The word went out last night: “Trails aren’t perfect but much better than they were! We need a few people to snowshoe Moose Alley so I can get the snowmobile up there. Jim is going to snowshoe some tomorrow and the more it is packed down the sooner I can groom up there. 😁 Both bridges are done. Still waiting on the snow roller.”
Nothing like a challenge and so I immediately contacted a few peeps and asked if they were in. They didn’t hesitate and we agreed to meet at the trailhead at 11am. After all, our services were needed.
We’d first explored this property a year ago and fell in love immediately and have returned once or twice since, but not at all in the last six or seven months. Therefore . . . it was about time. Ah, but what is time?
It took us at least a half hour to move beyond the farmhouse, for every three feet we needed to stop and chat–asking each other questions and offering suggestions about a Bugs in Winter course we’re enrolled in and trying to better understand.
But . . . another reason for loving winter soon presented itself, first in the form of snowshoe hare prints, the toes actually showing in present snow conditions.
The print left behind by a mature White-tailed Deer measures about two inches across, while a Moose print is about 4.5 inches. This one at three inches, with a deep depth in the snow, spoke to us as a youngster of the latter.
And right behind that a bed. A Moose bed. The smooth, rounded edge indicated the mammal’s back, with its legs folded below (left side of the photo) and head just left of the beech sapling.
Scat and urine presented themselves in a variety of spots including filling individual prints.
As we followed the track, we noticed another design in the snow that took a moment to interpret for it didn’t present a pattern that bespoke a bird or mammal.
Examining the Red Maple sapling that dangled over the design in the snow, however, solved the mystery–and we chuckled as the story began to make sense. In the act of dining on fresh buds, the Moose broke the branch, which consequently dangled below, and wrote its own story in the snow.
Slipping further off trail, (sorry Becky, but we couldn’t resist) Moose tracks led to another bed and we realized by its size and the size of related prints, that this was a bigger animal. Mama perhaps? Again, we could see how she bedded down, her legs tucked under as is the typical fashion.
A bit further on and another, deeper Moose track. Notice how far down the animal’s foot sank in comparison to my snowshoe. Yikes.
A tramp through the woods and we found the bed of a larger Moose. Actually, there were two in this area, and maybe we missed a third, but the point is that there’s an active clan in these woods and our hearts rejoiced.
Finding a scat-filled print shaped like a heart certainly added to our joy and brought more chuckles in the midst of admiration and awe.
Suddenly, though there was nothing sudden about it for it took us about 2.5 hours to reach this point, we found ourselves standing beside Moose Bog–and scanned the landscape for an anomaly, hoping beyond hope that we might spot a family member seeking sun. That wasn’t to be.
Despite the lack of an actual sighting of a Moose, we were tickled to know that we snowshoed in their recent presence and so we posed and said, “Cheese.” Can you see our smiles?
In the same spot we looked for a species we first encountered in this very area last year. And found it upon the very same structures–a Speckled Alder and American Beech. It’s a sooty mold known scientifically as Scorias spongiosa or, my favorite and drum roll please . . . Beech Aphid Poop-Eater: A fungus that consumes the scat (frass in insect terms) of a Beech Blight Aphid (not the same as Beech Scale Insect that causes Beech Bark Disease). We’ve more to learn, but were regaled with the opportunity to spot it in the same spots again.
Our insect hunt included a Winter Firefly, some Pine Sawfly Cocoons, these former Gypsy Moth pupating cases and a few unknowns.
This tiny cocoon attached to two pine needles was one such find. With further study I trust we’ll confidently be able to state its name and origin. Lots of further study. We have so much to learn and appreciate the ability to notice, bounce questions off each other, and wonder.
There’s so much to wonder about . . . and to think we’d only explored one trail in the midst of many. When we began our exploration at 11am, I told Pam and Pam (aka Pam Square) that I needed to hit the road by 4pm in order to take a phone call at 5. Exactly five hours later we made our way. back to the trailhead. And as you can see, the sun was heading over the hills.
At last, back to the farm we were, home of among others, two Norwegian Fjord horses named Marta and Kristoff blankety, blank, blank, he being the younger of the two.
Marta looked a bit bored with us and ready to fall asleep. We noted her trimmed bangs and longer mane.
Young Kristoff was more ready to pose, his bangs longer than groomed mane.
He seemed to understand our adventure–sticking his tongue out as if to comment on some of our questions and interpretations.
And laughing at other times. It’s OK, Kristoff, we laughed a lot as well as we explored the land you know as home at Notch View Farm on Route 113 in Chatham, New Hampshire, just over the Maine line.
Thanks be to Becky and Jim for sharing their land with all of us. There’s so much more to it, but we love taking the slow tour.