The Bug Geek

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Winter Treasure Hunt (Part 1: critter feet!)

Like the paleontologist who delights in discoveries of trace fossils – information-rich footprints, trackways, skin imprints and coprolites – I am rewarded with historical records of the comings and goings of local critters as I search for signs of wildlife during these cold, dark days of winter. 

I finally revisited the lonely road I discovered last week.  The promise of a sunny, clear morning was enough to get me bundled up against the windchill (-25°C) and out the door with camera and binoculars in hand.

A fresh layer of soft snow and blue skies provided the perfect backdrop for my winter treasure hunt.   It was perfectly quiet except for the faint laughter of water running beneath frozen streams and the occasional gutteral “caw” of a crow.    The road stretched out before me:

The Lonely Road

The lonely road had been a busy place that morning, as evidenced by the myriad tracks crisscrossing their way over the snow, like those of this rabbit:

Rabbit tracks

I came upon a wide clearing; it seemed to be a very popular white-tailed deer hangout:

Deer Party

There seemed to be one big guy hanging around the deer party too…the bouncer, perhaps?  (That’s my mitt on the ground for reference).

Moose Tracks

A coyote loped between the trees:

Coyote tracks

Teeney-weenie tracks were EVERYwhere.  We tend to forget that there’s an entire community living, eating and travelling under the snow…and occasionally on top of it, but less commonly because it’s pretty dangerous to be roaming about the surface when you look like tasty noms to, oh, pretty much every predator out there.  The track on the right was about the size of a quarter.  I think it’s a red squirrel, but I’m not sure.

Small mammal tracks

This paw print appears to have been left by a different animal:

One paw

A pair of twin tunnellers left their marks:

Twin Tunnellers

As did this tail-dragging deer mouse:

Deer mouse tracks

Mammals were not the only creatures roaming the woods today…there was also a FEROCIOUS PACK OF RAVENOUS RAPTORS!!!!

Well, sort of.  These three-toed wild turkey tracks (very likely left by the same group I met the other day) just SCREAM “therapod” to me (oh, wait, that’s ’cause they are).  I just love them!

Therapods!  Um, I mean Turkeys.

Therapods! I mean, Wild Turkeys!

Stay tuned for more winter wanderings!  Tomorrow – Part 2:  stories in the snow.

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