Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wild Wednesday ~ Stories in the Snow

We finally got some of the white stuff that makes this season last week. Not enough to close work and not enough, reportedly, for good sledding. But enough to record tales of our neighbors' travels.

When I went out for a walk on Saturday, I did so without bringing any of my tracking tools--ruler or books--with me, so all of my i.d.'s here are made from assumptions. These little paw prints are squirrel. Gray, I'm guessing, based on the number of big fat ones that have been hanging around eating seed spilled from the feeder (though we have an occasional red, too).

These tracks are from a perfect walker--an animal with long legs and a gait that alternates legs (as opposed to a waddler). Like a deer or a coyote.

But the individual tracks were too blurred to really see what they were. Those divots, that look like they might belong do a dog or foot pad, are just spots where melted snow dripped out of the trees. I looked hard for any sharp-edged hoof marks and didn't find any, and, because we had heard coyotes yapping really near the house the night before I really wanted to call these coyote tracks, but they just weren't distinct enough for me to do so confidently.

Nearby, I found a scattering of scales beneath a pine tree--a midden left behind by a snacking squirrel.

A few feet away, another midden, this one beneath a hemlock tree. But hemlock cones are so tiny? Could these scales, as big as the pine cone scales, be from a hemlock cone?

Farther along the trail I found clear deer prints, which made me think it would be really hard for deer to leave such blurry indistinct prints as I saw before. Surely they belonged to coyote...

On a downhill slope, between two dense stands of balsam fir, snowshoe hare tracks crossed the trail, just faintly etched on the surface of the packed snow.

In the shade of the woods I spied a big patch of snow fleas. Unfortunately, I didn't have my phone with its macro lens, so they just look like little flecks of dirt. Some were frozen in the ice that layered on top of the snow. It just now occurs to me that I should have brought a chunk of ice home to melt and see if the ones encased in it were still alive.

The river is still wide-open and the water has that shallow, penny-colored look of late summer. Anyone up for a swim?

Lots of hemlock trees grow along the river and I found a fallen cone. And look! Big scales on a tiny cone. The things that slip by our notice.

In the middle of the river is a rock--a rock that now wears a perfectly rectangular snow hat. How did that happen?

I sat by the river for a while--the sun warm on my face--and admired the colors on the bank--golden grass, black water, white snow, a tiny green hemlock, and a bright red (dead) fir.

The water reflected the blue and white and gold light of the afternoon.

When I got up and moved on, I found one! A clear coyote track. No mistaking it for anything else.

And then I came across this: a hole dug in the snow, with lots of duff kicked up, and not a single track anywhere around. Something digging out from below, and then changed its mind? A flying thing landing, snatching, and flying off without leaving any wing prints? A mystery for sure.

Speaking of wild things, though not winter things, check out this wild music video M made about photosynthesis:

What's wild in your neck of the woods these days?


  1. Wow, what a great walk. Little man and I walked about back behind our property this morning...found rabbit, coyote, deer, and we think ruffed grouse prints. It was a fun hike :) So great to finally have some snow, makes tracking so much fun!

    1. Thank goodness it finally snowed! Snow can be a hassle, but winter without it would not be much fun at all.

  2. What a wonderful post! I remember going tracking with the children when we had snow last year. We don't get snow every winter so when we do we make the most of it! Thank you for sharing what you find in your part of the world.

    1. It's amazing how much goes on out there that we'd never know about if we didn't get snow now and then to clue us in!


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