Waters Striders Again!

I had to share these pictures of one of my favorite insects – the Water Strider. Yes, you have probably seen these fascinating creatures quite a bit. But have you ever seen them mating? And thanks to a perfect position and lighting I was able to capture the tiny strands attached to their legs that allow them to walk on water. Made my day! I hope it makes yours.

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Female Bald Eagle

Since it is Women’s History Month I thought I’s share these pics of a beautiful female showing off her captivating eyes and stunning outfit.

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Why Do Pigeons Do This?

Rock Pigeons are well known city dwellers but why do they so often hang out above busy intersections? The example above, taken over Interstate Highway 5 near the JBLM Madigan Gate entrance, is just a small example. There are often many more of these birds at this overpass and I have seen this pigeon behavior numerous times at other similar locations. It confuses me. There is no food down below or shelter above, and these are certainly not quiet peaceful places to hang out. Could it be that the birds just consider this kind of location safe from predators? If anyone has an answer please let me know.

reganjm@northwestwildlifeonline.com

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Alaskan Dall Sheep

I love Alaska! And no matter what the weather or time of year there is always some beautiful wildlife to observe. Spring and summer, of course, are the best seasons for that observation but winter is an especially good time to get close to Dall sheep. This herd was found close to the bottom of the steep Chugach mountain range along the Kenai peninsula outside of Anchorage. At this time of year the sheep often descend from their high elevations in search of food. During warmer weather they are usually just visible as small white specks up among the mountain peaks. Dall sheep are often mistaken for mountain goats since both are overtly white furred and achieve about the same 300 pound weight. A distinctive difference lies in their horn color. Dall sheep have brown horns while mountain goats have very black horns but also have a longer coat of fur. There is a range difference as well. Dall sheep according to most sources are not found in the southeastern part of Alaska. Where they are found, however, they are a favorite target of game hunters. I obviously prefer to hunt with a camera.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery.

A Giant Pacific Octopus, Octopus dofleini, filmed at the Seattle Aquarium some time ago. Note the amazing size of the animal compared to the young observer. Also notice the animal’s unusual eye. The pupil is the horizontal line. According to one source, The Audubon Society Field Guide to the Northwest, the largest specimen on record was 16 feet long and weighed in at 600 pounds. That’s a lot of cephalopod! What a shame they have such short life spans.

 

Every now and then you read a book with something so new and startling it dramatically changes your outlook on things you thought you already knew. That is exactly the effect Sy Montgomery’s book had on me. I knew that octopuses had a reputation for unusual intelligence, but did you know that captive species enjoy being touched and petted like your family dog and actually become attached to certain people? Or that they also enjoy wrapping their tentacles around their human friends? That does not apply to all humans, though, only those they recognize as friends. There are some of our homo sapient colleagues they dislike or are afraid of. These people may receive a sudden drenching blast of water from the animal. In Sy Montgomery’s amazing book she describes how her initial fascination with octopuses led her to become more and more fond of them, and in the process of getting closer she discovered a surprising intelligence and consciousness she (and me) never knew existed. Throughout the book Sy relates her personal encounters with captive and wild octopuses. Of particular interest to our Northwest Wildlife lovers is her very close relationships with our Pacific Giant Octopus, some even at the Seattle Aquarium. The book also opens up a new way to view all of our animal friends; something I’ve pondered for a long time. What are they thinking? How do they perceive the world? How do they perceive themselves? Read this book and delve into an incredible animal adventure.

Wildlife of JBLM and Camp Murray

Just a small tiny sample of the wildlife on JBLM and Camp Murray.  Usually happens you are not expecting it so I try to have my camera ready at all times. I was out on the marsh in the recreational area of FT Lewis when an otter popped up and briefly stared at me. The coyote pup had been seen several times on a major roadway in Camp Murray but I only got this picture because I happened lean over and look at the storm sewer. Nuthatchs are fast moving birds that constantly flicker around a tree and rarely hold still for more than a second or two. I was eating lunch in my car by the horse ranch at FT Lewis when this little guy landed on a tree right next to me. And that fantastic red tailed hawk was caught taking a break right behind the operations center at Camp Murray.

From itty bitty birds to big black bears our military bases are loaded with wonderful wildlife. I won’t go into every single species I’ve seen out there, no way I could do that I one article, so pictured above is just a small sample. But what I have seen out there is wonderful indeed. In fact, I compare JBLM and Camp Murray to the Nisqually Wildlife Reservation. Each of these locations have fine walking trails, amazing marshlands, and beautiful forests. Nisqually has the advantage of marine life but for those of us on active duty or retired, JBLM and Camp Murray are free – and we can bring our dogs there to wander with us! Now that’s a real advantage; something rarely available in national parks. Don’t get me wrong. Nisqually is a great place for wildlife viewing and I do love it. Outside of harbor seals and some other marine animals, however, I’ve seen the same things on our military bases. Reptiles, amphibians, otters, beavers, an enormous variety of avian life, rodents, deer, elk, black bears, coyotes (of course), etc, etc. and a fascinating variety of invertebrate life as well. So get on out there and enjoy one more benefit of your military service.

Black Fox of San Juan Island

From what I’ve learned these unusually colored little canines are often seen on San Juan Island, WA, but not much anywhere else in the world. Certainly not a fox that I have observed before. They display a variety of color variations on San Juan; the normal reddish color more to the south of the island. The black species are genetic variations of the red and display a variety of black, red, orange like variations. This black fox popped up soon as we pulled into a view point on the eastern coast of the island and more to the north. Obviously accustomed to tourists it did not run away like most wild animals do. It paused in place allowing me to get good photographs. But its real purpose was to get a treat to eat. So we obliged and fed the little guy. It was much appreciated as you can see.

The Reptile Zoo is Open!

A tiny sample of the wonderful reptiles you’ll see at The Reptile Zoo in Monroe, WA

The Reptile Zoo in Monroe, WA is now open – something you don’t want to miss! Just a couple of weeks ago as I passed by it was closed. This weekend it was open and apparently will remain open. I’ve always been a lover of reptiles and an admirer of this exhibit, but I am especially enthusiastic about it now due to some very significant improvements. The Reptile Zoo is now twice the size it was during my first couple of visits. The number of reptile species seems to have doubled, and the enclosures are much improved for the animals and for visitor observation. Some amphibians, insects, and other arthropods have made their way in for you to see, too. The gift store has expanded considerably and is filled with dozens of unique items for animal lovers. State Route 2 is a wonderfully scenic drive for the whole family and a stop by The Reptile Zoo makes for a perfect day. You will get closeup (very safe) views of the largest, most venomous, and most beautiful reptiles from around the world. I guarantee that you will be fascinated by what you see. When was the last time you came eye to eye with an albino alligator? You won’t find anything like The Reptile Zoo anywhere. This indoor zoo is perfect for a rainy day, of course, but when the sun is out the exciting tortoise petting area comes alive outside. The zoo is open every day of the week and follows all COVID 19 regulations so it is very safe from that standpoint as well.

Please visit their website for much more information: THE REPTILE ZOO

22175 State Route 2, Monroe, WA 98272

“Running with Sherman” by Christopher McDougall

“Running with Sherman” by Christopher McDougall

book review by John M. Regan

The book is flat out tremendous! Beyond the exceptionally unique topic of racing with donkeys this fascinating non fiction work includes a variety of inspiring stories about human victories over personal tragedies. Written with a great sense of humor and empathy Christopher McDougall has produced another work of wonder. Basically, it is the story of how Christopher and his family rehabilitated a mistreated, injured little donkey that was brought to their small ranch. While rehabilitating the animal they became obsessed with the idea of entering an incredible event of a high altitude donkey race in Colorado that McDougall had learned about when writing his first very great book, “Born to Run.” He relates the challenges of his city life upbringing adapting to country life (something I definitely relate to) and a number of wonderful true life stories of human and animal relationships. It is hard for me to more emphatically recommend this book. Not only will you be tempted to get a donkey of you own after learning of their remarkable characteristics you will also learn about some utterly incredible physical achievements that we humans are capable of – and how our animal friends help us to accomplish those things.

Olympic Game Farm

A small sample from big to little of the animals you will closely encounter, and get to feed, at the Olympic Game Farm.

The Olympic Game Farm in Sequim, WA is a unique wildlife experience; an experience I highly recommend. Located in a rural area of Sequim it can be a bit of a challenge to find without good directions but considering the directional capability of today’s cell phones that should not be much of a problem. Here is the address: 1423 Ward Rd, Sequim, WA 98382. The Game Farm is a drive through zoo but you will have surprisingly close up encounters with the animals you observe as you wind through the well designed pathways of the place. There are many animals such as bison, yaks, llamas, and alpacas that you will get closer to than you probably will in your life. That was certainly the case for me with the bison. For both adults and children it is a beautifully entertaining, educational experience. You simply stay in your vehicle, roll along at your own calm pace and occasionally pause to feed and enjoy the sight of the animals. The ability to feed the animals (wheat bread available at the entrance) greatly contributes to the uniqueness of the Olympic Game Farm experience, not something you normally get to do in zoological parks these days. It is also an ideal environment for picture taking. Settled in your car you get to hold your camera perfectly still and take time to focus. The Game Farm’s history is unique as well. As noted on the Game Farm’s website (https://olygamefarm.com) the Olympic Game Farm’s original title was “Disney’s Wild Animal Studio.” That’s because it was a holding and training facility for the “animal actors” of Disney movies. By 1973 it became open to the public and has been ever since. The Game Farm is entirely funded by the customers that come to experience the place but donations in various forms are accepted. It is now popular attraction so it pays to plan your visit. Early morning to early afternoon, just as in most zoos, is the best time to see the animals. This is the time of their highest activity. And just like any other tourist attraction weekends, especially holiday weekends, are the busiest times.  I recommend a week day visit if possible. No matter when you decide to visit, though, you’ll get to see a lot more species than the ones I mentioned above. Lions, and tigers, and bears – of course! But little guys like prairie dogs, rabbits, raccoons, and numerous bird species will make their appearance. That’s not all. Check out the Olympic Game Farm website for a complete list. Enjoy it!