Friday, January 20, 2012

Tracks in the Snow: Part I

This past week, Jim and I have been journeying our way through the snow, sometimes deep and fluffy, and other times shallow and crusty. I love this time of year, when I can see the activity of my hidden, busy nocturnal neighbors. The months without snow bare only inconspicuous signs to the most observant nose, ears, and eyes, but once the snow falls the invisible tracks of animals appear. The tracks give me a good excuse to wonder off the beaten path into a perceived wilderness of hemlocks, yellow birches, beetle tunnels, nesting hollows, chirping chickadees, and deer beds. Our first trip into the wilds took place on Chilcoot Pass near Madonna Mountain and our second trip onto the Vermont Land Trust's (VLT) Brewster Uplands Conservation Trust in Cambridge.

I am always amazed at the small rodents that move seamlessly through the deep snow. The mouse tracks to the right of my skin tracks show two large hind foot marks followed by a dragging tail with each hop. The most numerous tracks of the day were those of the Ruffed Grouse who spends most of its time wandering on the ground looking for food. This day the tracks were short lived with multiple signs of take-offs and landings.

This photograph shows tracks of a small rodent running back and forth from a snowshoe hare track to a small hole underneath a balsam fir sapling. Jim and I hypothesized that the small creature was feasting on or collecting the hare's scat.

Here is the hole the mouse is storing the rabbit scat in. The area underneath the snow where rodents and weasels travel is called the subnivean zone.

 Once we made it to the top of the hill, Jim and I were able to add to the plethora of fresh tracks!

Stay tuned for our tracking trip in Cambridge....

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