Thursday, June 30, 2011

Old Moose Yard (watercolour 5 x 7 in.) Sold

28 June finds me sitting in front of a Moose skull above the pond at the "Old Homestead" of Caledonia Gorge Protected Natural Area, New Brunswick. The woods here show signs of heavy use by Moose, both browse and droppings, and today we have been given a tour of the spring, the old house site which is now a grassy clearing, and the pond.

One strange feature of the place appears to be an old dying ground for Moose, perhaps in years when it was used as a winter yarding area. In a 20 metre radius on the gentle slope above the pond among Fir, Spruce, and Maple trees, we found several deposits of Moose bones - single ribs, groups of vertebrae, jaw bones, and here, a skull with vertebrae.
As I sit on the fir needled ground to draw the skull, which lies between the curved trunk of a young Yellow Birch and the base of a Balsam Fir, Green Frogs call intermittently from the pond sixty metres away, their banjo-string comments escalating to vigorous discussion. Don McAlpine found a pair in amplexus and collected freshly laid eggs. Fred discovered a Yellow Spotted Salamander on the other side of the pond, while Don found hatched-out egg masses of that species in the water.


There is less algae and moss on the Moose skull than would be expected of bones of this age, and as I start the painting, Fred keeps coming by with slugs that he's taken off of various Moose bones, from which they probably have been scraping algae and getting calcium. He is all excited about inventing a new way of monitoring slugs by collecting them from piles of damp moose droppings which provide them with food, moisture, and cover.



3 comments:

  1. 28 June 2011 - Canada: New Brunswick: Albert County: Caledonia Gorge PNA: Homesite, 5.5 km NW Riverside-Albert. (25m waypoint), 21H/15, 45.78015N 64.78693W TIME: 0950-1401. AIR TEMP: 22 ca, sunny, Beaufort light air. HABITAT: Moose-browsed young dense Abies/Picea woods. OBSERVER: Aleta Karstad Schueler, Frederick W. Schueler, Sophie Finlayson-Schueler, Don McAlpine, Martin Marshall. 2011/127/fa, Alces alces (Moose) (Mammal). 1 adult, female, bone, water colour, specimen. WAYPT/246, painting of skull & vertebrae on forest floor. Martin Marshall saw two skulls here at his last visit, but wasn't able to find the other one today. Various other Moose bones are scattered arouund, the skull and jaws collected for the NBM. The vertebrae here with the head had their processes gnawed off, but the skull was remarkably intact. Most bones had Arion on them, and the jaws and a scapula especially were dotted with Arion feces (2 Arion on each jaw, and 4 on the scapula), but that was usual for most objects at this site.

    There were this-winter Moose pellet clusters around, and the Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir) trees showed signs (contorted dead braches) of having been abusively browsed at a height of about 1-2 m, where they'd have been accessible to Moose; the largest nearby had a DBH of about 14 cm, and the density of the smaller trees made the stand hard to walk through. A few Acer rubrum (Red Maple) had bark stripped, and Viburnum were, in patches, distorted into twisted-stemmed caricatures by browsing. A few narrow-stemmed, big-leaved Betula alleghaniensis (Yellow Birch) saplings wind their way up into the Conifers - there's the base of one in the painting.

    (same location) AIR TEMP: 20 ca, sunny, Beaufort light air. 2011/127/fb, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Red Squirrel) (Mammal). common adult, food, heard, tracks. sporadic calling, conescale piles around, many Picea cones cut & lying under trees, as well as new growth tips, which one supposes were also nipped and dropped by the Squirrels.

    (same location) AIR TEMP: 22 ca, sunny, Beaufort light air. 2011/127/fc, Cypripedium acaule (Moccasin Flower) (Plant). 1 herb, in bloom, seen. 1 big plant with lax leaves, long stem and a pale pink flower.

    (same location) OBSERVER: Frederick W. Schueler, Sophie Finlayson-Schueler, Don Mc Alpine, Martin Marshall. 2011/127/fd, Cyanocitta cristata (Blue Jay) (Bird). 1 adult, prey of predator, seen. feathers on ground as if prey of a raptorial Bird.

    moved 0.02 km SSW.
    Homesite, 5.5 km NW Riverside-Albert. (25m waypoint), 45.77997N 64.78702W TIME: 0955. AIR TEMP: 20 ca, sunny, Beaufort light air. HABITAT: brushy Moose-browsed young Abies/Picea woods. OBSERVER: Frederick W. Schueler, Sophie Finlayson-Schueler. 2011/128/a, Thamnophis sirtalis (Common Garter Snake) (herp). 1 adult, seen. WAYPT/247, medium-size, seen briefly, half under shrubs, with typical Maritime Garter Snake pinkish-speckled colour pattern.

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  2. It's like an elephant graveyard! Though I suppose it's because the moose are most likely to die in the winter season, and that's when they are yarded up in congregations -- hadn't thought about that...

    Nice that you could figure out how the bones stay so clean!

    So -- now the problem (for students of slugs) will be to stay supplied with damp moose droppings! :>

    Karen

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  3. It's like an elephant graveyard! I hadn't thought about moose congregating in yards in the winter like deer do -- and I suppose the winter would be the season, most often, when animals in poor condition would die.

    I like that bit of biology detective work -- noticing how clean the bones are, and then realizing its from the slugs scraping them for algae and calcium.

    So now the challenge for students of slugs will be to keep supplied with damp moose droppings! :>

    Karen

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