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Ecology Camp July August weekly summaries
from Katherine Walsh
Monday August 10th Summary
At 9:30 we walked to the reservation and met David Brown for a Wildlife Walk. David brought his castings/molds of various animal tracks to show the campers. The campers sat in a circle to look at the tracks and try to identify the tracks. The campers identified dog and deer, and the fur that is on the paws of fox. David had brought the tracks of deer, dog, fox, wolf, coyote, fisher, and woodchuck. He explained how to tell the difference between dog and wolf tracks based on the nails and spacing of the toes. He also explained that "fisher" is an unusual name for the type of weasel since it does not fish.
Next, David asked the campers to survey the 100 feet around us for animal tracks or scat, which is animal feces. The campers and David found deer tracks near the mulch and he explained that deer love to eat the Yew bushes that grow in the mulch. The campers followed David to the large water puddle in the parking lot and walked around it, looking for animals signs. The campers found more deer tracks and David explained the process of making a mold or cast of the tracks. First you draw a circle around the whole set of tracks, then you mix a paste using water and plaster of Paris into a small butter tub. Keeping the lip of the tub near the tracks, you pour the plaster in. Then you wait an hour or more until the plaster is no longer warm; it must be cool. Next you take a sharp object to pry the mold from the ground and then let the mold dry more in the sun. Finally you use a pencil and tooth brush to brush away all the dirt from the mold.
After this explanation, David took the campers, Stephen, Heather, and I on a wildlife walk along the entire length of the main trail. David stopped every five minutes or so to put something out, whether it be plant or animal. David explained the difference between native invasive species and exotic invasive species. Elijah found the jaw bones/skull of a dead woodchuck and David gave a tutorial on the formation and use of the teeth and jaw bones. Woodchucks eat plants so they have different teeth than a carnivorous animal. David found otter scat and also otter food remains, the scales of a carp. He pointed out the beaver dam along Little River and asked the campers why beavers build dams and how the dams affect the river. David talked about succession and the ever changing landscape in the fields along the trail; how eight years ago they used to be more open with less vegetation. He pointed out a bramble patch and explained how animals live in the brambles because people wonít go near the thorns and the animals can eat the berries.
Near the bank of Little River, David asked the campers to find eight signs of animal tracks. The campers found more deer tracks, and various scat remains, including those of a red fox. David mentioned when he was conducting his wildlife survey, he had a hard time finding traces of deer and fox, and now this summer we are seeing signs of them frequently. The deer have come to realize they are safe in the reservation.
David talked about the behavior and intelligence of coyotes, as they have managed to learn humansí behavior, work, and weekend schedules to know when they can move and be out in the open.
We heard the cry of a hawk and so David spoke about the red-tailed hawk. We also found two hawk feathers and David was able to describe the anatomy and use of the types of feathers and answer the campersí questions about why they are hollow, pointed, and certain shapes.
David spoke about his tracking methods, finding tracks in the winter snow, tracking scents, tracking bird or other animal noises and calls, and seeing otter slides from when they come out of Little Pond during the winter. David mentioned various times and places for good bird watching and seeing otter. He also spoke about the various kinds of sumac, and about purple loosestrife, knotweed, and jouleweed.
The campers carried around their clipboards and the list from David; they were able to check off many and at the end discuss the meaning of "ecology, the relationships amongst wildlife and their habitats.
In the afternoon, the campers worked diligently on their wiki writings, using notebooks and four computers. Many more have been uploaded onto the Wiki if you would like to check them out. Three still have to finish a few sentences, and we shall be adding more photos and my summaries. I have also uploaded the article on the hearing.