Realistic expectations on and off the trail

Shorty peak

Exceeding expectations is great. I remember hikes when I was bursting with energy and hiked far beyond what I planned–reaching the peak and then exploring down the other side before turning back. Then there are those days when I know it won’t be easy. A total lack of energy after…

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Wildlife attracted to dead trees

Woodpeckers often select hard snags for excavating while chestnut-backed chickadees select soft snags. Northern flickers nest in more decayed snags.

I often notice snags because of the woodpecker holes or woodpeckers drumming on the tree. However, woodpeckers aren’t the only ones utilizing snags. Snags (any dead or dying standing tree) are considered wildlife trees because they often provide more habitat for wildlife when dead than when alive. Wildlife utilize snags…

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What happens inside a chrysalis?

Cocoons usually contain silk but some are made of foreign material with little or no silk. Some hairy caterpillars even incorporate body hairs into their cocoons.

Butterflies, moths, beetles, flies and bees all look different when they are young. From caterpillars to grubs and maggots, these young undergo a major transformation to become adults–complete metamorphosis. Last week, I wrote about incomplete metamorphosis and how the young and adults look similar but the young are smaller and…

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Metamorphosis transforms many insects

An insect’s exoskeleton can’t stretch or grow so as the insect grows it sheds (molts) its exoskeleton several times.

One of the most fascinating transformations in nature is the change a caterpillar undergoes to become a butterfly. Small, wriggly caterpillars hide within a chrysalis and emerge as a winged butterfly. Butterflies may be the most well-known insect to undergo metamorphosis which is Greek for transformation or change in shape.…

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Elusive wolverines travel impressive distances

High-elevation whitebark pine forests with steep slopes are favored locations for wolverines in the summer.

Certain animals are elusive–lynx, bobcats and most notoriously wolverines. I’ve been lucky enough to see two wolverines in all of my hiking–way across a valley on a mountainside in Denali National Park. Without binoculars, I would have thought they were bear cubs. Wolverines and bears share a few physical traits–a…

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Every burl is different

Burls form on nearly every species of tree including cottonwood trees. This burl resembles a woman’s face.

  Every so often while hiking I find a tree with a burl. Sometimes the burl is a small globular protrusion on a branch and other times there are multiple burls on one tree. On a hike many years ago I found a burl that looked like a woman’s face…

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Larger birds visiting your feeder

Blue Jay

Little songbirds may be the most frequent visitors to bird feeders but occasionally larger birds stop by. Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about smaller birds that commonly visit bird feeders and I’ll conclude the series this week with some of the larger birds. All of the following birds…

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Less colorful birds visiting feeders

Song sparrow

Little brown birds. Often sparrows and finches are called little brown birds because they look similar at first glance. Their markings may not be as distinct as chickadees and juncos but after watching them at the bird feeder for awhile and consulting a bird identification book, one can determine what…

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Common birds to visit your feeder

Chestnut-backed chickadee

A freshly-filled bird feeder can bring life to a backyard, deck or window. First one bird finds the feeder then entire flocks. Soon the feeder needs filled more than once a day. Certain birds tend to frequent bird feeders in winter more often than others. In a three-week series, I’ll…

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Females benefit by delaying pregnancy

Delayed implantation ensures a female black bear has enough “reserves” to care for her cubs. A nursing female can lose up to 40 percent of her body weight over winter compared to 15 to 25 percent for a non-nursing female. If a female’s body doesn’t have the reserves her body will abort the fetuses before implantation.

Rodents breed rapidly. Packrats only require a gestation of 30 to 38 days. However, the demands of nursing and being pregnant at the same time can put excessive stress on a female’s system. Therefore, some rodent species utilize delayed implantation to reduce the stress on their system while nursing young.…

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