March 11, 2013

Wildlife Tracking Apprenticeship to Columbia River Area

This weekend March 9 & 10, Alderleaf's Wildlife Tracking Apprenticehip program headed out for a two day adventure to the dry canyon lands along the Columbia River.  This arid landscape is dominated by shrub-steppe composed of sagebrush, bunchgrass and rabbitbrush.  It is in great contrast to the lush, sopping wet forests on the western slopes of the Cascade mountains.

We focused on learning the tracks and sign of the wildlife of this dry land in preparation for a track & sign evaluation in June.  We were blessed with good weather, especially on Saturday and got to strip down to our t-shirts and soak up the sun.  The sandy and muddy areas we visited were loaded with tracks and sign.

Here are the perfect tracks of the black-billed magpie.  These beautiful black-and-white birds are a common sight on the dry side of the mountains in Washington state.

Just a few of the skulls and bones found underneath the roosting spot of a great horned owl along the base of huge basalt cliffs.

One of our favorite finds was a pygmy short-horned lizard.  Here student Jeremy poses with the little lizard.

Here is a close up of the lizard itself.  The students got to enjoy watching it demonstrate a variety of different modes of locomotion including walking, running and burying itself.  Here is a short video of the lizard burying itself rapidly in the sand.

Notice the way the lizard shimmies its body makes the sand fall back over it and makes it all but invisible to the searching eyes of potential predators.

Overall this trip was rich in tracks, and we left feeling satisfied and very fortunate for having seen so much diversity.

Watch for more updates soon!

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