Monday, January 18, 2010

Tracks in the Snow

One of the fun things about snow is the record it keeps of animal activities. This is one of the trails the deer follow into the backyard. When I was a kid, I used to rush outside to be the first person to make tracks in the new fallen snow. Deer were uncommon then and it was unlikely that you would ever see a track in the yard. Now, it’s really rare to see snow in our yard that doesn’t have deer tracks going all over.

Deer will go out of their way to walk on a mowed path. If you want to control the flow of deer traffic, just give them a clear path to travel. At this trail intersection, deer will walk up and make the 90 degree turn rather than cut the corner.

There’s still a lot Indian Grass seed available. Sparrows will get on the top of the stalk and ride it to the ground. The stalk usually breaks and leaves the seed head at the perfect position for eating the seeds.

Footprints, wing marks and debris left from feeding on a plantain seed stalk at the edge of the yard. There is still an abundance of seeds and fruits available in the landscape.

Seeds from this Blue Vervain provided a good feast. There are still a lot of seeds left on this seed head.

These are most likely the tracks of either a Deer Mouse or a White-footed Mouse. The mice travel through the snow in little leaps that leave deep imprints from the hind feet and a trailing line from the tail. Shrews can make similar tracks, but the tail strike is less distinct and a shrew typically travels in tunnels beneath snow of this depth.

When dark colored objects are left on top of the snow they absorb energy from the sunlight and melt their way through the snow layer. The result is a pattern of vertical holes. In another few hours, these deer droppings will have disappeared from sight, making people wonder what caused the strange holes. I’ve heard people formulate some interesting theories as to the cause of the holes, from elves on stilts to night crawlers coming out to see if it was spring yet.

I’m usually really annoyed when I find tracks like this, but these are mine, so they don’t bother me at all.

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