to the sound of running water then reduce its flow. Researches found that is you place a tape recording of running water near a beavers pond it will put sticks and mud on the speaker to try and slow the flow of the water even though they know there is no water present.

Scotland today is trying to reintroduce beavers to their native range with animals they captured in Norway.  The difficulty in getting them back is not the animal husbandry end  but the politics. Land owners do not want them because they will chew up trees. The few that have been transplanted have not been received well at all. Some have been shot and others are missing, or driven off by poachers, vandals and land owners. What I found the most interesting about the plight of these beavers is that when stressed and driven from the area where they were release at least one of the transplants took it’s chances and swam downstream to the ocean and searched until it found a new freshwater watershed to explore. No one thought that would happen. But there was a lot we do not understand. You have to do what you have to do to survive. You take your chances.

Canada Geese are moving, not all are moving North but there is a lot of moving going on.

 Last fall I notice this white goose mixed in with a flock of Canada Geese. Last week I saw it again as it's group cycled back through the lower reaches of the creek. The American flag was left behind by the kids who use the creeks smooth sandy bottom to play with their "skim boards" during the warmer months. This past summer someone put several flags up and I do to want to sound unpatriotic but they just ended up becoming cheap and unsightly trash.  

Personal view...
Patriotism is more than sticking a cheap Chinese made flags in the woods then forgetting to pick up you beer cans and cigarette butts.

 The water that slows behind the beaver's dam allows sediments to collect and settle allowing plants like these cattails to take root. In turn the cattails become food and protection for many other animals as well as filtering the water creating clear pools for the beavers to swim in.

 Here a mature Painted Turtle suns it's self in the unseasonably warm February weather. Painted Turtles have smooth carapaces, only when they mature do you see the convolutions in the plates on their shells. Turtles being cold blooded need protected places to pull out of the cool water and warm up to digest their food. The warmer a turtle is, the more alert and harder it is to approach. The cooler the turtle, the cooler the turtle picture.

 This beaver's pond is not particularity large or deep but it has caught the attention of these four Wood Ducks. Wood Duck are cavity nesting ducks. Even though these "Woodies" are not very big it still takes a fairly large tree to provide a nesting cavity spacious enough to lay and incubate eggs. With the reduction of old growth trees the number of nesting sites over the decades have decreased.

 A few days after I found the beaver's lodge and set up my remote wildlife camera someone came in behind me and installed two Wood Duck nest boxes along the ponds edge. This box was put up just feet from my camera but I do not think the boxes installer even saw the camera. I had the camera mounted on a short tripod and covered it with a piece of camouflage netting. It is pictured in the part one of this posting.

 Here is one of the Hen Woodies hiding from me behind the beaver's lodge.

 Her handsome suitor was not far away.

  Woodies incubate and hatch their eggs in the nest boxes then the young, less then a day old climb out of the box and drop to the ground or water below.  The young hatch within a warm dark and secure cavity. The urge to follow their mothers calls pull them to the brink of a big world. Their first introduction to this world is a bone jarring ten foot plummet to the hard ground or cold water below.

 I am hoping either pair of the Woodies I saw will take up the offer of low rent and give me a chance to photograph them near the box as the spring warms and nesting begins.  I am scouting out places to set up a blind or the remote camera. 

These beautiful little ducks are Hooded Mergansers, they are also cavity nesting ducks, They will be competing with the Woodies for the nest boxes. The male is on the right but he is not showing off his fantastic hood at the moment.

Mallards belong to a waterfowl group collectively called  "dabbling ducks" because of their feeding methods. They feed on what ever they can reach, they can not dive for food. They are too buoyant. The regulated depth of the Beaver's pond gives them a secure and guaranteed place to feed. The surrounding cattails offer  perfect nesting cover and ample food supply for their young.  The hen will soon disappear for a month only to be seen again with down covered ducklings trailing behind.

This clear and constant water found in the beaver's little pond is of a great benefit to the local Kingfishers. They sit in the branches high overhead watching the water looking for minnows below the surface. They dive into the water compensating for the light distortion seizing their prey and lifting out of the water flying away to eat. This is a female Kingfisher. She has a rusty colored band across her chest while the males do not.  The Kingfishers dig deep burrows in the sandy canyon walls along the creek. The Kingfishers make approaching the pond or location unseen very difficult. Nothing escapes their eyesight and their loud explosive "rattling" call alerts all of  the surrounding wildlife. Sometimes I wish they would be feeding elsewhere to make it easier for me. But I guess if they were not there the experience would not be the same.

Song Sparrows are found in most every habitat around the Salish Sea and here is no different. This Male was practicing his song over the beaver's lodge, His song is not very enchanting this time of year. In birds like this a tiny gland in a part of the brain enlarges as the days grow longer. As the brain changes the songs begin to become longer, clearer and more complex. In the late Summer as the days shorten the gland reduces in size and the territorial singing behavior subsides for the Winter.

Song Sparrows capitalize on many types of food and the pond offers up many aquatic treats.

Back to the Beavers!

This is a photograph of a Beaver I took at the Northwest  Trek Animal Park in Eatonville, Washington.  They have a "nice" enclosure with a lodge and clear water to swim in. Here it is easy to see the adaptations the beavers have to make their aquatic lives much easier. Their ears, eyes and nose are all  high on their heads so they can keep a low profile in the water while not missing anything going on around them. they can close off their nostrils and ears to prevent water entry. Their thick fur traps air against their body giving them buoyancy and conserving body heat. Eventually they do get soaked and need a safe place to thoroughly clean and dry their fur to survive.  Catch 22, they need the lodge to dry off because they spend so much time in the water eating and making the lodge.

I collected this beaver skull over twenty-five years ago while living in Oklahoma. (Cars and Beavers do not play well together.) So why do I have a twenty-five plus year old beaver skull?  You do not know me very well. At the time I wanted to save it so that if some day I or someone else could learn from it, it would hopefully save the life of another beaver. This was long before personal computers, the internet, and Blogging. Today here it is for me to share with you.

This was a large Beaver and the skull is over four inches long. Beavers have massive bones and muscles to generate the force needed to use the lower teeth as chisels to remove wood from trees. The mouth is designed to allow the teeth to protrude and gnaw on wood while the lips make a water proof seal keeping water out of the Beaver's mouth. This and their nostrils being able to seal up allows the beavers to chew under water while holding their breath.

This head on view shows the relationship of the incisors and molars to each other.  The broad flat grinding surfaces on the molars are for chewing the bark and aquatic plants the beavers eat, Beavers do not eat wood.  You can see the Beaver needs to have a lot of side to side to side movement while eating to chew it's food. The teeth never stop growing, if they did the Beaver would die. If the Beaver for some reason can not wear the teeth down at the rate that they grow or faster the teeth will over grow and prevent the beaver from eating properly and it will die. In the side view you can follow the curve of the teeth and see that they run deep in the the skull for a good foundation for leverage.

I made up a six inch scale to photograph with the skull and a sample of a beavers work to give you an idea of size. The beaver turns it's head sideways to brace it's top teeth and gnaw at a tree with it's lower teeth. It can take hours, days and sometimes weeks to gnaw down some trees. not all are for food, Dead wood offers not food value but works well as materials for building dams, lodges and reinforcements with in the pond to give them more protection.

Here my Grandson helps me illustrate the size and shape of a Beaver while is is in the water. Notice the gigantic rear feet used to propel the Beaver silently through the world that it creates and maintains. Beavers have large brains for an animal of their size. Notice how little of the animal is exposed at the surface.

Here you can see the "hands" that do the work. They do not have opposable thumbs but they still accomplish what the set out to do. The broad flat tail is easy to see here, beavers use the tail to propel them through the water as well as a defensive weapon.  The tail is used to slap the water as the beaver escapes from possible danger this also serves to alert other beavers of possible danger. This "Water Chipmunk" seems to be connecting with my "Chipmunk" at a level beyond what you would expect .

I have had the wildlife camera on site for a few weeks now. Every other night this Raccoon walks right over the Beaver's lodge as it makes its round through it's territory.

The Raccoon has competition for it's territory. An Opossum walks the same path and direction as the Raccoon right over the top of the beaver's lodge. Neither are competition for the beaver's food supply but I do not know how the beaver feel about it.  There have been several time when the camera has taken pictures that show the shine of an eye or no animal at all. Theses are possibly smaller fast moving animals that trigger the motion detector but the camera does not fire quick enough to catch them. Another possibility is that since the camera needs to "see" movement and body heat the beavers may be walking through the detectors eye unseen because they are wet and cold on their surface.

Beavers do what beavers do. Just like MAN they make their own habitat by altering the natural world to meet their needs. By slowing the flow of a water course they create aquatic worlds that afford them safety from predators and safe passage to and from food sources.  In looking out for themselves they create a world that other animals thrive in.  In my search for the beaver in my last blog I cover some ground and uncovered a sub ecosystem within the ecosystem of the creek.  Over the years of watching the creek I am sure that there have been periods of time when they were not here. Their populations are cyclic with many factors molding their fate. Where they go and why they leave and why they come back I will never know, I just want to get as much time with them as I can right now.

 After three weeks of waiting I have one picture of the Beaver on the wildlife camera. The camera is still out there. I check it every five or six days to minimize my impact on the area. As the seasons change I hope to have more to share with you.

It is 2:43 AM, do you know where your Beaver is?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dam it damn it!

 It started out so simple. It appeared to just be a tree that had fallen in the water but I knew when I saw it  I was in trouble, deep trouble. I took this picture then I moved in to see what my chances would be.

I had seen signs of beaver activity over the past few years at the creek but nothing you could point at and say “ there was a beaver here last night”, today was different, there had been a beaver here last night.  As I looked around there was beaver sign all over the area.

 Here is a case of some heavy duty gnawing on a dead tree. There is no food value in this kind of wood but Beavers need to gnaw to keep wearing their massive teeth down.
 Some of the trees that the beavers are gnawing at deify logic but no one ever said they were logical.

Beaver Abstract

 This sapling was an evening meal in it's self.
I decided to set up my wildlife camera at what looked like the best location and hope for a picture. My selected target tree was in a risky area, near a trail with dog walkers, fishermen and skim boarders.  I made up a cable so I could padlock the camera and tripod to a tree and leave it there for a few nights. Here you can see it in the top right hand corner of the photo. Notice the Beaver had already chewed this tree down twice and was working on the third. The weight of the tree was being supported by a very large tree blocking it's path to the water. I am sure the Beaver could never see this in the dark while it was gnawing on the tree and as far as it knew it was a new tree each time it started to chew on it. The height of the chewed area gives you a really good idea of the size of the beaver.

An animal of some kind tripped the motion sensor on the remote camera around sunrise for three days in a row but no beaver were photographed making the final chew through. I had to rethink this plan. I wanted a beaver picture and there was no telling when or if ever the beaver was going to come back to this tree. I had to have a beaver picture. I was going to get a beaver picture. 

This tree is doomed. The Beaver while deciding how to chew it down took to snaking on the inner bark lining. In the process it girdled the tree cutting off it's food supply and the tree will die. The Beaver may come back at some time in the future,  finish cutting the tree down and use the wood for it's pond or leave it standing. As the tree dies it will be used by other animals for nesting holes and food as insects bore in to it.

Twig snacks

Another sapling down

I thought this was a great example of changing times. Beaver come and Beaver go. Here you see where a beaver years ago nibbled at the lower sapling and recently a new beaver came by and tasted the upper. I wonder if it tasted bad and that is why they both stopped where they did?

One afternoon about three weeks after this beaver issue started I had an hour I could steal away on a rare warm sunny early February day. If you follow my Blog you will recall it has been a rather warm month and winter in the “Puget Trough”.  I thought I would try walking  upstream on the side of the creek that does not have a “trail”, yet. I did find that there is an old overgrown path that parallels the creek. It  is littered with fallen trees, trash, beer cans, booze bottles, car tires, washing machines and shot up car bodies.... but it also  show sings of being an active game trail. Surprisingly I found signs of beaver activity about a hundred yards from and over seventy-five feet above the creek.  I stood above the creek and “glasses” the water course below with the binos. Instantly I saw wood chips at the bases of trees and small beaver dam diverting water to create a backwater pool about thirty feet wide and a hundred yards long.

The dam. Water is moving from the top of the photo to the right. The slowed and diverted water is flowing back to the left. I used Goggle Earth to look at the location and saw that in years past the outline of the beaver's pond was clearly defined but there was no water in it. This again would explain what looks like periods of time when the beavers are not active in the area for one reason or another.

I moved upstream and clear as day in plain sight there it was.  Wrapped around the roots of a downed tree at the waters edge was a mud and stick beaver lodge.

In less than ten minutes on this “trail” I had found the beaver's dam and lodge, this was too good to be true. I sat for a few minutes to let the sounds of the forest settle and blend in. I would like to say off in a the distance a Loon called out or a majestic Elk bugled from a mist covered grove of trees but it did not happen. The trail and the beaver lodge are at the bottom of a steep embankment with a major road crowning the top. Large trucks with their Jake Brakes roaring, speeding crotch rockets and blasting stereos break up the constant whine of care tires above the babbling waters of the beaver dam. Kinda sucks and takes the romance out of it but you have to take what you get.  Rare moments of silence allow the sounds of the Kinglets, Juncos, Crows and Ravens to take their right full place in the unexpected beauty of this place.

As I sat there an immature Bald Eagle flew up the creek drainage, as I tracked it I caught movement below near the lodge. Two Female Hooded Mergansers and a pair of Wood Ducks were on the beaver pond and straining to see if I was still there, they have seen and heard me walking up to the edge and took to cover. The two Hoodies flew off and the two Woodies snuck off. 

I worked my way slowly down the embankment through the dried leaf litter and branches as quietly as I could. I was in the Sargent in the U.S. Infantry in my younger years. I have observed many types of game in many environments as well as forty plus years of birding No animal in the world makes the noises a man makes when it walks. All animals know the sound and wild animals react instinctively. I takes a while for things to go back to their natural rhythm after a man passes through.

I stood by the beaver's lodge silently looking for tracks in the mud at the water edge or signs of beaver movement around the plants near what I thought was the lodge’s entrance. As I stood there I heard a muffled comical mumbling sound coming from the lodge, there were one or more beavers in it. I was dumbfounded and quietly started to move away and downstream along the edge of the pond.

I got about twenty yards and I looked back to the lodge. I saw stream of bubbles rising to the surface of the calm pond.

The bubbles reminded me of a SCUBA Diver. The bubbles were coming from the air being squeezed from the beaver's fur since it was dry when it was in the lodge.
The Beaver passed within feet of where I was sitting but since I was low to the ground the Beaver could not see my silhouette against the sky and did not know of or react to my presence.

About five feet in front of the rising bubbles columns there was a bulge in the surface of the water with brown shape torpedoing ahead of me down the center line of the pond.

I was shocked to see this and almost forgot to take the picture!

And it kept going.
When the pool opened up the shape disappeared into the depths. I quickly found and jumped to a concealed spot where I could watch the pool and wait to the beaver to surface for air. I did not know how long this would take or where it would take place. It took for ever! My ears rang, my eyes strained and the heart began to race.  I stopped breathing at one point to try to hear better, it really does not work all it could hear clearly was the blood squeaking in arteries in my head.

Just as I thought I was sure I had lost the beaver to some unseen escape route I moved to get my butt out of the wet leaf litter, these are always the choices you regret when watching wildlife. One more quick gaze around may have prevented the following.

The water behind me exploded as the beaver slapped it’s tail as it blasted off to the deeper water again. The beaver had been with feet of me unseen behind a large branch.  I took the moment to jump up to find a new spot with a better field of fire while the beaver was distracted and disoriented below the surface. I learned that in sniper training while in the Infantry.  (I wasn’t really thinking about beavers when I was doing all that army shit but some of it comes in handy when watching animals. Duck and and cover.)

I waited knowing I had him/her this time. My cover had been blown. It was him/her or me. One on one. Predator and prey. I had found the sense to set and check the lighting for the camera during all of this. The battery had a full charge the chip was clean. Set to a program that would allow 3.2 frames per second and the focal point was dead center in the lens.This was it, the test, the hunt. To see the beaver was not enough, that would have been a triumph in it self but in all honesty if I could not get the picture to share with you my reader what would the whole point have been? I could just waste your time with stories of glory. Without a picture why bother wasting your time. It's not about me, it's about the animals I want you to experience.

Silently, the beaver's head surface. It surfaced looking directly away from me, the camera came up to my eye and the focus squared up and in one fluid motion I squeezed off the following set of pictures.

The beaver never saw me but it heard the camera's internal doings and was gone.

            To be continued.....................I am not done yet.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The small pieces

“To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”    
Aldo Leopold
A few weeks ago I was watching and waiting for a Bald Eagle to lift off it’s perch and swoop down on an unsuspecting fish for a quick meal.  Out over the edge of the water I notice a swarm of insects that were back lit by the morning sun. Our winter had one real cold spell in December then turned very mild. So mild that the Winter Olympics in Vancouver British Columbia just 150 miles north of here does not have enough snow to go around. Snow is being trucked in for the competitions.

The eagle did go for the fish. As I was walking out of my blind I notice a Ruby Crowned Kinglet was feeding in the branches.  Then it dawned on me, what is the difference?  It is “relatively easy’ to see an Eagle pick off a fish but few see the awesome power and ruthlessness of a Ruby Crowned Kinglet. The Kinglet just lives in a smaller scale then the Eagle. 

It is now early February and the temperatures are hovering in the mid fifties each day. Leaves are beginning to emerge a full month sooner then they did two years ago. As the trees warm their saps begin to flow and the whole energy from the sun cycle starts anew.  With the stirring of the tree’s sap the migrations start. Birds eat a variety of food.  The seasons offer up what is available and those birds that do not capitalize on the bounty presented perish.

Buds opening on the tree in the yard

Fungus growing on the twigs that did not survive the winter.

Close up of the sap sucking insects. If you think about it if there are ten of these bugs for every foot of branch and twig per tree that adds up pretty quick. Then think about how many trees in a given area and suddenly you have a bio mass of insects that adds up to tons of food while remaining unseen by us.

Close up of a larger flying insect. These insects hunker down and hug the branches. This is where they spend the winter hiding in the open waiting for the temperatures to rise enough to revive from their torpor and go out to feed or breed.  Many never get a chance, any one of the birds you are about to meet glean over the branches with sharp eye sight and fast reflexes eating everything in their path. If they did not we would be over run by hundreds of tons of insects.

Mystery bark carving. Something is going on here, an animal has a plan and you can see it has worked before. Notice the healed scars to the left and above the fresh rectangles.We will now take a quick look at the usual suspects to find our "vandal".

Ruby Crowned Kinglet Male.
Here in the Northwest these birds visit during the Winter searching many different kinds of plants looking for tiny insects. As the weather warms the Males begin to practice their complex songs. In my experience once they start to sing they will be gone within a week or so not to be seen until next Winter. Large numbers will migrate through in a short period of time and getting in a position to photograph them is difficult. They are always on the move and very wary.

Golden Crowned Kinglet.
A year round resident of the Northwest in Coniferous forests. They are seldom seen due to their size and upper canopy haunts.

Male Common Yellow Throat.
A migratory bird in the Northwest their arrival is dependent on insect populations being active to survive. 

Male Yellow Warbler.
His needs are  similar to those of the Yellow Throat and does not stick around once the insects go dormant.


Bewick’s Wren.
This hardy and active little bird is a year round resident.  It is constantly on the search for insects in all types of weather. The Males spring song is so varied and vibrant I have been fooled many times thinking I have found a new species. Intense searching turns up this tiny Wren. It can be disappointing to discover that it is "just" a Bewick's but it is a comforting pleasure to know that they are in the yard.

Female Orange Crowned Warbler.
Secretive and shy this Summer visitor searches the dense thickets and branches for tiny insects, when  her young hatch and it takes all she has to keep up with their demands.

Male Anna’s Hummingbird.
Urban plantings have allowed this species to expand it's range far North of it's historical haunts. In the past twenty years or so it has even begun to Winter over as far North as the Canadian border. When I first heard of January reports of them in Seattle back in the Eighties I thought they were just mistaken. My resident Anna's Hummingbirds not only winter over but actively fight over the fountain in my yard when all local water sources are frozen over. During the periods of below freezing weather there is no nectar or sap to feed on so these tiny birds turn to an all insect diet. When there are no insects to be found they go into a state of torpor or semi hibernation. It is a sleep that some do not wake up from, it is a gamble with high stakes when you do not migrate. This behavior has had some strange results with reports of Female Anna's actually nesting in the Winter months within the city limits of Seattle.

Rufous Hummingbird.
These beautiful little birds migrate from Southern California up to Southern Alaska and back each year. They need fuel for this long migration. Nectar, tree sap and insects are all critical to the ability of these birds to start their journeys. If they travel ahead of their food source or suitable weather they either have to turn back or settle in and go into a torpor until the weather warms. The males move North first and are very active, the females follow but are much more subdued in their travels.

Pine Siskin.
A year round resident they are usually thought of as seed eater which they are. When seeds are hard to find tiny insects fill the needs to survive the cold winter weather.  They cover large areas and there are years when I do not see them for months at a time if at all.

These tiny drab birds are year round residents in my yard. In the winter they flock together in large groups gleaning over the trees in a manner matching that of a military maneuver.  Nothing escapes their sharp eyesight. The Males have black eyes and the Females have yellow eyes. In the spring the large flocks break up into nesting pairs that weave sock shaped nests hidden in the thickets

Chestnut Backed Chickadee
A year round resident which depends heavily on insects in coniferous trees. Here you can see the intense focus while looking of food among the needles. 

Black Capped Chickadee
More common then the Chestnut Backed Chickadee around my yard but just as dependent on insects.  These spent Sunflowers offer a few missed seeds as well as spider and insects.

Cedar Waxwing
In the spring the Waxwings move in to the higher branches of the Douglas Firs in the area and build nests. They are easy to see when they fly out from their perch to intercept a flying insect then return. This hunting technique for catching flying insects is called "hawking". A number of bird use this method.

Tree Swallow
A sure sign of spring is when the Swallows return. They require flying insects and do not forage like any of the birds I have talked about so far.

Barn Swallow
Soon after the Tree Swallows are seen the Barn Swallows appear. They too take food on the wing and do not forage, Though I have seen one walk to pick up an injured insect that fell of the front bumper of a car.  This particular Male Barn Swallow has unusual tail additions.  I had posted it on my Flickr page and asked if anyone else had seen a bird like this. I have received over seven hundred and fifty views and not one response to date.

Northern Rough Winged Swallow
Here is another Swallow that many non birders easily overlook. Neither the Male or Female are overly colorful so they just blend into the back ground and are thought to be juveniles of other species. Like the other Swallows they too take insects on the wing.

Female Downy Woodpecker
I think everyone can identify with this iconic  little woodpecker.  Shy and secretive Downy's find insects under the bark of damaged and dead wood. The woodpecker here is taking advantage of damage to the tree not caused by a bird.

You never know who your friends are. This Black Tailed Buck used the tree to scrape the velvet off of it's antlers when the blood supply stopped flowing to the soft tissues and the calcium began to harden. The damage to the tree is not a concern of the deer but a benefit to the woodpecker

Now back to the source of damage to our first tree.

Red Breasted Sap Sucker
This Sapsucker takes a different and more direct approach to feeding on insects. They shave away the outer layer of bark to allow the sap to pool in the wells they create. Later they return to feed on the sap and insects that have also come to feed on the sap. Many other birds have learned to take advantage to the industrious Sapsucker.  It is believed the Anna's Hummingbird numbers and survival chances are much greater in areas where Sapsuckers are abundant.

 From the sunlight creating the sugars in the tree sap to the insects to the tiny foraging birds to the birds and animals that feed on them. The small cog turns the bigger cog slowly then the biggest cog moves infinitesimally.  The cogs and wheels move at their own speeds, infinite in scale both large and small, up and down. Which can you see, global warming, Chickadees feeding or tree sap rising?

I think Mr. Leopold could comprehend all of the cogs and wanted us to just understand that they existed .

I do not think we ever were smart or responsible enough to "tinker" any part and we surly have not by this point in history we have demonstrated "intelligence". We would be hard pressed to show "precaution".
Hell, we have now even shown that we have adult supervision. 

On another note,
Happy Lunar New Year!
Year of the Tiger
Happy Valentines Day