January 09, 2016

Blood Trail in a Winter Woods

Today was a bit above freezing, the beginning of a thaw that will culminate in a downpour tomorrow, if the forecasts are correct. The soft thick snow cover was coated in animal tracks today - snowshoe hare, red squirrel, deer. And then...

Blood on snow is an incredible exclamation point. It can't be missed or mistaken for anything else. and here was quite a bit of it, each time a deer put its foot down a crimson burst in the snow. The tracks were sloppy, too. This deer was not doing well.

Soon after we found canid tracks also, more than one. There weren't signs of a struggle, but it seemed like far from a coincidence that they were here. At one point one split off from the others, perhaps a scout trying to cut the deer off at a turn somewhere.

The blood trail crossed the trail several times, at one point following it for a few hundred feet. i'm not certain what was happening here. I am hoping it was coyotes trailing an injured deer rather than a pack of dogs running down a deer for sport. My tracking skills are not sufficient to say for sure... but their persistence as well as a piece of scat I saw made me think coyote.

The snow was not deep, and unless deer are encumbered by deep snow coyotes don't generally try to hunt a healthy deer. Perhaps the injury here was inflicted pre-coyote... if so it probably involved a car.

The blood trail veered off towards a wetland and beaver pond. I didn't try to find the deer. If it evaded the coyotes, it was going to have to rest to survive all that blood lost. If not, well, coyotes need to eat too, and the deer may not have been able to survive the injury anyway. but I have to admit... I'm really curious.

I hope someone can help decipher the story from my photos. One thing is clear though... not long ago a life and death drama of some sort unfolded in these woods, and most likely there are coyotes sleeping somewhere with full bellies. I'll never know... the rain is coming and will wash most of the snow away, and along with it the blood.

Posted on January 09, 2016 02:07 PM by charlie charlie | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 24, 2015

Freakishly Warm Christmas Eve

It was a freakishly warm Chrismas Eve. The warmest temperature we saw was 69 in our car when driving through Richmond. Indeed it was above 60 most of the day, at least in the Champlain Valley. Our house in Montpelier was only 60 for a short time. In any event it was eerie to be out in the warm and there were even convective clouds floating about that looked like they could produce a thunderstorm (though I did not hear thunder).

The odd weather must be affecting the local ecosystems, but the only plants I saw that seemed to be leafing out were a few invasives, so if they get toasted by the cold later in the winter I won't be crying. I did find a moth caterpillar. We walked through a park in South Burlington on mostly clay soils. Most was field or old-field redcedar and white pine, but there was a nice hardwood forest with a few ledges (Transition Hardwood Limestone Forest by the ledges, probably, with clayplain forest elsewhere). There were some big sugar maples and a big red oak and shagbark hickory. There are probably some nice spring ephemerals and calciphyle plants during the growing season, but despite the warmth those were hidden under the leaves...

Anyone else seen odd effects of the warmth?

Posted on December 24, 2015 07:52 PM by charlie charlie | 37 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 04, 2015

An iNaturalist in Vermont (or San Diego)? On Facebook? Join the iNaturalist Vermont Facebook Page!

I have created an iNaturalist Vermont facebook page as a place to informally 'geek out' about iNaturalist. You don't have to live in Vermont to join, but it will have lots of Vermont related content. See
https://www.facebook.com/iNaturalistVermont/

This was inspired by the iNaturalist San Diego page:
https://www.facebook.com/iNaturalistSanDiego

Posted on December 04, 2015 08:49 AM by charlie charlie | 1 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

November 25, 2015

"Mining" old What's Invasive observations for iNaturalist observations

Back in 2009, about when iNaturalist was being created, I had the opportunity to help test another similar app called What's Invasive. The tech was much less advanced - we were using old 'blackberry' phones - and as will be seen, the camera was not good. Nevertheless, my short obsession with testing this app was a precursor of future iNaturalist observations.

I'm not sure What's Invasive gets much use anymore, and I thought it would be a fun November project to get these observations into iNaturalist. I downloaded a CSV from What's Invasive that included links to the photos and bulk loaded the observations to iNaturalist. I had to transfer the photos manually but it didn't take too long.

The repeated observations of invasives are not all that exciting, but I quickly realized there were lots of other plants in the photos too. In one case between the handful of species of invasives and other species I saw I was able to find 24 species in one day's worth of observations.

I often remark that I really wished I had iNaturalist when I was out mapping vegetation in the Santa Monica Mountains. This way at least I captured a little snapshot of that time there.

To see these observations, see May and June 2009 on my Calendar. Turns out I can't easily tag them to this journal post because the journal attachment feature is sorted by date observed, and i am not going to scroll past 15000 observations to find them.

There may be a few more to 'mine' in Vermont as well.. but as of right now the What's Invasive website is down. Maybe I got these California photos just in time.

Posted on November 25, 2015 03:16 PM by charlie charlie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 24, 2015

Poll: Required Fields in Projects - Problem or No?

Hi all! A quick question. Since I use iNaturalist differently than everyone else, I realize my perception is different than that of others. However, I find required fields in projects REALLY annoying to the point that if a project has required fields i will rarely or never contribute to it. I was wondering if it's just a pet peeve I have that no one else shares, or if indeed they annoy other people. And if you don't use them, is it because you don't like required fields, or just because the feature isn't working right.

Thanks!

Posted on November 24, 2015 05:03 AM by charlie charlie | 14 comments | Leave a comment

November 05, 2015

"Serious" Data Collection with inaturalist

iNaturalist is a citizen science website, but the website and app are also powerful tools for collecting 'professional' data. I work as an ecologist, but yesterday I had a day off and decided I didn't want to spend the unseasonably warm, sunny fall day indoors. So I set out for Pine Mountain Wildlife Management Area, a place I had never been before in an area no one had entered anything into iNaturalist.
i was wondering the woods for fun, so in a sense I too was being a citizen scientist, one of many 'professionals' who also records biodiversity data for fun. But I also wanted to see what sort of plant species list I could build in just a few hours (along with any other taxa I came across). I quickly documented species using the iPhone app, and took notes about natural communities when it made sense, as well.
The result? 153 observations of 81 taxa (including a few observations I took from turnouts on the drive out. This number may also change if I add a couple more IDs or copy observations for extra species). All have photos and GPS data. Some have associated species tagged. Many show the state of late-fall (or lack theref) color in the trees. I also documented several natural communities - a fen, a dry oak forest, a rich northern hardwood forest, and a northern hardwood talus woodland.
When I am doing surveys 'for real' I still like to have a pen and notebook, of course. Perhaps I always will. But at least in the case where the data can be shared publicly, iNaturalist also offers a way to quickly make an ecological assessment of a place, complete with photos and GPS points.
It's really a powerful tool, even if this is not exactly what the app and website were created to do.
The journal post wouldn't let me add all 153 observations to this journal entry, but you can see them here.

Posted on November 05, 2015 04:34 PM by charlie charlie | 90 observations | 16 comments | Leave a comment

October 07, 2015

More Unusually Late Green Foliage

Today in Montpelier i encountered a yellow birch in a northern hardwood forest with no visible color change at all! on October 7th! Also the staghorn sumac which usually is an early changer was still mostly green. The sugar maples are changing but are a less vibrant yellow with brown spots... same as the trees in our yard.

The anomaly is spotty because looking another direction there are many vibrant trees. The red maples seem as red as ever in most cases.

Will continue monitoring as it appears to be an unusual phenomena related to climate change or at least to the unusually warm September. We are getting into the time of year where the mountains sometimes start getting snow, and if the trees up high do not lose their leaves soon they could be damaged.

Posted on October 07, 2015 07:26 AM by charlie charlie | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 05, 2015

Anomalous fall foliage patterns

Took a couple of drives and hikes last weekend to check out fall foliage. In several cases we observed an odd pattern. In the valleys and lowlands the foliage is not too far behind,w ith brilliant red maples and sugar maples. The red maples in the wetlands are especially vivid. However, when one goes up to 1500-2000 feet in elevation the trees are still TOTALLY GREEN with essentially no fall color either in Hazen's Notch or on top of Irish Hill in Berlin. I am hearing the same from others. No idea what is behind this odd pattern, usually the high elevation trees go early for obvious reasons. There seems to be more to it than just cold air drainage.

September was extremely warm, in many places the warmest september in record. It makes sense that the foliage would be late, but the pattern that it is following is very odd.

Posted on October 05, 2015 06:15 AM by charlie charlie | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 28, 2014

Lost Hikes

Today was an interesting day... tried to get to the Long Trail north from route 2... the first attempt was a section that didn't yet exist, the second attempt had no parking due to road construction. Tried to go to the hike behind the Youth Conservation Center and ended up taking a wrong turn. Ended up on a beautiful ridge in dry oak forest with an incredible view of foliage-rich hills and mountains towards Mount Mansfield. Our hiking was accompanied by the plop of many falling acorns. A good little hike despite all the obstacles to get there!

Posted on September 28, 2014 07:22 PM by charlie charlie | 29 observations | 5 comments | Leave a comment

September 25, 2014

Downer Glen

Descended into Downer Glen in Manchester today to look for old forest. This is the sort of place which, while near populated areas, is true wilderness and almost never visited. There are a few beer cans on the scramble down, probably thrown from the overlook above (site of bracken observation), and I found a mysterious golf ball on some miserably inaccessible slope (maybe hit from across the canyon?) but otherwise there were no signs of humans. The forest on the south slopes is definitely old-growth, and was probably never logged at all, because it takes scrambling on hands and knees over loose talus and through hobblebush to even get there.

It would have probably been easier to explore and then go back the way I came. The 'adventure' I went on had a very long hobble-and-wet-talus scramble with lots of holes to twist your ankle and such.

There is said to be a nice waterfall in the canyon but I didn't have time to search for it, being here for work to look at the forest. There was a point where I wondered if I'd get back to the car before dark... thankfully my second attempt to get back across the canyon was successful.

Posted on September 25, 2014 05:01 PM by charlie charlie | 10 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment
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