Thursday, August 25, 2016

On the Hunt for the Elusive Otters...

 A Blue Jay watching a flock of humans...very confusing...
"Uh, excuse me! Anyone got any seed?"

SO, there we were...creeping down the trail at Pond Brook Conservation Area...quietly...scanning through the scrub..looking for movement  along the brook...shhh...we're hunting Northern River Otters...there's a family of them living here...hmmm...WHAT'S THAT?!...oh, just an Eastern Chipmunk making more noise than he has to, must be related to Bobb...

I've been out here at least once every other week searching for otters...and birds of course. I have seen some great birds, Blue-winged Warblers, Barred Owls, even a grand flock of Trumpeter Swans flying otters...yet... be continued...

I was there early and met up with Janeen, an excellent naturalist with the Summit Metroparks. Tonight she was leading a walk through the preserve to search for the River Otters and teach folks about habitat restoration and the animals that live among us. I was expecting a dozen or so folks to show up on this gorgeous and warm evening. Much to my surprise, and possibly Janeens, there were about fifty people crowded around her to listen and learn about these wonderful animals and this outstanding area.

She led her group from the parking area down a short path and described more of the otters habitat and habits. You know me and crowds...I quietly slipped away after giving a camera demonstration to an inquisitive 4 year old...a future birder I hope! I was on the hunt!

 LOTS of people!

 A samll portion of Pond Brook that was visible from the trail.
The wildflowers and scrub has really taken over this summer.

 Getting close to dusk and quite a few Cedar Waxwings were flying in to watch the humans.

 The first stop for the group was this definite sign of the otters!
No, don't leave!
It was otter poop...more politely called "scat."
When Janeen and I were looking around she spotted it along the bank of the a picnic table of course!
 I needed some poop pics for my collection of things FROM behind...or things left behind...or things LEFT from behinds...or something...

 Anyway...if you look closely(hopefully you've already eaten) you'll see the fragments of past meals.
They eat anytihng from shellfish, fish, turtles and frogs and even mice, buirds and eggs if they can catch them.
Lots of shells and that curious leg and claw in the center.
I think lizard was on the menu.
The eat there meals "sushi" style, whole and uncooked.
No thank you.

 Onward down the trail...peeking through the undergrowth whenever I can to look for movement in the brook.
Lots of American Robins are searching too...

 Flycatchers were out catching their evening meals.
The mosquitoes were out en masse this evening.
Luckily, like some people, they don't like me!

(By the way, I think that was an Eastern Wood-Pewee as I heard many calling throughout the walk.)

 At first I shrugged off this whining little bird as a European Starling, but when I got home it looked a lot more like a very young American Robin...hmmm...

 Did I mention all of the Cedar Waxwings along for the walk?
Larry, Curly and Moe looking in all directions for what, they're not sure of...

 This Hairy Woodpecker was wondering what all the hub-bub was down below...
 This White-breasted Nuthatch was "honk-honking" at the noist humans.
"How do you expect to find the otters?! Shhhh!"

 Squeezing my way slightly off the path to have a peek in the brook I saw all these beautiful wildflowers...but no otters...yet!

 Taking photos at dusk with a 500mm lens is not one of smarter moves...fortunately, my camera is smarter than me and can figure it out...

 One of these days I'm gonna get a wildflower field guide...and look at it...


Nope, it wasn't the river otters, just a frog hopping along on his merry dinner for an otter!
The only River Otter I saw tonight was this taxidermy buddy of Janeens.
He was good at posing for me. Very dramatic, eh?

My search will continue. I'll go back Sunday morning and every week or so until I find a live one...
When you think about what this area once was, a veritable wasteland, completely  polluted and desolate, and the wonderful place to walk and bird it has become, it gives you a little hope that people will bakc local parks and help in conserving our precious habitat.

Stay tuned...