You Never Know

Many times while out looking for wildlife I see something odd some distance away that looks like it might be something. And usually it is not. Over and over it turns out to be a rock, weird tree leaves, or trash. But I always take the picture, just in case. And that is worthwhile because, You Never Know! From time to time it does turn out to be something. And here are a couple of examples. I was once taking a lunch break from my job while in Illinois. As I sat in my car eating lunch I saw what might have been something or a piece of white trash in a tree. So I took the picture and found this big white possum. Then, a few days ago, while out walking my dog I saw something way up a very narrow tree. That turned out to be a nice racoon. I’m glad I brought my camera with me, and glad I took that shot.

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Tribute to Jack Hanna

Jack got this book published 1989. He has 8 other books still on Amazon. Long before that I was working for him at the Central Florida Zoo with the wonderful elephant named Sobik. One of the greatest times of my life. Thank you, Jack!

In the news a few days ago I read  disturbing report about Jack Hanna’s memory loss. I feel bad for that and I pray for his recovery. I worked for Jack many years ago at the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, FL. Jack mentions his time there in his book “Monkeys’ and I happen to be in one of the pictures. While he ran that zoo it was wonderful. His ability to raise money and take care of the animals there was extraordinary, and what he did for me made my life wonderful. And that small zoo there totally depended on his ability to raise funds. He was so good at it enough money came in to give us the ability to create and move all animals to a much bigger location. After I volunteered at the zoo for a while, Jack interviewed and hired me as the Curator of Hoofed Stock animals. Then I was taking care of the wonderful elephant named Sobik, and Fat Boy the hippopotamus. My time there was one of the best years of my life, and I cannot thank Jack enough for it.

For any comments please email me at [email protected]

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Great Pyrenees Dog

Like all other dogs, Pyrenees pups start off small and cute. Here you see ours several years ago becoming friendly with our cat. As he grew up he became more and more attracted to cooler weather and protection of our property.


This is a big feline that you’ve probably heard about, but have rarely seen. I’ve had one for almost 6 years now and I want to pass on my experience with this dog. So far it has been surprisingly good. Now that is not what I expected when first reading about this breed. They were bread to protect domestic animals like cows and sheep from predators, and due to their size I thought they might not be such a great pet.  My dog Pekgu (Korean word that means “White cloud”) is a strong woofer. We purchased him as a cute little 10 pound puppy. He started growing very quickly, gaining about 10 pounds every month. And during that first year his size and energy were hard to hold. But that changed. He is now full grown and up to about 170 pounds. He does “woof” extremely loud at any strange person, vehicle, or animal that approaches our home. But when I take him out for a walk and run into someone else walking their dog, Pekgu likes to just stop and sniff in a very friendly way. He is very good with our cat, too. He is also very friendly and lovable to all members of my family and anyone we allow into our home. He is also quite obedient to orders we give him. Pyrenees are not highly energetic dogs that scramble around when they get older, but they do like a large property in which they can wander. I recommend this breed for a pet but do it a place that has mainly cool temperatures and be ready for their powerful energy in the first couple of years. They are large enough to yank you off your feet, and it is important to socialize them as much as you can while they are young. Then, by age 3 or 4 you will be surprised at how much they calm down and are so easy to deal with.

Questions or comments? Email me at [email protected]

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Hungry Birds

Yes, we have all witnessed birds eating from our feeders and on our property. But just to let you know, and to share photos of it, common species eat different things. Crows are happy with seeds and nuts, yet once in my backyard I saw a crow grab a small garter snake. Like many other people we have hummingbird feeders hanging over our deck normally populated by hummingbirds. One day, however, a very different bird showed up and sucked up the hummingbird food. I was surprised to find out it was a woodpecker. One other day, while strolling around one of my favorite places – the Ankenny National Wild Reserve in Oregon – I decided to stop and observe a large swamp. It was no surprise to see waterfowl swimming around there, but it was a surprise to see one snatch up a frog. I had never seen that before. I have seen bald eagles swoop down and catch small ducks, but once while my wife and I were walking along the Puyallup River we saw a bald eagle gobbling up something. That could be a bald eagle father showing his son what to eat.

Book Review – George by Frieda Hughes

Magpies are common birds that I have seen everywhere from Korea, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. The one I saw in Montana really surprised me as it turned around and showed the size of its tail and the blue feathers. Our American species, (Yellow Billed and Black Billed), are mostly on the west coast. The Yellow Billed species are reported to live mainly in California. Other world species include Eurasian and Australian Magpies. Part of the Corvidae bird family, their behavior is similar to crows. Magpies are also know to be very intelligent birds. Their food consists of everything from insects to small reptiles and amphibians, but if you leave your dog’s food out they will swoop down and grab that, too. Frieda Hughes verifies that, and the intelligence of Magpies in her book.

“GEORGE” by Frieda Hughes

This is another unexpectedly great book about animal behavior in regard to an unexpected animal. The author Frieda Hughes rescued a Magpie baby bird after it was blasted out of its nest by a storm. The new born was in bad shape but Frieda did a great job healing it. Thanks to her habit of keeping up a daily journal, she was then able to write about its day by day recovery and the behavior of the bird she named George. The bird’s adaptation to its new mom and location is a very interesting story. Of course we expect it to trust its new food provider but George also learned to like and play with Frieda’s dogs. And her the dogs learned to like George. The young Magpie loved and trusted Frieda so much it landed on her many times. Yet this trust did not end there; it also trusted other humans so much that it did the same with them, often landing on their heads. It also showed the ability to speak like a budgie, and collect small colorful things. Frieda Hughes has an interesting life too, and this is added to the story. But over and over you will be surprised at the things George does as it matures. Some of these things are the reasons many people do not like Magpies, but things that Frieda Hughes, and now me, find amazing.

Protect Your Pets From Coyotes

Coyotes are adaptable animals and have learned to survive very successfully around us humans. I have seen them in the woods and open farm areas, of course, but also in some very surprising locations like busy road intersections. They carry diseases as well. Rabies are the most dangerous to you and your pets. Mange is often found as well, a disease causes by mites that results in fur loss. Yes, they can be problematic and a lot of people think the best solution is to shoot them. I do not support that. I have found another way.


How to Protect Your Pets from Coyotes

BLUF: Build a good fence around your property and do not let your pets out at night. Over and over I read and hear complaints about the disturbing affect coyotes have had on people’s pets. Most of these negative comments are focused on the loss of cat pets. But there have been others. I have also experienced this. We may have lost three of our pet cats to them, and I have a photograph of a coyote on the far side of my property with a chicken in its mouth. The chicken was not mine, and I did not know who it belonged to. This occurred after moving from a suburban are to where we are now, and I did not realize what might happen. But since then we have had no coyote problems at all despite our rural area, forested property.  So how do you protect against them? The first and most common sense to do is to build as good fence around your property. Yet even with that if you have a cat, don’t let it stay out all night. Some people keep their pet cats indoors all day and all night. Yep, nothing better than that for their protection. But there is another way. Most cats love to be outdoors and it is good for their health. That’s the kitty I have now. I protect him, however, this way – I only feed him dinner at night, and he must come inside our home at evening time to get it. He gets treats during the day, but only the big meal in the evening. And he is not allowed out until the next morning. After several years of this he has been very safe and is now so used to the process he follows it without pause. Our dog, of course is also a big advantage. Our Great Pyrenees is always woofing and inspecting our property for invaders. He also gets along very well with our cat. He was raised with him since he was small puppy. And he is not allowed out at night either.

Grouse or Ptarmigan Birds

I identified the Ruffed Grouse based on its large size and those feather twinkles above its head. The Ptarmigan is identified due to the dark line behind the beak, its smaller size, and longer neck. The one I only identify as a Grouse bird is because I cannot yet determine the exact species. I could be wrong on the first two, but all of the above are commonly known as Grouse birds.

Have you seen Ptarmigans or Grouse birds yet ? I have only observed them 3 times in several years despite their commonality. Once up at Mount ST Helens, once while while hiking up Mount Rainier, and another at a hike near Mount Rainier. Each time it was at a fairly high altitude in a forested area, their standard habitat preference. I was quite surprised at the numbers and size of these birds. Generally known by the common name of Grouse and Ptarmigan there are several species under each of those common names, and a bit difficult to accurately identify. Why? Well, to begin with they are in the same Order and Family (Tetraonidae/Galliformes). And because you normally see them scrambling around in a dense forest area, and dark tree shade hides their real feather colors. Some also molt and change feather color between summer and winter. Chicken sized and larger, they will catch your attention. There are differences, of course. According to “BirdGuidance” The Grouse species are bigger with well rounded chest regions. The Ptarmigans are small but have longer necks. Now that gets you the difference between these two in general, but identifying the individual species sometimes remans a challenge depending on the time of year and the location you see them. I have identified the species above in connection to many pictures in my hard copy books and the ones on line.



Audubon Society Filed Guide to North American Birds

Marmot Season Ending

The Hoary Marmot is the largest of our NW species. Large colonies inhabit high levels of Mount Rainier. Yellow-Bellied Marmots also live in big colonies and make alert noises similar to Hoary Marmots, yet they inhabit sea level. I’ve seen Woodchucks in my backyard a few years ago, but the ones I were able to film were in other states. Those labeled as the IL Woodchuck lived under a shed in front of a business right alongside of a very busy highway. Once in West Virginia just outside of the hotel I stayed in, I found a Woodchuck climbing a fence. That was as surprise.

As the weather chills up here in the Northwest there are animals that we will not be seeing for a while. Quite a few birds and mammals disappear over our winter season, but right now I want to focus on the largest members of the squirrel family – the Marmots. They are hibernators that attempt a lot of fat gain before winter. As they search for their food and enjoy breeding season, marmot colonies are a big attraction in Mount Rainier and other high elevations.  And there are other marmot species that do not want to live up in a mountain.  From low to high elevation here are the ones we are most likely to see in our area:

Woodchucks – Also called Ground Hogs, and often seen in backyards.

Yellow-Bellied Marmot – A ground dwelling marmot named in honor of its stomach color.

Olympic Marmot – Found in the lower levels of the Olympic Mountains in Washington.

Hoary Marmot – The species that lives above tree lines, also known as the Whistle Marmot due to the very loud squeals they make.

Other marmots are found all over our country, including Alaska. The most common (and unwelcome) is the woodchuck/ground hog. No, they are not little hogs that chuck wood. But when they have picked a human backyard for a home, their burrowing and gobbling up vegetation is not welcome. This does not bother me, but I’ve seen homes where it does from Washington to New York. I have also witnessed some unusual behavior of the woodchucks, as noted in the photos above. I have not yet seen the Olympic marmot yet, but I will be looking for it this fall.

And if you love marmots or squirrels I highly recommend this great book which was my resource for marmot information and the book I use many times to identify squirrels:

Squirrels of the West by Tamara Hartson

Hummingbird Feeder Visitors

Anna’s Hummingbird is our year round and most common visitor, but since I got this good shot of a Rufous Hummingbird I posted it. By now I believe most of them have headed back down south to escape the cold weather here. The Hairy Woodpecker was a surprising visitor to one of our three feeders. Then we have the Carpenter Ants. Notice how many have climbed into the feeder and died in there.

I’m sure that many of you out there love hummingbirds and have a feeder for them. Here in the NW our two main species are Anna’s Hummingbird and the Rufous Hummingbird. And as you may know experts claim the feeders require 1 cup of water mixed with 4 cups of water, and never add honey which can cause fungal explosion in them. Then, after you get the feeder filled and posted, other animals also show up at the feeder. Bees and wasps are expected and I was not surprised to see them. They intimidate the hummingbirds, but not for a very long period and the hummers seem to get used to it. Yet a much larger bird also found its way into the feeder. Observing this bird I assumed it was some kind of sapsucker. What other bird species would go after a hummingbird feeder? But after using my picture to identify the species I was very surprised to find that it was actually woodpecker, a Hairy Woodpecker. And this bird caused a lot of the feeder food to empty out. Could be from making it leak, but these woodpeckers are sap drinkers, too. I also noticed one of my favorite insects finding its way in – ants. I love bugs and I was fascinated watching these carpenter ants climb up the side post of our deck, crawl upside down on the deck cover, and find their way into the feeder. I would have let this go on but many of the little creatures actually climbed into the feeder and died inside of it. So how did I fix these problems? It was pretty easy. The woodpecker went away after several visits and has not returned. To protect against the ants I moved that feeder to a new location away from the post they were climbing up. For a couple of weeks now it seems to have worked.

Questions or comments? Contact me at [email protected]


Lizard Feet vs Frog Feet – Who has the best?

Not too long ago I found this pretty Pacific Tree clinging to the wall on the outside of my home. And you see a gecko lizard on the wall inside my room in Saudi Arabia when I was there quite a few years ago.  Last week I found another one but was able to catch it and photograph it’s feet. Note that the Geckos also have claws and their toe pad scales are covered with microscopic sized “bristles”. Meanwhile the tree frog toe is composed very differently. Their moisture toe pad pretty much allows it to stick to things.

This is something that has intrigued me for quite a while. I have spent a very long time with all kinds of herps but two species that really got my attention was due to their ability to climb up on things. I’m not referring to things like tree branches and rocks, I’m talking about much more challenging material. In several different countries I saw geckos not only climb up things in nature, but also up walls inside and outside of my room, and glass walls of aquariums. That was very interesting and got me wondering about the design of their toes. Then right back here in Washington state I witnessed a frog that possessed the same climbing ability of gecko lizards! Because of this I set up a goal to use my macro lens camera for pictures to compare gecko toes to Pacific tree frog toes. And I finally got it done. Now I am sure that many people living here in WA and OR have seen, and heard, these Pacific tree frogs on the walls of their home. Yet just like the gecko lizards, I observed them also easily and quickly climbing up the glass walls of an aquarium. Of course, these are probably not the only frog and lizard species capable of something like this. According to the Audubon Society Field Guide there are sixteen other “tree frog” species in North America, and 17 different species of geckos in North America. An interesting thing about our Pacific Tree Frog is that despite their great climbing talent, they usually spend much more time hiding under vegetation closer to the ground. During cool spring weather you will hear them “creaking” away in huge loud numbers and volume, but then in summer they quiet down and seem to disappear. Unpredictably after that, however, they may show up on tree branches or on the side of your house. That is not usually where they spend most of their time, although some do. I suspect that “tree frog” common name was based on its ability, not its normal behavior. Whatever, I love these little frogs.