Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Trivia Question of the Week, and what's up next

This week's trivia question is paired with statistics for this season's fieldwork. What is the animal we saw most frequently on our trail cameras this summer?

Hint #1: This contest was pretty close, with a couple hundred pictures or so separating the first and second most frequently sighted animals.

Hint #2: In broad terms, the second most frequently sighted type of animal actually beats out the first, but in terms of species, there is one clear winner.

Hint #3: Their name starts with "B"

Hint #4: They're furry

Hint #5: If you anger them, they'll eat your face off. :)


If you guessed Brown Bear, you're correct! You've obviously been following along with us this season. Or you know that bears will eat your face off. Either way, congratulations!

"Bears" as a broad category, was actually beat out by "birds"-- we saw more birds overall on our trail cameras than bears. Whereas the "bird" category is composed of eagles, raven, magpies, crows, mergansers, blue-winged teals, varied thrushes, and others, however, the "bears" category is all brown bears. We didn't see a single black bear on our trail cameras this season.

For our trail camera work this summer and fall, we captured:
  • 24,767 photographs, total
  • 6,605 images of bears
  • 7,841 photos of birds
  • 71 photos of canids (wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs)
  • 332 mustelid photos (mink and marten)
  • 59 photos of rodents (mice and red squirrels)
  • 94 photos of humans (not including ourselves)
  • 0 photos of lynx, wolverine, black bear, or lagamorphs (hares or rabbits), although these species all live in the area

Now that I'm headed back to Santa Cruz and our field season is over for the year, you may be wondering what's in store for the blog. Will I keep updating? What can you expect to see?

Well, by my calculations I've shared around 60 of our trail camera photos here on the blog. That means there are an additional 24,707 photos I could post! :)  I'll continue to post trail camera photos from time to time, in addition to videos I'm currently working on putting together that detail sequences of trail camera photographs, like bears or eagles feeding on the salmon carcasses.

And don't forget about our eagles! We'll continue to follow the movements of the five eagles we tagged with GPS/satellite transmitters, and we'll post these locations for you as we go along.

There are several other stories from the field that I haven't yet had time to put together into blog entries that I'm hoping to work in within the next couple of months. We're also working on putting together a fully-fledged website for Ecology Alaska. So among trail camera photos, eagle movement data, stories from our fieldwork in Haines, and perhaps a few entries detailing the life of a wildlife biologist outside of the field season, there should be plenty going on here on the blog. I imagine that the rate of posting will decrease come the beginning of the year, but I will attempt to continue posting at least one entry and one trivia question each week.

Stay tuned, and as always, feel free to let us know what you think, by leaving us a message in the comments or sending us an email at ecologyalaska [at] gmail (dot) com.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Southward Bound

It's hard to believe, but it's been exactly four months since Rigby and I arrived in Haines on the ferry from Prince Rupert. From the Southeastern Alaska State Fair, to hiking Mt. Ripinsky and the trails in Chilkat State Park, to learning about spawning salmon, subsistence fishing and canning, to setting out trail cameras and finally, trapping and tagging bald eagles, the last four months have been filled with a host of new experiences and opportunities. And bears.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Where are they now? (cont.)

The male eagles we tagged, 3C and 2Z, have been busy! Unlike the females, the males have been traveling around a bit more. We suspect this is because males, who are significantly smaller than the females, aren't able to compete as well for food.

3C, the adult male, is still in the Chilkat Valley, although he's been wandering away from the river itself:

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Where are they now?

The great thing about attaching satellite transmitters to our eagles is that the information is fed to us on a regular basis. If the eagles leave the area, we won't have to worry about tracking them by foot or in a plane-- the satellites will download the GPS locations of the birds and we can access the information online. Our transmitters collect a GPS location every hour during daylight, and we receive a list of the locations every two to four days. This means that we're already seeing where our eagles are moving!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Trivia Question of the Week

Last week, when we posted about the capture and processing of bald eagles, we mentioned that, up until five years of age, eagle molting patterns can be used to determine how old a bird is. Past five years of age, when eagles reach adulthood and take on the characteristic appearance of their species, with a white head and tail, it's impossible to tell how old they are. So, how long do bald eagles live?

Hint #1: The fact that eagles don't mature until five years of age suggests that they're fairly long-lived-- animals that live shorter lives mature earlier.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Meet the eagles!

Get ready to meet our eagles! We captured five eagles on the Chilkat River this year, and we'll be tracking their movements from now until the transmitters fail (or fall off, or the eagle... dare I say it?... dies)(Which is not going to happen. I hope.). If all goes as planned, we'll see the daily movement patterns of these eagles for at least the next three years! We can't wait to see where they spend their time during different parts of the year.

We captured our first eagle late morning on Saturday, November 3rd, using the ballistic net. A sick juvenile eagle couldn't resist the free food in front of our net launcher, and began to feed. An adult eagle came and roused the juvenile off the bait, and fed in its place. The result? We netted our first bird, a healthy, hefty adult female!

4N, just after being freed from the net

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Monday, November 12, 2012

To Catch a Predator (Part 2)

Our snares are set, our net is at the ready, and we've been standing around in the snow since dawn, waiting for the eagles to come in. We keep a close eye on our snares and bait with binoculars and spotting scopes.

Each time an eagle nears a perch we've erected, or flies over the bait in front of our net launcher, we hold our breaths. Typically, the eagle moves on, or perches nearby. We sigh, and wait for the next close encounter.

Then, unexpectedly, an eagle flies down and lands next to the chum carcass set out in front of our ballistic net. It looks around, cautiously, before beginning to feed. We wait until the eagle has its head down, focused on tearing a nice, juicy bit of chum off the carcass, and then-- "Fire!" We trigger the ballistic net remotely, and the .22 gauge blanks power three padded projectiles, launching the net from its housing out and over the bird.

"We got it!"

Everything is a rush. We sprint from the roadside, where we've been watching, down the river embankment to our freshly-netted eagle. We must move quickly, to ensure that the eagle doesn't escape from the net, or get too tangled. Immediately, we secure the talons of the eagle in our hands, and place a hood over its eyes. Eagles receive most of their sensory information visually, so when they can see what we're doing, they get stressed. With the hood on, however, they immediately calm down, and are relatively docile in the hand. Unlike many mammals, birds do not need to be anesthetized during handling. The hood keeps the eagles calm enough.

We then begin the process of extracting the eagle from the net. Here, Steve Lewis and Dr. Scott Ford work the netting off the eagle's wings.

Steve and Scott work the netting off the eagle
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Saturday, November 10, 2012

To Catch a Predator (Part 1)

We just finished six intense days of eagle captures! In the coming week, we'll be posting several entries and many photos of our adventures, so check back often. Aided greatly by raptor biologist Steve Lewis of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Dr. Scott Ford, an avian veterinarian, our efforts netted five total eagles, so we were able to deploy all of our satellite tags!

Eagles surveying the Chilkat River

As the weather turns chillier and the rivers begin to freeze, more and more eagles are congregating along a small stretch of the Chilkat River that hosts open, flowing water. This two- to three-mile stretch of river stays unfrozen year-round as a result of unique geology-- groundwater percolating upward from natural springs near the confluence of the Tsirku, Klehini, and Chilkat Rivers maintains water temperatures just above freezing. Eagles come to this area to access chum and coho salmon. When rivers freeze elsewhere, this spot is one of the only places eagles can find a meal!

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The votes are in!

Voting has officially closed for our t-shirt design selection poll.

And the winner is.....

The Tlingit-inspired salmon run design! (Drawn by Rachel using an iPad) (in case you were interested...).

At any rate, this design will be used as the basis for the t-shirts we'll have printed soon for our $50+ Kickstarter backers! For those of you that like the design but didn't get in on our crowdfunding drive, don't despair. We're thinking about selling these t-shirts, too.

If you're interested in buying a t-shirt, please let us know, so we can print enough! Drop us a line at ecologyalaska [at] gmail [dot] com, or leave us a message in the comments section.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Coming soon...!

Things have been quiet here on the blog lately, but don't worry. There's a reason. A very good reason, in fact.

We've been out. Working from dawn to dusk. Trapping bald eagles.


More soon- with plenty of pictures!

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mount Riley Hike

Hey everyone! The entire Kickstarter crew is finally reunited in Alaska! Tamir and I (Yiwei) got here on the ferry on October 21st, and we've been enjoying the sunny and blisteringly cold Haines weather. Before the snowstorm arrived on October 30th, we took advantage of the lovely weather to hike Mount Riley, a small mountain right outside of Haines in Chilkat State Park. 

View of Chilkoot Inlet
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