White stripes


I was looking for a White-winged Crossbill. It is a somewhat uncommon visitor to the region — and one I had been challenged to find. I did find one, but, one somewhat obscured by branches.

This crossbill doesn’t actually have white wings, but white bars or stripes on otherwise dark wings.

Then I encountered something, other than a crossbill, with white stripes on a dark background.

Seen first was a White-winged Crossbill sitting in a black hawthorn bush.

As I watched in trees for white stripes on birds, I glanced at the ground and found I was being watched by something else with white stripes. A skunk was eyeing me from only metres away.

The arched back and raised tail were a warning to me.

The skunk quickly decided that I posed no threat and merely wandered off.

What was this normally nocturnal animal doing out at midday? It was probably looking for a mate; this is the skunk’s breeding season.


This entry was posted in birds, mammals. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to White stripes

  1. Sarah Currie says:

    Hi Alistair,
    Thank you!
    Sarah Currie

  2. birthe says:

    In the 20 plus years that I lived on the North Shore I never saw a skunk, but now that I am in Nelson there seems to be at least one skunk in each block.
    I’m starting to get more afraid of running into a skunk than I ever was of running into a bear as I don’t want my dog to get skunked.

    • Alistair says:

      Birthe, a skunk gives ample warning to stay away: its colouration, its arched back and raised tail, its standing on its fore paws with its back towards you. The skunk just does not want to fire and waste its mercaptans; they are expensive for it to produce. In the wild, animals are taught by parents to avoid skunks, so it rarely is a problem there. However, we remove dogs from their parents as small pups; they are not taught. The problem is how we raise dogs. If you smell a skunk in town, you can pretty well be assured that a formerly ignorant dog has just learned something. Your dog either has to be taught or controlled.

      • birthe says:

        Naturally my dog is under control at all times, however, the skunks I’ve met and in this last case it was a family of four that came out right in front of us, coming through a hedge. Nothing happened, the skunks kept on going and my dog didn’t react apart from howling.
        It was a surprise to me that there are so many here in Nelson, whereas I never saw one at 9 mile.
        There was no smell at all, they just appeared.
        I’ve heard that young skunks do not produce the mercaptans, is that so?

        • Alistair says:

          Birthe, if your dog is always under your control, then there should be no problem. Skunks don’t want to spray, so just have your dog keep its distance. There are many skunks on the North Shore, but as they are nocturnal, they are rarely seen. I believe that by the time the kits appear outside with mommy, they can spray. Early local newspapers tell of settlers’ complaints of skunks (they presumably also had dogs). A decade before you moved into Nelson, the City would trap skunks and export them towards Ymir. What Ymir residents thought of this is unknown.

  3. Christine Boyd says:

    Nice closeups of the skunk! We saw a mom with her babies last season. They were all attempting to cross Granite Road. The babies were adorable.

  4. Trevor Goward says:

    Nice touch with the last photo in the series: surely the mephitian equivalent of somebody pointing a gun in your face – in self defense, of course.

Comments are closed.