Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fresh Snow, Blue Sky, Animal Wanderings

The snow pie condition that I described last week is now covered by one to two inches of powdery snow that fell during the day on Friday. This, combined with a blue sky weekend (albeit still cold), significantly brightened my mood. If we are to have cold, windy winter days, it feels so much warmer when combined with fresh snow and sun.

The woods come alive after a fresh snow with stories of animal movements. The dogs and I visited a favorite nearby conservation area (Piscassic River Wildlife Management Area).
Saturday morning we ventured farther along a woods road that is gated and rarely traveled by other people. The forest is mostly hemlock mixed with red and white oak--a favorite area for deer in winter. A place where they can paw through the snow to get acorns and where snow depths are kept low by the hemlock cover.
We saw lots of deer sign: many patches where snow and leaf litter were churned up, tracks criss-crossing our path, piles of pellets. And Henna's keen ears and eyes were on high alert. She gets excited in deer country, which is why she is always on leash.
We see deer sign year round and on nearly every hike. It is the wanderings of small to midsize mammals that really emerge after a fresh snow fall. Some of my favorites...

snowshoe hare hopping through underbrush, 

straight line tracks of fox and coyote,
dainty tracks of woodland mice,
walking and then jumping,
maybe to escape the clutches of a coyote or an owl
All the more beautiful in the shadows cast by the low, winter sun.

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