Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A few tracks

I had a tiny bit of snow from that big nor’easter that rolled up the east coast the other night. So I’ve had some nice fresh snow to look at the tracks of the animals that I share the forest with. Partly because I’ve been holed up in the cabin to avoid the ice that has covered the ground for the past week or so, I haven’t been out as much as I usually am. The animals, too, hole up somewhat so we are more likely to miss seeing each other than is normal. But they’re still around.

The fresh snow is great for seeing the tracks they make and reassure me that the animals are still around and doing okay. This first set is the red fox, who routinely travels down the lane. This one is moving at a nice comfortable pace, likely that easy-going trot they use most of the time.

Snow isn’t the best medium for observing tracks, and powdery snow isn’t even the best of that. The slightest bit of wind or sun will start to deform the shape of the track. The track furthest on the left is the one where you can most clearly see the shape of the fox’s footprint, especially the two claws at the top of the track.

The next two tracks are both rabbits, the first is one where the rabbit is just hopping along the way rabbits do. In the second photo the front and back feet are spaced further apart, which means the rabbit was moving faster than in the first set. The rabbit tracks are also in the lane up the mountain, quite close to the fox tracks, and I have to wonder if the rabbit bolted to avoid the fox (whose visible tracks don’t show that it speeded up).

I saw other tracks too—deer, raccoon and a mouse or vole I couldn’t identify. It doesn’t take much snow for mouse tracks to be hard for me to identify. Half an inch or so and their little bellies and feet are dragging through the snow, deforming their own tracks as they move along.

In any event, a quick walk around the cabin tells me a lot about which residents are around and awake and what they’re doing while I’m inside staying warm during the long, dark evenings.


nina said...

I love a light snow, just for that reason.
Last year, my tracks (a fox) led to a den and kits!!
Maybe you'll have a surprise in a few months.

Carolyn H said...

Nina, I had a fox with kits near the cabin two years ago. The fox(es) always seem to move the den slightly from year to year. Sometimes its in front of the cabin, sometimes behind, once about .25 mile away. I'm always hoping to see the kits and get good photos. Hasn't happened yet. Whenever I see the kits they flee down into the den. I'm always hoping this will be the year, though!

Carolyn h.