Weather at Bedford, Hanscom Field, MA - via NOAA's National Weather Service

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

... came in like a lamb

Now it is March, so spring is officially only 3 weeks away.  Of course, this being New England, you never know...

Here are some pics of what can happen when you are a little critter and big hungry ones move faster than you can.

Here are some mouse tracks coming up from the base of a tree.  Often in winter, mice will tunnel under the snow for warmth and safety.  Safety is a big concern, as you will see.
Not too far from where those mouse tracks came from the tree, I found these marks in the snow.  Clearly, a swoop and grab by a fairly large raptor.  I took these pics around 8:30am after a one-inch snowfall - perfect for tracking.  Given the time of day and the fact that I was in the woods, I'm guessing the hunter was an owl getting its last snack before its daily rest.

Here's a closer image, and you can see no blood, so it was a clean catch.  How do I know the mouse didn't get away?  There are no more mouse tracks after the bird came down.
And here's a close-up of the very clear wing print.

I love the stories that sights such as these can tell, or at least hint at.  I saw a lot of great tracks that morning (it was this past Sunday), including a ton of fisher tracks.  Fishers are rather mysterious, keeping very much to themselves and having a fierce reputation.  They've moved back into this area relatively recently, as the hardwood forests have grown back over the last century.
Here's a nice set of fisher tracks.

And just for the record, since the snow was so perfect-for-tracking, I got pics of a typical rabbit track and a typical gray squirrel track.  They are very similar in size and shape, but in general (though not always), the rabbit fore-feet run back-to-front while the squirrel fore-feet run side-by-side.  The trick with these tracks is that when you look at them, the hind feet are in front of the front feet due to the scampering gait of the little mammals.
Typical gray squirrel tracks (ignore the little bird track below).  The animal is moving from left to right here, but the hind feet are in front of the fore-feet in the track.

Typical rabbit track (probably Eastern cottontail, though I keep hoping for a New England cottontail).  The animal is moving from right to left in this picture, but the larger tracks are the hind feet.

Also, I had a gift card for Borders book store, which has gone into Chapter 11.  The store near us is closing, so I needed to use up the card quickly.  I was thrilled to find a copy of Paul Rezendes' Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Sign.  Another book for my natural history collection!

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