Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Winter of Wonder continues....

A week gone by too quickly, and another week of sightings and tracks in this winter beyond anything I've experienced in the hamlet before. I am just including a few images. Snow is great for tracking, but no good for my little point-and-shoot digital camera.

Big news of the week as far as sightings go is the barred owl I saw on Friday. It was around 4:00 p.m. and I was in the cedar bush, the section just at the south end of the walk. I could hear chickadees up in the tree tops, and thought I'd try to call them down for a photo by "pishing", a sound birders use to entice birds into view. It works on many species in the breeding season, but chickadees, brave and curious as they are, will almost always respond, and will sometimes come down and fly around your head with no enticement, just because you're there in the bush where they didn't expect to see you.

So, I pished a couple of times and an enormous bird flew in, right by me, landing on a dead tree, about 6 feet up, and 6 feet from where I was standing. A barred owl. The bird stared at me, I stared at it. It started looking around so I gave the first bit of my rendition of the barred owl call (I get the rhythm, but the tone is more like that of the great horned), it looked at me again. I had my camera turned on and in my hand, but there were a few branches between us, so I moved a little to get a clearer shot. The owl took off, landed briefly nearby, but pretty much out of my sight, and by the time I'd moved again it was gone.

I did manage to get a picture of some deer tracks, heading towards the open water in the swap in the cedar bush. It looked as if there were at least two, maybe three or four, deer travelling together.

Some say drag marks, such as seen here, are indicative of a buck.

The foxes were all around the yard two different nights this past week. On the second night, one of them came right across the patio outside the back door. One of the nights the rabbits all stayed home, but the other they were around too. And once again a skunk came through the yard--through pretty deep snow. It isn't really skunk weather yet, though I have heard reports of the odour of skunk in the evening air already this year.

We also had a great gray owl in the yard. I would never have seen it, sitting on a dead tree at the back property line, were it not for the crow that came screaming in to roust it. It looked as if the crow actually hit it, but my view wasn't good enough to be sure. But that owl sure took off. The crows are becoming increasingly territorial as the days lengthen. We see them harassing ravens almost every day lately. (Ravens nest in the woods around here, notably, over in Vanderwater Conservation Area, but the crows try to keep them out of the fields and the hamlet.)

I got out on the walk midweek and took a couple of pictures in the nighbourhood of the fox den, on the far side of the far field.

Rabbits love black locust!

The countryside around here is plagued by a couple of plant species, at least plagued from the point of view of hikers and scramblers like myself. One is the black locust. As a tree it grows very large and with a very pleasing shape. But it has a prolific suckering habit, and grows into a brambly hedgerow long after the main tree is gone.

It is described as having stout twigs with short, heavy thorns. The photo doesn't really do it justice. Those thorns will go through almost any clothing--and cause inflammation as well as bleeding from the holes they make in the skin of the careless.

It is amazing to me that the rabbits seem to enjoy these thorny twigs so much.

Back door of the fox den.

There are three entrances into the den, here in the midst of shrub black locusts, raspberries and other assorted shrubbery. Last year, and other years, the area has been littered with fur, bones, and feathers (including the remains of a skunk), advertising the presence of the foxes. Right now the area is covered with rabbit tracks and scats. Makes me suspect the foxes aren't in residence. I guess my yard foxes are either new foxes, or else the same old field foxes but have decided to den elsewhere this year. But it's early yet.

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