The Big, The Little and Everything In Between

I stepped out of the shower after a walk around town with friend Marita and heard someone chatting away on the answering machine. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have my glasses on, though what that has to do with it I don’t know, but I couldn’t ID the voice. The male yammered away about something in the snow and it had come last night and I had to get there quickly. For some reason I thought it was our eldest and I  wondered what it was that needed my immediate attention. So, I cautiously picked up the phone and said hello. The voice on the other end continued talking desperately about me going somewhere. “Who is this?” I asked. It was friend Dick and I should have recognized his voice, but maybe not having glasses on is like not being able to taste if your nose is stuffed. Or maybe I’m overthinking as usual. Dick, however, was not overthinking or overreacting. He was excited and knew I would be as well. He was standing in a friend’s yard about a half mile from here and looking at bear tracks in the snow.

b-bear 7

As he knew he would, he had me on the word “bear.” His voice was urgent as he insisted I stop everything and get to his friend’s house. “I just need to dry my hair and then I’ll be right there,” I said. Deadlines loomed before me but bear tracks won my internal war. Dick suggested I just wrap a towel around my head. Really, that’s what I should have done because my hair has no sense of style whether wet or dry, so after a few minutes I said the heck with it and popped into my truck, camera and trackards in hand.

b-bear2

Yup–bear tracks. Classic, beautiful bear tracks. Even nail marks above the toes.

b-pigeon toed

And the pigeon-toed gait.

b-bear 9

My heart be still. The bear certainly wasn’t.

b-bear fence

It trampled a garden fence.

b-bear 4

And yanked down a suet feeder that dangled from a wonderful rigging at second story height designed to keep the raccoons from stealing it. We couldn’t find the actual feeder.

b-feeder1

It toppled another feeder and consumed all the sunflower seeds. Oh, the squirrels may have helped, but apparently the feeder was stock full. Not any more. We looked for hair but found none.

b-trot

One of the mysteries to us was why did the bear suddenly trot. I’m now wondering if it was startled at some point and ran away.

b-bear 6

Before leaving, I enjoyed one more look. How sweet it is. And how thrilled I was to have seen it–especially knowing that it wouldn’t last long. The. Big.

b-feathers in circle

When I arrived home, I knew I needed to work, but figured a quick walk to check on the vernal pool was a great way to celebrate the bear tracks. And on my way–feathers. Long black feathers.

b-feather 1

Most were about a foot long.

b-feather 2

They appeared to be torn out rather than cut.

b-bird head

I know the neighborhood cats hang around our bird feeders all day–ever hopeful. But I don’t think they got this crow. I’ve a feeling a hawk was the culprit. The. In. Between.

b-snow on mount

It’s my neighborhood, so I always cast an eye toward the Mount. The. Big. Again.

b-vp1

The water level seems about the same as last week and a wee bit of Tuesday’s snow still decorated the  western shore.

b-tadpoles 3

Though the lighting wasn’t great at that hour, it was obvious that the tadpole population had increased.

b-sally1

And the salamanders continued to grow within their protective covering. The. Little.

b-woody1

I did finally settle down to work. And then it was lunch time. My guy and I weren’t the only ones dining.

b-woody lunch 1

After I finished two assignments and before I walked to a meeting, I decided to visit the pool again and capture the action in the late afternoon light. But first, an examination of the woodchuck’s feeding site. Yup, those leaves were nibbled.

b-woody lunch 2

And so were these. The. In. Between.

b-vp no snow

And then it was back to the pool, where the snow had melted. But, I have to share a finding along the way. Or rather, a non-finding. I intended to grab the crow head because I wanted the skull. Not. It wasn’t in the path where I’d seen it in the morning. I poked around and couldn’t find it anywhere. Who stole it? Maybe one of those darn cats.

b-tads 7

In the warmth of the sun at the eastern side of the pool where most of the egg masses were laid, the population continued to increase.

b-tads 10

I felt the same glee about all of these little critters as I felt about the bear tracks earlier in the day.

b-tads on sallies

Tadpoles and salamanders. I may not see bears tracks every day, but for a brief moment in time, I’m honored to watch the transformation that takes place in the vernal pool. The. Little. Times. Two.

Giving thanks for the ability to wonder. The Big. The Little. And Everything In Between. Especially Everything.

Signs of Life

I headed up to the vernal pool this afternoon with every intention of pausing along the way to sketch.

Mt Wash

The only snow left is atop Mount Washington.

vp1

Egg masses continue to accumulate. Blue sky with a few cumulous clouds, warm sunshine (almost too warm, but I’m not complaining), a gentle breeze, white-throated sparrows singing to each other–signs of life were everywhere.

FROG

Including this secretive wood frog. From above, his coloration matched the leaves beside and below.

frog2

We eyed each other as he floated near a large mass of eggs that have turned green with envy, I mean algae, in the past few days.  Their egg masses can include 500-1,500 eggs. Yooza!

sally eggs

Salamander eggs are either clear or opaque, like these two masses. They usually contain anywhere from 30 to 250 eggs.

at mansion road

My guy was sanding the dock at camp and I had finished several writing projects this morning, so I decided that rather than sit and sketch, I’d walk out to the log landing. Walking along the snowmobile trail was like walking in Clinton Harbor at low tide. The mud squelched underfoot, sucking in my boots. Rocks underneath felt like clams–maybe I was just hungry.trail

I headed down the logging road with mixed emotions. My heart cried, but my head knew better. Like other paths that I’ve frequented over the years, I loved this one and knew its quirky features well enough that I recognized the slightest change. Yup, that’s change you see in front of you. This logging operation has been going on for two years. Prior to that, the gray birches, paper birches and speckled alders, plus hemlock and white pine saplings bordered the old road. It was last logged about thirty years ago so those species grew in first. They’ve all been hacked down to make room for the equipment and trucks.

gray birch

I went in search of beauty and life among the destruction. Sometimes, you just have to look for it.

moose

One of the good things about such an operation is that it provides easy vegetation for wildlife, like the moose that are frequenting the trail.

moose bobcat

The herbivores, like moose and deer, love the easy feeding. And the bobcats like that the herbivores are easy feeding.

bobcat

A closer look at the bobcat tracks.

bobcat1

And even closer. I don’t often see bobcat claw marks, but muddy conditions warranted their use. In the back of the foot pad, you might see the imprint of hair.

bob scat

I was bound to find this. Bobcat scat–filled with dark organ meat and lots of hair. Bobcats, being carnivores, grind their prey right up with their sharp-pointed molars.

coyote scat

Coyotes, on the other hand, are omnivores and their molars are flatter, thus big bone chips pass through. The funny thing (to me anyway) about this scat, is that it looks exactly like some I found near the beaver lodge pond that I shared in yesterday’s May Day Celebration. Both were filled with extra large bone chips and hair. I took some of the scat I found yesterday. Today, I left it all.

Yes, my fetish for scat continues, but I only take a sample that will be an effective teaching tool. Really. And, I need to keep in mind that scat is a sign for other mammals–health, wealth and status quo are all wrapped up in it. If I take it, they have to work harder (or scat more) to get the word out about who and where they are. So, the next time you wander with me and we see some scat and I get all buggy-eyed over it, give me a nudge. OK, enough about scat.

weaselsquirrel

Dinner anyone?

Weasel and squirrel.

turkey

And the ubiquitous turkey.

landing

This is the second of two landing areas. When the job is completed, we’ll have new trails to explore via snowshoe–it’s rather wet and the trails are currently covered in a lot of slash.

The logging operation is a one-man job and he’s been selective. The end result, as ugly as it may look now, is that the ecosystem will be healthier because of this project. Grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and tree saplings will grow in–early succession. And the fauna will follow.

eggs at landing

The vernal pools associated with the area are still here for the most part–and show signs of life. I found wood frog and salamander egg masses. Even startled a couple of frogs, including a bull frog.

single

And just when you think that wood frogs only return to their natal vernal pools . . . here is proof they’ll take advantage of any water.

eggs

An opportunist recently used a wet depression in the landing.

Signs of life. No matter how devastated an area may look, they’re there.

Thanks for joining me on today’s wonder-filled wander.