Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Subnivean World Exposed

Everyone I think would agree by now that the weather of late has been weird, or at least acknowledge that the temperature swings are mildly alarming. On Saturday, December 28th there were record high temperatures in many places. Yesterday, record lows, actually record low high temperatures for the day. Regardless, it's been cold. Yet yesterday it rained all day in New England. Today below zero wind chills.

The ups and downs take a toll on the body (and air traffic--so glad I am not flying anywhere this week).

The dogs and I are visiting my parents at Winterberry Farm in western Massachusetts. Not as much snow here, but temperatures still cold, except yesterday when it rained and washed away most of the snow, leaving a treacherous sheet of ice here and there.

We've seen lots of sign of cottontail rabbits (this would be the common eastern cottontail). They live in the thickets at the edge of the farm fields. We see their tracks, and lots of rabbit droppings, and only occasionally the rabbits themselves. Henna has very keen ears and eyes for anything that moves. And the rabbit pellets look a lot (nearly identical) to the treats we give her, maybe they taste just as good too, as she reaches in among the thorns to snack on a few.

Rabbitville, with lots of rabbit droppings, among the thicks of brambles and bushes
The rabbit sign sightings were on Sunday, before all the snow melted on Monday. Today, bundled against the wind chill, the most visible animal signs that we saw were the myriad vole tunnels now exposed.
These subnivean tunnels--built below the snow pack--provide warm and safe travel-ways for meadow voles and shrews. Once the snow melts away, the voles and their tunnels are left exposed. Although owls, hawks, foxes, and coyotes prefer it that way.

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