I planned to accomplish so many things since I had time off this past week. And I did check a couple of items off my list, but . . . most of my time was spent wandering and wondering in the woods behind our house.
Sometimes I followed trails known only by those who like to zoom through this space and never really see.
Other days I bushwhacked, eager to discover what might present itself.
Always I was reminded that this has long been my classroom and its taught me many a lesson, including that the bracts of the Witch Hazel flower persist in the winter and offer a dash of color in the landscape. Notice how each flower consisted of four bracts that curl back. The ribbony flowers fell off in the fall. And I have to admit that there was a time when I thought these were the flowers.
While bushwhacking, debris on the snow drew my attention and of course I had to investigate.
Much to my delight, I found a couple of Pileated Woodpecker scats filled with insect bodies. And notice all the chiseled wood–it’s a lot of work, but I’m always happy to note via the scat that the attempt was successful.
Equally successful was the digging of a Red Squirrel who had cached a pile of hemlock cones and returned within the last few days to dine and leave behind a midden of cone scales–its garbage pile.
This is a truly wild place that serves as home to so many mammals and birds and I give thanks to them for leaving behind prints and other signs of their presence. Of course, I was looking for the resident Moose, who has eluded me so far, but the White-tailed Deer are everywhere, including sucking seed from our bird feeders every night.
The Turkeys haven’t discovered our feeders yet, but by their prolific tracks I know they are nearby.
I’ve also been noting many, many Snowshoe Hare tracks, some in places I don’t recall seeing them previously and methinks there is plenty of prey available for predators. One of the learnings these woods have offered is that the hare’s prints can throw one off on ID, especially when the snow is soft and its hind feet (top of photo as they always land in front of where the front feet landed and lifted off) spread out and leave more toe impressions than one typically sees.
Of course, no visit to these woods is complete without a check-in at the vernal pool. And this week I discovered two other pools to check on in the spring. But those are for another day three months away.
For all my wandering, actually spying wildlife is rather rare, but from inside our kitchen door sometimes we see so much. Every few nights a porcupine pays us a visit. And every night four healthy looking deer stop by as I said earlier. But on these stormy days, the feeders see the most action and today’s visitors included Tufted Titmice,
and American Goldfinches studying the scene.
Eventually, this male flew to the ground and dug in, much like the Red Squirrel in the woods.
Time and time again, he knew success.
Mr. Cardinal also dove in.
And his Mrs. came by as well. One day we actually spotted two Cardinal couples in the yard.
One of the joys of the feeders is that those who visit add color to the scene and it soon became apparent that red was the color of the day, this time with the spots on the back of the Downy Woodpecker’s head indicating it was a male.
Another male of another species also showed off his red coloration.
I was tickled to welcome a couple of House Finches. And do you see the deer hair on the snow to the upper right of his beak?
It’s that time of year when the Juncos also pay a visit and keep the red theme going with their pink beaks.
Not all birds are created equal or don’t tell the Gray Squirrel he’s not a bird because like the deer and porcupine, he’s sure that the seed and nuts are meant for his pleasure. Certainly.
This was my week, a week spent happily dilly-dallying in my place and giving thanks for past and present and future lessons. A week spent wondering and wandering alone. And it was topped off with this icy sculpture in the woods that reminded me of a bird’s head–it seemed apropos, but I did have to wonder how it formed. Ahhhh, not all is meant to be understood in this school of choice.
How well do you know your place?