Most readers of 10,000 Birds know that nature is full of surprises and that we aren’t the only ones with a lock on intelligence and creativity. Still it is always nice to add to the evidence of animal intellect. This all happened as I was suffering from the photographic affliction known as “light denial,” where I’m convinced there is still some light but sadly the day has ended and darkness reigns.

I found a Common Raccoon foraging at the water’s edge while waiting for a distant heron to do something… anything. I decided to watch the Raccoon for a while and noticed something peculiar…

It wasn’t foraging for food… it was testing various pieces of wood by pushing down on them, then moving on to the next one.

When it noticed a piece of kelp with an air bladder attached, it abandoned the stuff near shore and made the short swim out to collect its prize. I thought to myself “strange, I didn’t know they ate kelp.”

And to my surprise the Raccoon tucked the kelp under its arm and used it as a swimming aid to get across the narrow channel of water. I thought “perhaps it is just carrying it across the water to eat on the other shore.” But once it arrived…

it immediately dropped the kelp and paid it no further attention. It was using the kelp as a TOOL to get across the water, a flotation device! I was flabbergasted and reminded that we don’t have exclusive rights to imagining, planning, executing, and then forgetting.

More in a couple weeks. Thanks for tolerating a non avian dose of Everyday Sunshine.

Written by Walter
Walter Kitundu is an artist and designer, instrument builder and bird photographer. As an artist he has created hand built record players powered by the wind and rain, fire and earthquakes, birds, light, and the force of ocean waves. Walter has performed and been in residence at art centers and science museums internationally. He has performed with the renowned Kronos Quartet, bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, the electronic music duo Matmos, and the legendary Marshall Allen - in venues from Carnegie Hall to a high school library in Egilstaadir, Iceland. In 2008 Walter became a MacArthur Fellow. Walter loves photographing birds and is an ongoing volunteer with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory. He was hooked when a Red-tailed Hawk landed at his side, ate a caterpillar, then refused to leave. He is a Senior Design Developer for the Studio Gallery at the Exploratorium in San Francisco where he designs and builds environments for learning. You can see more of his work on his blog, Bird Light Wind.