As you know if you read my first blog post, we see all kinds of wildlife while conducting our research in the field. On top of the various species of fish, amphibians, and reptiles I mentioned in my previous blog post, we have come across many more wildlife species. From chipmunks to fishers and phoebes to eagles, this post will cover the various mammal and bird species we have encountered in the field.
While conducting our work, we have seen mammals of all shapes and sizes. Chipmunks and Red Squirrels are often seen scrounging through leaf litter or scurrying across the forest floor. While canoeing through wetlands, we have startled many muskrats feeding on aquatic plants. Almost all wetlands have at least one beaver lodge and we often need to step out of the canoe to get past the large beaver dams that have shaped many of our study turtle’s habitats. While canoeing in a clear water lake, a beaver swam under our canoe to surface a few meters away and warn us off with a slap of its tail on the water. Pulling up on a granite island, we startled a Fisher that was snoozing in the sun. It bounded away to then swim to the shelter of the forested shore. While searching for one of our wider ranging turtles, we saw a mother White-Tailed Deer teaching its fawn to swim between an island and lake shore. I was surprised one day to see a fawn curled up in a patch of tall grass only a few steps away. The mother was likely off foraging, leaving the fawn to remain incredibly well hidden throughout the day. If I had not walked by so close, we would never have known it was there! Though we have not seen the animals themselves, we have seen Moose, Fox, Coyote, and Bear scat while hiking through the forest. Along with these mammals, we have also seen countless species of birds.
Fawn hidden in the vegetation (photo was taken from a distance and zoomed in so as not to disturb the animal), photo taken by Marc Whipp
The birds we have seen and heard include species of flycatchers, sparrows, warblers, water birds, and raptors. If I were to list all the birds encountered, I would need a lot more space, so I will try to limit myself. Of the flycatchers, we most often see and hear Eastern Phoebes, Eastern Wood-Peewees and Eastern Kingbirds. Every morning we get to see a Phoebe who is nesting above the door of our field cabin! Most days we can hear the song of the Field Sparrow, composed of short whistles increasing in speed, sounding like a ping pong ball dropped on a tabletop. We often hear the Eastern Towhee singing its characteristic “Drink-Your-Teaaa” song. Of the warblers, we have seen or heard the Common Yellow-Throat, the Yellow Warbler, the Prairie Warbler, the Chestnut-Sided Warbler, the Black-and-White Warbler, the Black-Throated Green Warbler, and the Ovenbird. While struggling through a willow thicket, we saw a flash of yellow flitting from branch to branch within arms reach. It was a Yellow Warbler and we had likely passed too close to its nest. We have canoed by many pairs of Mallard Ducks and Loons. From a lake shore, we saw a pair of bright white Swans drifting together off in the distance. In our first week, we paddled around a corner and were treated to the beautiful site of an adult Bald Eagle soaring over the water! While hiking through a dense deciduous forest, we heard repeated piercing cries above. It turned out to be a pair of Cooper’s Hawks swooping overhead to guard a large nest made of sticks in the upper branches of a tree. These are only some of the birds encountered but it is always exciting to see or hear a new species.
Eastern Phoebe spotted at the field cabin, photo taken by Marc Whipp
These numerous encounters with wildlife have added to the already rewarding work that is tracking, catching, and processing turtles. From birds, to mammals, to reptiles, to amphibians, to fish, I always feel privileged to experience wildlife encounters. With the increase in negative impacts on wildlife from climate change and human activity, it is reassuring and inspiring to see native species still thriving. I am looking forward to the rest of the summer and I hope to have many more encounters with wildlife!