April 12, 2013

Bird Language and a visit to NW Trek

During the week of April 9, students in the Alderleaf Wilderness Certification Program had an opportunity to closely study a variety of amazing wildlife.

The first location we visited was a wildlife hotspot in Seattle.  This urban wetland is loaded with wildlife.  Students were asked to apply the bird language skills they have been studying all year to make observations about the bird life in this area.  We were especially interested in observing feeding, courting and nesting behaviors.

Here are a few of the highlights from our day in the field.

Here a great blue heron stalks fish in the shallows of Lake Washington.  We observed this heron catch multiple small fish in a matter of minutes.  It was a skilled stalker and hunter.

A beautiful constructed bushtit nest made of lichen and spider webs hanging among the blossoms of red-flowering currant.

A displaying male red-winged blackbird perched atop of a cattail.

An American crow boldly mobbing a juvenile bald eagle.  Notice the size difference between these 2 birds!  In this case, the crow was defending the area around its nest from the passing eagle.

On the next day, students got an opportunity to visit a local zoo and educational center called NW Trek.  This facility houses only animals native to the Pacific Northwest.  It provides an amazing opportunity for students to closely observe many of the animals that they have been studying through tracking and through their homework assignments.

Here are a few of the highlights of the creatures we observed.

A massive grizzly bear sits and observes students, as they observe the bear.  Notice the thickly built legs and huge claws of this bear!

Here a captive male cougar wakes up, yawns, stretches and then marks a tree with its claws.  So many of the behaviors we observed were the same you might see being performed by a house cat.  Only this kitty is about 180 pounds and can hunt creatures up to the size of elk!

Here a keeper brought out an opossum for us to observe up close.  They she gave the opossum an old bone to chew on, which it did with gusto!

Lastly we observed this pair of raccoons play-fighting in a tree.  They one decided to rest and observe us after the rough-housing was completed.  It uses its hand-like paws to easily grip the branch that its perched on.

The week of closely observing so many amazing animals was deeply rewarding.  We learned a great deal about their habitats, movement patterns, and what aspects of their environment were most important to them.

Watch for more updates coming soon!

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