Revealing Bird Bones and Skeletons

with David Lukas

Join OHA and David Lukas on Friday, November 11th for a fascinating evening, taking a deep dive into the form and function of our feathered friends. The presentation will be in person, and also available virtually. A light dinner, benefitting the CCC, starts at 5:30. The presentation starts at 6:30! See the poster for more details or contact jen@okanoganhighlands.org if you have questions. Hope to see you next week!

To join virtually, use this invite link:
 
 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83454118101?pwd=cDNIbVFDcFdXc0VVbHlkTmt3RXpHQT09

Podcast! The World Needs More Birders S2:E4

with Dick Cannings, biologist, educator, author, member of the Canada House of Commons

Are you interested in learning more about birds? Are you interested in contributing your bird observations to science? Are you looking for resources to help you learn to identify birds by sight and sound? Are you looking for answers to the question, “What’s so special about birds, anyway?” If you answered yes to any of these questions, this episode is for you! Dick Cannings, author, educator, biologist, member of the Canadian House of Commons has fostered his lifelong fascination with birds and has crafted his career to teach and show people why it is important to protect the natural world. He has a lot to share about his experiences, why citizen science is so crucial in collecting information about our world, and how anyone can contribute to these efforts!

Dick Cannings:

More about Dick Cannings, his books, and instructions about how to build an owl nest box: dickcannings.com/

Birding Organizations and Learning Resources:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/

Audubon Society: https://www.audubon.org/

North Central WA Audubon Society: https://ncwaudubon.org/

Birds Canada: https://www.birdscanada.org/

Citizen Science Projects:

The Great Backyard Bird Count: https://www.birdcount.org/

Project Feeder Watch: https://feederwatch.org/

Christmas Bird Count: https://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count

Breeding Bird Atlas of Washington*: http://naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/maps/ 

North American Breeding Bird Survey: https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/

Short Eared Owl Survey: https://avianknowledgenorthwest.net/projects/

Nestwatch: https://nestwatch.org/

Migration Monitoring: https://www.birdscanada.org/bird-science/canadian-migration-monitoring-network-cmmn/

Project FeederWatch: https://feederwatch.org/

 *also contains maps for amphibians, mammals, reptiles

Birding Apps and Websites (ID by sight and sound, record your sightings):

Merlin Bird ID: https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/

E-Bird: ebird.org/

Dendroica: https://www.natureinstruct.org/dendroica/ 

Podcasts are posted on the OHA website (okanoganhighlands.org) and on the following podcast apps: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts and RadioPublic. Please read, listen (rate the podcast on your favorite app) and enjoy!

Podcast! Washington’s Not So Common Loons S1:E5

Who would have thought that our very own Okanogan Highlands is a great place to view one of the world’s most charismatic and endearing bird species? Although not many common loons nest in Washington any more, breeding pairs and chicks can be found on several highland lakes throughout the summer months and into the fall. This month’s Highland Wonders Podcast features Daniel and Ginger Poleschook – dedicated researchers, educators and advocates for common loons. They share what they have learned over 26 years of studying the species and getting to know the individual loons that inhabit our local lakes. Enjoy!

Jack, Nature Detective, Season 1, Episode 5: Washington’s Not-So-Common Loon

Illustrated by Diana Weddle

One warm spring day out on Bonaparte Lake, Jack the Nature Detective is fishing with his dad. Suddenly he hears a strange noise, “it sounds like a cross between a wolf’s howl and a chicken’s squawk.” Jack squints across the lake and he can’t believe what he is seeing! It’s a…a…penguin? It’s a very large bird, anyway, and black and white. What else could it be? Jack keeps watching. The bird is swimming around like a duck and keeps diving under water in a very penguin-like way. Jack is puzzled, though. He wonders aloud, “I thought that penguins live on the bottom of the globe, and we live closer to the top. If this is a penguin, it is very far from home. How could this be?”

From that day on, Jack watches his mystery bird friends often. There are two of them. He notices that they are good fisher-birds, and that they built a nest on a grassy tuft on the edge of the lake. One early summer day Jack sees something especially amazing. “Look!” he shouts. “One of the birds is carrying a fuzzy little baby on its back!” All of a sudden, the bird starts (what can only be described as) yodeling. She sounds scared and upset. Jack looks up and sees a bald eagle soaring above the lake. As the bald eagle is about to dive, Jack’s mom wades out into the lake waving her arms and yelling, “HEY! GET AWAY!” The eagle moves on, and the mama and baby glide away.

By this time, Jack is pretty sure this amazing bird is not a penguin, but he is still not sure what it could be. He decides, “It’s time to get to the bottom of this mystery.” Back at home, Jack gets to work with his favorite bird book, The Sibley Field Guide (it has, in the Nature Detective’s opinion, the best pictures). Soon Jack realizes that that his hunch was right – the mystery bird isn’t a penguin at all. It is a bird called the common loon! Now that he knows who they are, the Nature Detective can’t wait to learn more! Fortunately, the newest Highland Wonders Podcast is out, featuring Daniel and Ginger Poleschook, so Jack and everyone he knows can learn about common loons and what we all can do to protect them.

Podcast! Grouse of the Okanogan, Highland Wonders S1:E2

In this podcast episode, learn a little bit about OHA and a lot about the grouse of the world, with special focus on the grouse species that inhabit Okanogan County, WA, with Dr. Michael Schroeder. Also, join Jack, the Nature Detective, as he explores the Okanogan Highlands in this story for kids of all ages.

Podcast Credits: Presentation by Dr. Michael Schroeder, Grouse song by Julie Vanderwal with words by poet Will Nixon (find “My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse” and more at willnixon.com). Theme song by Tyler Graves and Andy Kingham.

Jack, Nature Detective with ruffed grouse friends, by Diana Weddle

Jack, Nature Detective: Grouse of the Okanogan 

“Look! A chicken!” Jack squawks. His little sister laughs and claps her hands, and hollers, “Let’s collect the eggs!” But Jack frowns, and says “Wait, hold on. It can’t be a chicken, that doesn’t make sense…” Jack and his family have just crossed a grassy field to get to the edge of a creek. They are looking for animal footprints in the new snow on an early winter day, and have just been startled by a heavy-bodied bird clattering away across the field. The bird didn’t go far, and it really didn’t fly very high. By Jack’s estimation, it only flew “about three cars high.” 

Meet Jack, Nature Detective: Jack is inquisitive, skeptical, creative, quirky, determined, and a friend to ALL critters. His observations of subtle clues and brilliant reasoning make him, quite possibly, one of the world’s most talented nature detectives. Like most of us, Jack’s understanding of the world comes from his own life experiences. He is five years old, and his investigative skills are top notch. If you were to stop by his house you might find our Nature Detective in the midst of an experiential study of squirrel movement, or determining the optimal shelter and food stores for his new pet grasshopper, named Grasshopper. Today, we will share a mystery that Jack uncovered in the Okanogan Highlands. What clues can you uncover in the story?

“Where would a chicken come from? I don’t see any houses. Chickens need houses, and roosts, and nest boxes.” Jack gasps and his eyes get big, “Mom! Are there wild chickens? Or is this someone’s lost chicken? Or… is that not a chicken?” Jack thinks hard, “Time to collect clues. Nature Detective is on the case.”

This bird is smaller than the chickens that he knows from his grandma’s house. But the chickens he has seen fly three cars high, just like this bird. Jack thinks, “maybe it’s a baby, and that’s why it’s small. But… why would a baby chicken wander off on its own?” Jack has recently conducted a study of his grandma’s chickens and this is what Jack knows about chickens: 

  1. They can be lots of different colors. 
  2. They eat seeds and bugs. 
  3. They lay eggs, unlike bats, that have live birds. 
  4. Some chickens grow feathers right over their eyes so they can’t see.

The chicken facts that Jack knows sort of fit with the mystery bird, but it’s just too weird to see a chicken out in the wild. The family follows in the direction that the bird went, trying not to scare it again.

Jack stops and puts his binoculars to his eyes. He scans the branches of some trees along the creek. He scans the snow. He stops. “There it is!” Jack whispers. His mom, dad, and sister all put their binoculars to their eyes and aim the lenses where Jack is looking. There is a bird there, walking awkwardly right on top of the snow. “How does he do that?” Jack wonders. They can see that this is not a chicken. It is speckled, with bright yellow eyebrows, and it’s tail is too pointy to be a chicken. It could be a relative of a chicken. Suddenly the bird disappears. “Where’d he go? That’s not a chicken!” They decide to leave the bird alone, since winter is a hard time to be a wild bird.

When Jack gets home his dad pulls up their favorite website – Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Jack likes this website because he can search for birds by shape and color! It doesn’t take long for him to find a whole bunch of chicken-shaped birds with yellow eyebrows. He thinks his mystery bird was a grouse – but which one? Jack reviews his clues: a grassy habitat, smaller than a chicken, speckled, yellow eye brows, pointy tail, walking on top of the snow. “A sharptail grouse!” Jack hypothesizes. How can he know for sure? For more clues about whether Jack’s guess might be correct, and to learn all about the different types of grouse that live in the Okanogan, Washington and the world, check out OHA’s newest podcast, Grouse of the Okanogan, with Dr. Michael Schroeder. 

Stay tuned! Jack will continue to solve nature mysteries on topics related to upcoming episodes of the Highland Wonders Podcast.

Podcast! Phantom of the north: great gray owls, Highland Wonders S1:E1

Meet Jack, Nature Detective: Jack is inquisitive, skeptical, creative, quirky, determined, and a friend to ALL critters. His observations of subtle clues and brilliant reasoning make him, quite possibly, one of the world’s most talented nature detectives. Like most of us, Jack’s understanding of the world comes from his own life experiences. He is five years old, and his investigative skills are top notch. If you were to stop by his house you might find our Nature Detective in the midst of an experiential study of squirrel movement, or determining the optimal shelter and food stores for his new pet grasshopper, named Grasshopper. Today, we will share a mystery that Jack uncovered in the Okanogan Highlands. What clues can you uncover in the story?

Jack, Nature Detective. Illustration by Diana Weddle.

One day in October, Jack, the Nature Detective, is out on a hike in the Okanogan Highlands with his family. The needles of the Western Larch are lighting up the flank of Bonaparte Mountain with yellow, bright against the dark green of the other conifers. The afternoon is warm and Jack’s whole family is enjoying the way the sunbeams filter down through the forest canopy. 

Suddenly, Jack detects something. His eyes open wide and he whispers, “Who’s out there? Mom? Is someone watching us?” Everyone stops and looks around, no one is there, just the quiet forest. But the whole family kind of feels like there is something there, so they come to a full stop and really look around. There is a fallen tree, leaning steeply against its neighbor. The trees are tall in this place – and big around. Some have broken off way up in the air. But no one sees any sign of eyes watching them.

Jack’s mom says, “Don’t worry, Jack. Sometimes when you are outside, it really feels like something is watching you. Maybe animals are watching. The creatures that live in these woods are specially adapted to be camouflaged in this habitat. The shapes of their bodies and their colors blend right into the shapes and colors of the forest. They stay very still, so our eyes just slide right past them without even seeing them. Their camouflage keeps them safe.” Just a little way farther on, Jack stops again, staring at a splotch of white on the ground, and, looking closer, he notices small gray lumps that look a bit furry, and a little bit…bony. What is this? Does it have something to do with that creepy feeling of being watched? 

This is a nature mystery and, fortunately, the Nature Detective is on the job. He pulls out his sample jars, some forceps, and a hand lens, and collects the gray lumps for analysis at home.

Back at home, Jack dons his lab coat, goggles, and protective gloves and examines the gray lumps. He uses the forceps to pull out a pile of tiny bones. He painstakingly counts the bones and declares that this is undoubtedly the droppings of a hungry rodent eater. 

Look for our podcast logo!

He considers his clues: forest habitat with big trees, snags, and leaning trees, a creature that eats rodents and lives in the Okanogan Highlands. He remembers that feeling of being watched. Jack’s hypothesis is that this nature mystery is likely an owl, but it could be a coyote, weasel, or snake, and he is not quite willing to dismiss the possibility that it could be a baby velociraptor or a saber tooth tiger. Do you think Jack’s owl hypothesis is correct? What other evidence would you need to verify Jack’s forest find? To learn more, check out the new podcast, Highland Wonders, produced by Okanogan Highlands Alliance. The first episode, Great Gray Owls: The Phantom of the North, features Matt Marsh, wildlife biologist with the US Forest Service in Tonasket. You can find the podcast at any of the following apps: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, RadioPublic, Pocket Cast, Google Podcasts.

Stay tuned! Jack will continue to solve nature mysteries on topics related to upcoming episodes of the Highland Wonders Podcast. Episodes will be released throughout the winter, and accompanying mysteries will be posted on OHA’s website.

Local Loon Tales

On Friday, November 2nd, 2018, Dan and Ginger Poleschook returned to the Highland Wonders education series to update our community on how our local loons have fared in the seven years since the Poleschook’s last presentation in Tonasket. They shared stories of our local loons — where they hatched, adventures they have experienced, obstacles they have overcome, and which loons at which lakes are related to each other. Some stories reflected loons as being highly intelligent, beyond their basic survival skills and genetic influences, and provided examples of loons having long-term memories of places and people. We learned ways in which people have helped loons survive, and what we can do to increase and protect future populations of the common loon.

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A Year in the Life of North American Owls

On Friday, January 6th, 2017, award-winning photographer Paul Bannick returned to Highland Wonders with a presentation based on his new book, Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls. In Owl, Paul uses his intimate yet dramatic images to follow North American owls through the course of one year and in their distinct habitats.

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Gifts of the Crow

Crows are mischievous, playful, social, and passionate. They have brains that are huge for their body size and exhibit an avian kind of eloquence. They mate for life and associate with relatives and neighbors for years. And because they often live near people, they are also keenly aware of our peculiarities, quickly learning to recognize and approach those who care for them, even giving numerous, oddly touching gifts in return. The characteristics of crows that allow this symbiotic relationship are language, delinquency, frolic, passion, wrath, risk-taking, and awareness—seven traits that humans find strangely familiar.

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Grouse and Spouse

The Highland Wonders educational series kicked off 2016 with an opportunity to learn about the world of grouse breeding behavior, with an inside perspective on grouse mating systems Dr. Michael Schroeder. Mike has a Ph.D. in wildlife biology and is the upland bird research scientist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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