Friday, March 2, 2012

Phenology: skunk streaks, whistlepigs, red-winged black birds and sparring bucks

There has been a recent flurry of new spring activity among some of the critters in the area.

On Thursday morning (March 1st), as I took the dog out, I heard Red-Winged Black birds (Agelaius phoeniceus) calling for the first time in the trees along the driveway (there's a wetland nearby).

Also, the camera traps deployed as part of Advanced Ecology lab have been snapping many pictures.  This week the students finally got back on-site to check their cameras (as well as set up a new particularly smelly experiment, that I'll talk about in the future).  It had been three weeks since our last on-site visit and we had plenty of pictures.....although most of these were of white-tailed deer.

But, we did get some other cool shots....

This included numerous pics of skunks (Mephitis mephitis) for the first time this year.  Suddenly in the last two weeks or so, skunks were caught numerous times on three of the six cameras we have out.  Late February through March is the breeding season, so I'm not surprised to see these little fellers out and about now.

None of the pics were particularly great.  In fact, most of them look like you can see below.

We also nabbed our first shots of a Whistlepig (Marmota monax).  This is alittle early for them, but not unheard of.
Then...surpisingly....a pair of bucks that really appear to be sparring!  Seems pretty out of season for that, and both have retained their antlers for a while.  This is the same location where I observed pre-hanky panky by a pair of white-tails a few weeks back (see here).  Look close, they are in the background (one of them is the many-pointer that's been hanging around for awhile now).

We also caught racoon, red fox and coyote again....but the pics really weren't anything to write home about.

More results related to our lab to come in the future, hopefully!


  1. I saw a Marmota monax (I LOVE that name!) as I was flying down the interstate the other day. In my opinion - - spring is HERE! Thanks for sharing the pics- it's neat to see another student camera trap project paralelling mine in another part of the country!

  2. We're seeing a few signs of spring too but the skunks aren't out yet... and our bucks are hanging out together happily.

    It'll be interesting to see how closely the timing repeats from one year to the next in your new location. I'm finding that this winter has been different from all the others when I had cams out... many animals seem to have fled to lower elevations here.