Winter is coming to an end and Spring is just around the corner. I should have written this blog a couple of months ago but I was our recently with my camera and found some tracks in the snow. Sometimes, you might not see the animal or bird that is in the woodlot but these tracks show me that they are there, happily living in my woodlot. Winter is not my personal favorite time of year, however, it is a good time of year to look for signs of our winter residents. I do enjoy getting out to see these signs life, even if I don’t see the actual wildlife that made these tracks.
Rabbits, which are actually Snowshoe Hare in my area, are usually one of the most plentiful mammals found in the woodlot. They are very active winter animal and therefore leave lots of tracks to find. It is important to me to know there is a healthy population of rabbits as they are a prime food source for some of the larger hawks and owls. These birds of prey are welcome in my woodlot and I know I can do some things to encourage them to live here. Things like creating good habitat for some of their favorite food sources. Great topic for a future blog.
By getting out in the winter and looking for the tracks it is possible to do a bit of senses taking. The more tracks found by one species or another is an indication of how plentiful they are. On my outing on this day I found a lot of mice tracks. There are several species of woodland mice and I am not an expert in these small rodents. However, they too are an important part of the food chain and ecosystem of the woodlot. Some mice will tunnel under the snow where they are of course safely out of site of potential predators.
Squirrel tracks are another commonly found track in the snow. Although they spend most of their time in the tree tops they often come down to the ground or snow. You will usually see their track running from the base of one tree to the base of another tree. Squirrels will often knock their food to the ground and then come down later to pick it up. You can especially see them do this in the Autumn. There are two species of squirrels that I know live in the woodlot. Besides the red squirrel there are also very elusive and seldom seen flying squirrels.
Ruffed Grouse, commonly called partridge in our area, are a common bird found in the woodlot. They spend a lot of time on the ground walking. Their tracks are distinctive. The photo shows a long sliding landing site. I think a crusty layer of snow was covered with a light dusting of new snow and perhaps gave this larger bird a bit of a surprise landing. The signs of wildlife living in the woodlot in the winter can be pretty noticeable if you take the time to look. It can make a winter walk on snowshoes or skis more enjoyable.
One mammal I almost never see but can usually find tracks in the winter is the Ermine. Ermine, which are commonly called weasels, are quite elusive. Like our snowshoe hare, they turn white in the winter and back to their brown and white color in the summer. They are a carnivore and prey on mice and voles among other creatures. They are very fast-moving and any small mammal has little chance of escaping them. They are also known to climb trees where they may find the occasional birds nest but they seem more at home on the ground. Winter can be a quieter time of year for viewing wildlife. A lot of species are either further south or hibernating. But it is also a good time of year to look for signs of life that you might not see the rest of the year. If you are like me, I am looking forward to spring and the return of many of the migrating birds and sleeping mammals.
Until next time, keep safe and well.
***Click on any photo to get a larger image.***