Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tracking

 

It’s not terribly cold here, but it’s gloomy and there’s been snow on the ground for days. I haven’t had much company on my hikes. On Thursday morning I listened to a long concert from a pair of coyotes who were very riled up about something, and Saturday morning a great blue heron flew over the lake. I’ve heard a woodpecker or two knocking around the woods. That’s about it. The rest of the birds are mostly silent and even the squirrels are scarce. I’d think all the critters were hibernating, waiting for winter to end, but the snow tells me otherwise. There are lots of dainty deer prints going from the tree line down to the lake. The turkeys leave scribbled evidence of their chronic confusion as they wander in circles among the trees. The feet of skunks and rabbits mark the trails for short distances before their owners think better of it and veer off toward safe cover. Raccoons don’t travel along the trails much at all, but they clearly go out of their way to use the footbridges—raccoons hate wet feet, apparently. Coyotes rarely leave tracks on the bridges, although they like to walk the trails for long distances. So do bobcats. I followed a bobcat track for at least half a mile yesterday. The cat had traipsed right along the trail, as if on a hike of its own. Walking beside the line of footprints, I felt I had a ghost companion, a feline familiar. As we came to a place where the trail crossed a road, the bobcat’s track abruptly turned away, back into the woods. I paused for a moment to say goodbye and then headed on my way.


Photo of mouse tracks in the snow from the National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons

5 comments:

TMC said...

what a lovely description. :)
though we live in a regular edge-of-town neighbourhood, i try to leave as much of the snowy yard untouched for as long as possible, just to see the animal tracks. This year we've had cats, rabbits and tiny little bird tracks. It's nice to know they're out there, even if we rarely get to see them.

Margaret said...

"scribbled evidence of their chronic confusion"-- perfect! Wonderful post, as always, but this bit about the turkeys is just especially wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous writing, as usual, Grace. I love how much attention you pay to the world. I've been re-reading Edwin Way Teale lately, one of the first naturalists to seem to speak directly to me, and he too reads the scribbled notes on the snow. I bought a field guide to animal tracks because I wanted to recognize more signatures on the bulletin board. Your little essay here reminds me why.

Michael Sims said...

No, no, no, I clicked the wrong button. The preceding comment wasn't supposed to be anonymous.

BitterGrace said...

That's okay, Michael. I don't mind anonymous friends--it's nameless enemies I can't abide.