Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Unwelcome Old Man and Skunks by the Crescent Moon

Old man winter still has a firm grip on the upper Midwest.

I love the snow and cold, but this time He's screwed up one of our lab exercises........

Normally, this week is for medium-sized mammal trapping with wire cage traps.  In fact, last year...the weather was perfect for such an endeavor, as depicted in this picture from almost exactly a year ago today.

But because the Old Man keeps peeking in on us this year, we have recently experienced another bit of snow and nighttime temperatures dipping to below 10 degrees (F) for two days in a row.  Even as I type is only 11 degrees (F) outside and I'm wearing my extra-heavy smartwool socks!

There is no small amount of irony in the fact that today is technically the first day of spring, or the vernal equinox.

Granted, it's possible we could have set this up so that any captured critters wouldn't freeze to death (placing alpaca wool into the cages...putting the cages in sheltered spruce boughs around them to block the wind) but I don't want to take any chances.
Photo by L. Schulte
Thus, today involved review of how the traps work, a discussion of various other traps employed to catch mammals, and scoping the site for locations (in addition to upkeep of their ongoing monitoring projects on-site).
Photo by L. Schulte

Luckily, I had somewhat planned for this possibility and scheduled two weeks of mammal trapping (and seeing next week is Spring Break....we may have enough time for things to warm up before we try this again!).

I shouldn't be shocked by anything this year, I guess.  There has been quite a trend for cold and snow (unlike last year).  You can see some past examples here and here.  There have been other snowy lab periods since then.

For example, we collected data in the snow to quantify forest community type and composition a while back......
Photo by L. Schulte

And several weeks ago, as we worked on determining the age distribution of Black Cherry Trees (Prunus serotina), we dealt with probably the deepest snow of the 2012/2013 winter (and it all fell within 24 hrs).  See examples of how deep that snow was below...
Photo by L. Schulte
Photo by L. Schulte
The critters are still moving about, though....

I particularly like the pictures below.

The crescent moon behind this Striped Skunk is kinda neat....

...and these White-tails look nice against that bright blue sky.....

Interestingly, the entire site was criss-crossed with Canine tracks today (Red fox and possibly 'Yote), but we didn't get a single picture on our cameras over the last week.  We had several come close (based on tracks) and one actually marked within ~22 meters on two sides of one of our cameras.

More Phenology Updates:

On Monday, March 18th, I saw my first Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) of the year.

Bit of a slow week out there.

Stay tuned.

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