Thursday, February 11, 2010

Walk in the Snow - part 1

There was a brief period of sunshine between the two storms and I was able to get out and see how things were getting along. I found a lot of Cottontail tracks. Up until now, I haven’t seen much rabbit activity this winter.

I threw out several soft apples after the storm and found this one had been carried about 100 feet into the field. A rabbit ate about half of the apple.

The Eastern Red Cedars caught a lot of the snow and produced a series of snowless islands across the prairies. Birds concentrated their foraging activities in these areas. I watched several small flocks of sparrows and Juncos moving from island to island.

Some of the cedars couldn’t hold up beneath the snow load. This individual had several branches competing to be the main trunk. Snow collection increased as the branches leaned away from the vertical. Eventually the weight took them almost to the ground.

The branches had enough flexibility that they didn’t break as they bent, but they will never return to an upright position. The branches will remain in this position with all growth reorienting to a vertical direction.

These small cedars have also bent past the point of return. These bent branches and trees result in a considerable increase in shade on the prairie. All of these bent guys will be cut and removed. February is usually a great time to cut cedars from the prairie, but snow makes it difficult to do the job. These small bent trees have a lot of tension in the trunk that could cause the base to jump from the stump and punch the cutter. If you can’t see the danger, imagine someone bending a 15 foot flexible rod and letting it snap out at you. The trees may look small, but the flying butt end could deliver the power of a mule kick.

Judging from the tracks, most of the deer population survived the hunting season. I found deer tracks going down every one of my developed trails. It’s nice to know I’m making it easier for the deer to get around.

I found these two scuff marks in the center of a broad expanse of undisturbed snow. It was a nice puzzle that lasted for several seconds.

Looking on down the trail, I discovered a series of similar marks. These others were more distinct and were clearly identified as tracks made by a running deer. The first tracks I had seen were made when the deer realized it was about to run across one of my foot bridges and skidded while it changed direction. I paced between sets of tracks and estimated 13 feet between the tracks in the lower center of the photo and the next set located just out of the shadows in the top of the photo. There were no tracks suggesting that this deer was being pursued.

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