Scat: Owls and Opossums Oh My!

November 29, 2011

Mystery abounds in the North Campus, for who's been leaving scat under the footbridge? I discovered a vast array (about 10 pieces) of scat while I was searching for fungi a few weeks ago, and of course I snapped some pictures to try and identify our most recent visitor.


Who does this scat belong to?

My gut told me the scat belonged to either a Virginia Opossum,  Didelphis virginiana, or a Raccoon, Procyon lotor. To get a definitive answer I did two things. Firstly, I sent this picture to Jim Dines, the Museum's Mammology Collections Manager. Secondly, I put Sam Easterson on the project to set up a camera trap.





Almost caught in the act!

The trap that Sam put up over the Thanksgiving Holiday recorded at least one, if not two Virginia Opossums under the bridge! Although, we didn't capture footage of an opossum in the act so to speak, I am pretty confident we've discovered our scat provider! In concurrence was Jim, "You're right that it's probably opossum. They can have such varied diet that their scat can be hard to identify."

On the subject of scat, I have one last thing to show you! Unlike the Virginia Opossum, the Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia, we saw last week was caught in the act!





Aside from an in-depth view of owl bowel evacuation, this footage shows how Burrowing Owls are adept at standing on one leg. This isn't a circus trick, it actually allows the bird to keep the other leg warm in the feathers and only allow precious warmth to be lost from one leg at a time!




(Posted by: Lila Higgins)


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First Owl Recorded in North Campus

November 18, 2011



Yesterday ,we recorded the first owl in the North Campus. This adorable Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia, was observed perching on the footbridge surveying the patrons in the Museum Cafe. However, this is not the first time a Burrowing Owl has been recorded at the Museum. A few years ago, a Burrowing Owl actually roosted in a T. rex skull that was stored on our fourth floor patio. According to Kimball Garrett, the Museum's Ornithology Collections Manager, "these owls are migrants that are coming in from more northerly or interior breeding areas the breeding population in Los Angeles Basin is gone, or virtually so."  


Coincidentally, yesterday was also the date of Kimball's annual bird walk in Exposition Park. Between 8:10 and 9:45 am the group recorded 27 species of birds including the second ever record of a Wilson's Snipe, Gallinago delicata, for the park. Not that I registered that the brown blur flying away from me was a Snipe, let alone a bird, but I took Kimball's word for it!


Looking at American Goldfinches on the Museum Feeders

(photo courtesy of Brenda Rees)


Here's the entire list including numbers of individuals seen:


Merlin (Falco columbarius)  1

Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata)  1

Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)  6

Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)  8

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  22

Yellow-chevroned Parakeet (Brotogeris chiriri)  4

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  3

Allen's Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin)  4

Nuttall's Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii)  1

Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)  5

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  10

Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1

Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  20 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  1

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)  7

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  6

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)  4

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  8

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  20

Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)  1

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  20

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  1

House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)  10

Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  1

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  20

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  10


Other notable sightings:

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) 2

Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) 5

Korean Air Airbus A380 1 (It seems Kimball is adept at identifying aircraft also!)




(Posted by: Lila Higgins)


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