Nature Notes

Volume XXII - 1956

A Pine Siskin Meets The Public
By Edward A. Burnham, Seasonal-Naturalist

Thursday, July 26, 1956, was a routine day for the four employees at the Standard Gas Station near park headquarters. Norm Mitchell, Bill Owens and Bill Lewis went about the usual tasks of filling gas tanks, checking oil and wiping windshields.

Station manager Don Crary decided on placing a "bug bomb" in the rest rooms at about 10:00 in the morning. This, too, was routine. However, a short time later, someone saw a bird, smaller than a sparrow, with a gray breast and yellow in the wings, picking up the dead insects in the men's restroom. It was a pine siskin.

All the rest of that first day he spent getting himself into a familiar routine. When cars came into the pump block he would eat the grasshoppers that fell off the front end of the vehicles. He was decided in his tastes and wouldn't touch dragonflies.

He stayed under an Eastwood willow bush at the east edge of the filling station building. Seldom flying, he scampered along like a roadrunner. Gradually adapting himself to human beings, he climbed onto hand or fingers and took water from the cupped hand, also allowing himself to be photographed. He would even climb on to a hand and allow himself to be raised or lowered.

The crew at the station became quite attached to this accommodating chap, and it was with a feeling of losing a friend when he finally left unannounced on the 1st day of August, after having spent six days with free room and board, entertaining the public.

Marten Antics
By John Mees, Ranger-Naturalist

The marten, Martes americana, has been described as having a savage, sour disposition and as being "Public Enemy No. 1" in the weasel family. It has even been said that he hates everyone, even members of his own family. However, the marten has one trait that does not seem to fit in with such a reputation -- an extreme curiosity in respect to man. This is especially true in our National Parks, where these animals are protected.

During the winter months, the marten is a frequent visitor to the homes of residents in the park. In his search for food, caution seems to be thrown aside, and the marten on many occasions, when the door is left open, enters and takes food. This behavior continues through the winter months, but in the spring and early summer the visits gradually become fewer in number and finally cease as the natural food supply becomes more plentiful.

pine marten
"Marten, N.P.S. photo."

During the summer of 1956, an exception to this usual procedure occurred. Mrs. Jim Brooks reported that a family of three martens lived under their house near park headquarters. During the daytime they frequently took sun baths on the window sill and showed very little concern about the movements of the Brooks family. The activity at night, however, wasn't exactly appreciated. The martens would run up and down the partitions of the rooms making rather loud noises and disturbing the sleep of the occupants. Apparently they were having a great deal of fun chasing each other up and down the partitions in a type of animal game.

An obstruction placed over their entrance failed to work as one or two martens were usually caught, and the obstruction had to be removed.

The problem was finally solved when the martens left on their own accord. They were scared when workmen, strangers to the marten, arrived to do some painting. Thereafter, they returned only at irregular intervals.

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