Friday, November 13, 2009

Snow, eagles, and new sightings

Arriving at the ACEC this morning, I spotted a bald eagle perched on a mature cottonwood tree on the northwest corner of Norm's Island. The bird sat motionless, likely observing the landscape, alert to its surroundings. The world lay quiet, blanketed in a fresh coat of white snow. After a late reprise of summer, with temperatures hitting the mid-sixties last week, winter has come knocking on our door yet again. A storm blew in yesterday afternoon, winds gentle yet persistent from the northwest, bringing rain in the morning turning to snow by 3 PM. Now, a light layer, perhaps a 1/4 inch of snow, covers the earth and delights us with the cold, fresh smell of winter. The sun is rising and breaking through the fog; it won't be long until the snow is gone.

Yesterday, Norm spotted a new animal here at the ACEC. In the channel below the tree where the eagle now sits, a river otter was playing in the waters of the Yellowstone. River otters, Lontra canadensis, are members of the weasel family (Mustelidae). Other mustelids include fishers, martens, wolverines, short-tail and long-tail weasels. I have seen river otters before at higher elevations in the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park, but not yet here at the ACEC. We hope these water-loving mammals stick around and become our newest residents. They feed primarily on fish, but will also include invertebrates and frogs in their diet. For more information on river otters, check out Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks' Animal Field Guide (


  1. Your views on the beautiful nature areas and animals around the ACEC are so well written they help me visualize the place from my own work desk! It's very interesting that you saw a river otter- that's an animal I've only seen at zoos before! Glad you started a blog and hope lots of people contribute so we can collectively learn about ACEC.

  2. Fresh snow, eagles, and river otters--how exciting! Thanks for the link about the river otters. I liked seeing the pictures, as I didn't realize they are so large.

    Keep up the great work, Heather!