Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Wilds of New York

The woods are teeming with animals that we never see. But as I walk through the snowy woods I keep my eyes trained on the ground, looking for the tracks of these invisible animals. With practice I can visualize the proceedings of the woods.

Squirrels abound, hopping every possible direction, up trees and across logs, to their stashes of nuts and under the snow. The woods appear to be more populated with deer than most towns are with people. They mostly stroll, traveling in groups of up to fourteen. Sometimes they drag their hooves as they mosey along. The bucks' hoof prints are almost twice as large as some of the does. This is one of the few animals I actually see. Today I counted 20.
All the deer convene at one spot in an open field. Here they have moved aside the snow to reach the bare dirt, which they lick to get minerals, much like my cows do at home. As I followed a herd of thirteen the wind shifted and I was able to inhale their scent. It was a nice reminder of home, as they smell just like clean cows in an open field.

Foxes are everywhere. They prefer to follow the nice clear trails rather than travel through brush, and frequently walk along the ridges of rock outcroppings to get a better view.
The raccoons mostly stay by the water, with the beaver pond being their favorite spot. They show their contempt for those beavers by urinating on top of the lodge. Today I saw where one walked along an icy log and slipped, almost falling but managing to pull himself back up despite his large gut. I could clearly see the front-paw prints (much like small human hands) grabbing at the snow, the extended arms and the expanse of flattened snow where his belly flopped.
A couple days later a squirrel capered across the same log, and then a small fox.
Tiny juncos bounce across the surface of the snow, scarcely leaving a mark. If I'm lucky, I'll see turkey tracks, and on a great day, I'll spot them for real. They dig through the snow and leaves to get to the dirt below. I assume they're feasting on bugs, roots and seeds.

I still wish I could see all these creatures, but when it's snowy and tracks cover the ground, the invisible show they put on is almost as good.

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