Happy World Wildlife Day!

Today is the day we officially celebrate wildlife around the world. Even though March 3rd is officially set aside as World Wildlife Day, I encourage any readers to seek out nature and wildlife any day of the year. Spending time in and with the wild is a constant reminder to me that we need to conserve our wilderness and protect our wildlife. Below, I’ve shared five wildlife experiences that I hope inspire you to spend some time outside.

Red Fox by Claire Elliott

I took this photo of the fox shortly after it had chased a wolverine out of its territory. I know it sounds like I’ve got it backwards, but this is one impressive fox! During that summer, he and his mate raised 5 beautiful fox kits. Daring Lake, NWT.

Blue-spotted Salamander2

I was at Mud Lake flipping logs when some hikers passed me. I got the impression they thought my behaviour a little odd. Luckily I found this salamander just after they left and I was able to call them back. It was the first time any of the hikers had seen a salamander and they seemed quite captivated by it. I was glad I could share a wildlife moment with them. Ottawa, ON

CommonTernJuvenile

This summer I was lucky enough to take part in a Common Tern census of a breeding colony off the coast of NB. The day we arrived many of the chicks had just hatched or were in the process of hatching. Later going back to the region, I was able to see older tern chicks, like the one above (who is begging for food). It was great to see them at many stages of development. Tabusintac, NB

American Snout 1

If you’re looking for a wildlife experience but don’t have great access to the wilderness, don’t forget nature in the city. I love participating in citizen science initiatives, such as eBird and eButterfly, and many of my observations, like this American Snout Butterfly, come from in-city parks. Spartanburg, SC.

Flounder

Having grown up inland, I have very little ocean experience. I was thrilled this past summer, when I spent some time in a tidal flat and saw so many interesting creatures. This particular fish is a flounder.As flounders age, they transition from swimming upright to swimming in a flat position, like it’s being held in the above photo. During this this transition, the eye that is now on the bottom of their body migrates to the top of the face with the other eye! Charlottetown, PEI.

Moose!

Normally I would not bother making a full blog post to showcase some rather non-remarkable photos, but there is always room for an exception.  Much to my embarrassment, I’ve had to admit many a time to various people that I had never seen a wild moose in person.  Growing up my family did all of our camping between Long Point and Turkey Point on the shores of Lake Erie, so my chances of seeing a moose were pretty much squat. I came closest to seeing a moose last September at the Alfred Bog in Eastern Ontario.  After a day of research I came across a large pile of very fresh scat, but alas, no moose.

Well, I can now happily say that my mooseless state has been erased.  About two weeks ago I was out at one of my study sites with two other students, when we saw a large dark animal climb down the side of an esker.  Instinctively we all thought caribou, but that didn’t really make sense because at this time of year the caribou are all much further north.  The dark colouring and large size of the animal tipped us off that it might be a moose.  We jumped up to grab our binoculars and cameras and promptly lost sight of the animal.  After a quick (15 minute) scramble over the hummocks and up the esker, we relocated our specimen in a riparian area and confirmed its identification as a moose, a young bull moose to be exact.

A young bull moose.

A young bull moose.

A few days after my first moose sighting, I was hiking with another student to a study pond and like usual we were on the lookout for any large animals.  As we approached, the other student pointed out two large brown objects lingering near the opposite shore.  Out came the binoculars, but we were still a bit far to get a good identification.  We got on the radio and let the others in the field know that we were potentially looking at two bears hanging out near our study site.  However we ate our words almost immediately when one of the large brown animals stepped out of the water and onto shore.  The long slender legs and great height of the animal tipped us off that it was not two bears.  We were actually looking at a cow moose and a calf.  So I have officially seen a male, female, and baby moose.  I couldn’t be more pleased!

Foxes of Daring Lake

One of the greatest things about spending my summers at Daring Lake is the various wildlife I enjoy everyday.   There is no shortage of animals to keep us company up here in the north.  Perhaps one of the sightings I most enjoy belongs to the family of Red Foxes that den on the esker(glacially formed ridges of stratified gravel and sands) that runs behind Research Valley (the large valley where most of our research sites are located).  These foxes have seemingly adapted to the constant invasion of researchers hiking through their territory and successfully raised a litter of kits in 2013.  Hopefully we will see kits again this summer!

So far this June I have made sightings of both the female and male fox coming and going from the den.  The female has a beautiful rusty brown coat, with a black face and a bright white tail-tip.  The male is a lovely mottled orange.  I was quite lucky to come across the male casually watching over his territory the other evening as I was making my way back to camp.  He seemed unmoved by my presence, so I stopped for couple minutes to take a few pictures.

 

Since I first learned of Daring Lake, I have been most excited at the prospect of seeing one of the most secretive and fierce animals in the north, the wolverine!  It didn’t happen for me last year, but I went into this field season with high hopes.  A few days ago I was working at one my research sites when Mr. Fox came jogging past me.  I was surprised that he approached me so closely.  He seemed distracted and not at all fazed be my nearness.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera on me, so I watched him for a few minutes before heading back to work.  No more than 5 minutes later I heard a call on my radio from our camp manager that a wolverine had just run by him.  Determined to not miss this opportunity, I ran across the hummocks and heath to find our camp manager and locate the wolverine.   In the distance I could make out a blond creature bounding with ease across the tundra.  But most surprisingly, the wolverine was being pursued closely by the fox!  I never thought my first wolverine sighting would be so dramatic! I watched the pair effortlessly navigate a small wetland before running up the still snowy esker slope and disappear over top of the ridge.  I managed to get a picture of the pair, albeit a blurry one.  The whole affair definitely made my afternoon more exciting.

The chase!

The chase!