Reading The Stories Of Winter

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Most afternoons, we venture into the woods. It is the dogs favorite part of the day… and ours too! With the icy conditions along the nursery footpaths and along the road, the deep woods offer better footing at the moment. Traveling ground that keeps us upright is not the only reason we tuck into the forest every day. Aside from the peace and serenity the woods provide, it’s also the track stories we can read along the way that call us into the wild. In our absence, perhaps while we lay fast asleep, many of the wild critters who stay active during Maine’s harsh winter are out prowling or foraging in search of food, and in doing so they have left their travel stories in the snow. As we hike toward Kingdom pond through a mixture of both coniferous and deciduous trees, cross over an old lumber clearing, and arrive at a grove of mature hemlock, the animal activity is laid out before us in a network of foot patterns. Coyote and fox travel with their intentional, business-like gait, leaving well-defined canine tracks behind. Snowshoe hare bound from one thicket to another, their large paddle-like back feet leaving imprints out beyond their front feet. Mice move from stump to stump leaving their slight tail dragging marks. Turkeys have left evidence from their searching for acorns under an oak tree, the snow trampled and flattened, looking as though a square dance had taken place. Deer tip toe across the coyote tracks, carefully heading in the opposite direction, their heart-shaped hoof prints leaving their mark. Of course, the dogs go mad with all the smells and freedom and cover over many of the tracks before we reach them. By the time we arrive at the pond, we have added our own foot travels to the mix. We can see where that lone fox has kept going, his thoughts on distant shores, his determined trail leading out across the ice. Maybe a meal or a warm den awaits him on the other side. I hope he finds both.

16 comments on “Reading The Stories Of Winter

  1. A lovely view of your winter walk. Here a little north of Atlanta, GA, we are still waiting for winter. Last night we heard the coyotes, and today watched a Cooper’s hawk with its catch in the shrubs next to the house, a brown thrasher at the suet feeder, and many birds around the garden. A cute little Carolina wren was on the porch yesterday with little fluffs of nesting material in its mouth. The maples are starting to show color,and the daffodils are beginning to bloom. Pre-spring is here. It will be below freezing tonight, and we will probably have at least one sleet and freezing rain before it is over.

    • Lynn, Thank you so much for sharing visions of your world! You have your own bounty of animal activity to bear witness of. A cooper’s hawk with it’s catch, quite a sight! Nature provides us with so much, including an opportunity to understand the behaviors of our furry and feathered friends. Happy pre- spring to you!!

  2. Great fox photo! This morning I found a straight line of fox tracks leading purposefully through my back garden. Later, as I was sitting at my desk writing, I thought I saw a flash of red through the trees.

    • Being someone who raises both sheep and chickens I should not be so happy to hear or see the tracks of fox around the place, but I do think they are beautiful! Winter , when we have some snow cover, is a great time for animal tracking! I try and get out every day to check out the activity.

  3. Denise, as always an uplifting tale of your life in Maine. Just last night I was re-reading some of your earlier posts and I’m thinking of making the squash/pumpkin bread from your Dec blog! Makes me smile and wish I lived closer….

  4. I love the image you create with your words! We see see some tracks and the occasional track-maker but nothing like the variety you describe. Or perhaps you are just much more observant than I!

    • Thank you, Kerry. Years ago…. seems like another life!…I taught a winter ecology program deep in the forests of Vermont. The program was offered to school groups 5th -8th grade, the kids stayed with us for 4-7 days. The facility was an old grand hunting lodge surrounded by 4,000 acres. Most days we are on snowshoes learning about animals and plants in winter, and of course teaching the kids how to identify animals tracks ans signs. I loved it and still think it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, suited just for my liking. They don’t run the program any longer (sad), probably loss of funding ( surprise, surprise) but the kids got so much out of exploring, discovering, and learning about their own forests and such. Still love reading the stories of the winter woods….wish we had a bit more snow so that I could strap on the snowshoes and make a day of it!

  5. What a gorgeous fox photo. We have been watching our local foxes’ tracks this winter, to see how they react to the fence we put in last fall. So far, they have been trotting right around the fence and visiting their usual haunts (outside the fence), including the den they used last year. I will be interested to see if they raise any kits in that den, because the fence runs very near it. We are supposed to get more snow this week, so maybe you will get to do some snowshoeing.

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