• bible sitting next to a teapot

    Whitman Mission

    National Historic Site Washington

Nature Sightings: January - March 2012


March 14, 2012 - Renee Rusler - Always Something to See

Several Canada Geese float on park's pond
Despite a stiff breeze, and a little rain, I went for a walk today and found these Canada Geese taking a break on the Mill Pond.
NPS - Renee Rusler
Canada Geese flying away
I walked up quietly, or at least I thought so.
NPS - Renee Rusler

March 5, 2012 - Renee Rusler - Who is Watching Who?
Two mule deer peak through grass
The park was overcast and quiet today. Walking along the base of the hill I spied four deer. I watched them. These two watched me.
NPS - Renee Rusler

February 22, 2012 - Renee Rusler - Otter FAQs
otter eating large fish
Eating lunch.
NPS - Renee Rusler

Visitors have enjoyed watching the otters. Some of more common questions I've been asked include:

Where did they come from?
They probably walked from the Walla Walla River which is nearby. In eastern Washington, River Otters tend to be found in the larger rivers such as the Walla Walla, Columbia, and Yakima rivers.

How did they get here?
Despite their many adaptations for living in the water, otters are still very nimble on land. In fact, they actually spend two-thirds of their time on land and can run up to 18 miles per hour.

How long do they stay?
During the last few years, the otters would pop by the park for a day or two, then move on. This year they have stuck around for a longer period. But we expect them to move on soon. Otters have large home ranges and move about quite often within this range. Length of stay at any particular spot often depends on how much food is available.

What do they eat?
Otters are carnivores. They mainly eat aquatic organisms such as fish, frogs, turtles, and aquatic invertebrates. But they are also known to partake of eggs and small terrestrial animals. They have a high metabolism, so they eat a lot. Prey is eaten immediately, usually without the otter leaving the water. Larger prey may be taken to shore and eaten there. In the park's pond, the otters are definitely eating fish and probably other things as well. The most common type of fish in the pond is the Common Carp, Cyprinus carpio, which can get quite large, especially when compared to an otter. The otters sometimes drag these larger catches onto one of the floating boards or to the shore.


Washington Nature Mapping Program. Accessed on February 21, 2012 at http://naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/facts/river_otter_712.html.

Ellis, E. 2003. "Lontra canadensis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 21, 2012 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Lontra_canadensis.html


February 13, 2012 - Renee Rusler - More Otter Shots

The otters have been in the park's pond on-and-off for the last month. This one seems to be wondering if anything interesting has been left on the platform that floats on the park's pond.

otter swimming toward floating board
NPS - Renee Rusler
otter getting onto floating board
NPS - Renee Rusler
otter sniffing lump of something on the floating board
NPS - Renee Rusler
Rejected! the lump remains on the board.  The otter has jumped off, only the tail is visible above the water
NPS - Renee Rusler

January 31, 2012 - Zach Schierl - Look Up!

A Northern Flicker sits on a tree branch

NPS - Zach Schierl

A Northern Flicker rests on a tree branch on the mission grounds. Northern Flickers are a member of the woodpecker (Picidae) family. They are often seen on the ground digging for ants with their long bill. Just moments after I took this picture, this particular flicker went into a steep yet graceful dive towards the ground, before landing softly on the grassy lawn.


January 25, 2012 - Renee Rusler - Is Two Too Many?

Visitors spotted these two otters cavorting in the park's pond. Otters are occasionally seen at the park and are always fun to watch. These two alternated between swimming and getting onto one of the park's floating boards. But the board would start to sink when they both got on.

otter climbs onto floating board in pond
One otter climbs on board.
NPS - Renee Rusler
Two otters on floating board
Joined by a friend.
NPS - Renee Rusler
Two otters on floating board in pond. board submerged, barely visible.
Is two too many? One can barely see the board these two otters are sitting on
NPS - Renee Rusler

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