News From the Wild

March 27, 2015 | Greg Dodge

It’s definitely spring and things are happening fast.  Here’s a handful of observations from Explore the Wild and Catch the Wind.

Still hanging in there as part of our wetlands avifauna are three hooded mergansers. The trio consists of two males in juvenal plumage and a female (not sure of her age).

 

Three mergansers are still plying the waters of our wetlands (3/26/15).

Three mergansers are still plying the waters of our wetlands (3/26/15).

 

The bird in foreground is a young male. Note the light eye and dark bill.

The bird in foreground is a young male. Note the light eye and dark bill.

 

Here, one of the young males stretches its wings.

Here, one of the young males stretches its wings.

 

While the ducks were resting on an island just off the boardwalk in Explore the Wild (and after photographing them), I noticed that at least one of the male birds is banded.

 

Note Fish and Wildlife band on bird's left foot.

Note Fish and Wildlife band on bird’s left foot.

 

Snakes in holes are back. Last year I posted about northern water snakes taking refuge in the root system of our dawn redwood trees next to the Boardwalk in Explore the Wild. Well, you may be glad to hear that Snakes in Holes are back. I spotted a water snake poking out from under a redwood just yesterday (3/26/15).

 

A northern water snake peeking out from under a dawn redwood in the Wetlands.

A northern water snake peeking out from under a dawn redwood in the Wetlands.

 

A closer look at the snake. Note the clouded eye, a molt is probably in order.

A closer look at the snake. Note the clouded eye, a molt is probably in order.

 

Also back are northern rough-winged swallows. I spotted the First Of the Year (FOY) on Tuesday March 24 flying over the Wetlands hawking insects. I was not able to get a photo. The image below was from last year’s FOY bird.

 

Northern rough-winged swallow (3/26/14).

Northern rough-winged swallow (3/26/14).

 

Frogs have been breeding for several weeks now. One of our resident red-shouldered hawks is taking advantage of the amphibians’ distracted behavior. The hawks can sometimes be seen watching the swamp below only feet from the main path through Explore the Wild.

 

This red-shouldered hawk was in the willows on the north side of the Wetlands.

This red-shouldered hawk was in the willows on the north side of the Wetlands.

 

Here; a red-shoulder watch from a perch above the swamp leading into Catch the Wind from Explore the Wild.

Here, a red-shouldered hawk watches from a perch above the swamp leading into Catch the Wind from Explore the Wild.

 

There is a brown-headed nuthatch nest in one of the willows in the Wetlands. It’s difficult to see but the birds are coming and going from the nest hole regularly. So far, I was only able to get a long shot of one of the birds at the nest hole. I will strive to get better photos to post here, but for now…

 

A brown-headed nuthatch enters a nest hole in a willow in the Wetlands (3/16/15).

A brown-headed nuthatch enters a nest hole in a willow in the Wetlands (3/16/15).

 

Silky willow is in bloom. This is an uncommon small tree or shrub in our area. There are several growing on the north side of the Wetlands.

 

Silky Willow flowers (3/26/15).

Silky Willow flowers (3/26/15).

 

And finally, our female red wolf. She’s been holed up in her den for more than a few weeks. Oh, you can see her on the wolf-cam at the Red Wolf Overlook, and she comes out occasionally to search around for any food items that the male may have missed around the enclosure. But, after reporting to you three weeks ago that things were heating up in the red wolf enclosure, and that the next few weeks should be exciting, things seem to have slowed and cooled, or should I simply say changed.

For the female, she stays in the den much more than she had previous to estrous. The female still keeps the male at arm’s length when they encounter each other in the enclosure. That behavior, for her, has not changed. It’s the time she spends in the den that has changed.

 

Out for a look around, our female looks alert and healthy.

Out for a look around, our female looks alert and healthy.

 

On the male’s part, the last encounter with the female that I witnessed was quite different than what I witnessed previously, several week ago. When the female emerged from the den, he seemed very excited and happy to see her. He seemed to jauntily frolic across the enclosure. This is a marked changed from a few weeks ago when the male would follow her around, all the time looking stressed and distracted.

The other day he actually got down on his front legs, which in canine talk means play with me. She of course, had different ideas, get some grub and get back in the den, after baring her teeth, arching her back, and staring down the male.

What this all means remains a mystery. I could speculate, but I won’t. I did not witness the wolves mating, but we don’t know what goes on at night when we humans are away. Still, we’re going to have to wait to see what develops, if anything.

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