Wandering the Winter Woods
It’s a cold, crisp, sunny day and a perfect day for a snowshoe through the woods. As I turn onto a path, I spot a large oval hole low down on a dead tree. I bet I know who did that. Do you? If you guessed pileated woodpecker, you are right. Often in winter, they create holes low down on a tee in search of insects that move down trees in winter. Very cool.
As I continue my walk, I spot a long wide swath down the face of a hill. That’s odd, wonder who made that? Now I remember, it’s an otter slide. Those playful critters love to slide down hills rather than walk or run. I saw evidence of them in the spring- some shells piled near the shore where they fed so no surprise they are hanging around this winter.
I come to a stone wall and go over to see what I might find around it. Hum, tracks going over the wall and along the side but they don’t match. This one is large but roundish, looks cat-like to me. I bet a bobcat has passed this way recently. But the other looks like my dog but she has not been here. I’m pretty certain it’s coyote. Two predators near each other, bet there are mice, squirrels or voles living in this wall that would make a tasty meal.
I’m getting cold so heading back and as I go I hear a flock of chickadees overhead. I love seeing them at the feeder but it’s even better seeing them in their natural habitat. They are being pretty noisy and it’s getting a bit dark, I wonder if a barred owl could be close. I heard one’s familiar, “Who cooks for you“ call last night. If I were a chickadee, I’d be nervous as well. But I think it’s more common for Cooper’s Hawks to eat birds. Barred owls seem to like rodents better.
I stroll next to a grove of hemlocks where the ground is all matted down. It’s been cold so I bet some deer have created deer beds under the cover of the trees. And look, there are numerous areas where they’ve dug into the snow. I would guess they think they’ll find acorns under the snow. It was not a good mast year for acorns so I hope they find some and don’t get too hungry and come munch on my blueberries.
My last pathway before I head up the hill to home. I glance at the rockpile and see familiar tracks leading to and from it. The porcupine who has lived there for years, produced young and foraged the hemlocks is out and about. I love seeing her waddle across my meadow in the evening. Her silly footprints are very distinctive on the ground.
Home at last. I have loved my walk in the woods. Tracks, sounds, and signs are everywhere, all I have to do is get dressed warmly and take a short hike and keep my ears and eyes open. Nature has so many things to show and teach us. All we need to do is be ready to learn. So go wander the woods!!
Written by: Amy Bodwell
CCCD Board Vice-Chair