Saturday, January 8, 2011

The woods in winter

This photo doesn't really tell the tale because you have nothing to give you size and perspective. These are actually pretty big trees, but you wouldn't know it. Anyway this is a hemlock grove near my house, and you see a beech tree in the center and the trunk of a tall oak to its right. It helps a lot to view the photo full size. And yes, that's a mylar balloon snagged in the beech tree. Civilization will track you down wherever you go . . .

It snowed overnight. When I stepped out in the morning, this critter, and maybe some of its friends, had left tracks all over the place. Note that it drags its tail through the snow. Anybody have an idea what it is? The prints are maybe 2 1/2" or 3" long.


  1. Maybe you could set up a familiar object next to the trees--lean a shovel against a trunk, for instance--to help with perspective.

    Couldn't tell much from what I saw of the tracks. If there are tracks tomorrow, try to get pic of a section of the trail where the shape of the foot is discernible; and also try to get a view that shows the pattern.

    My kneejerk guess, without really being able to tell anything from the photo, is that it's a river otter. But I say that because that's who leaves tracks with tail-drags...and much more fun, slides, where the otter body surfs over the snow...around my parts.

    I'll recommend one more book: Tracking and the Art of Seeing by Paul Rezendes.

  2. Your woods are beautiful, cervantes! I love CCorax's suggestion of leaning a shovel against a tree for perspective. Excellent.

    A river otter is a good guess too.

  3. I'm a good half mile from the Shettucket -- but we do have fishers, that's a possibility.

  4. Half mile wouldn't matter. They explore tiny little seasonal brooks, ponds the size of big puddles, larger brooks...anything that contains water and even the smallest of water creatures. Our river otter appears to cover quite a large territory. Also, fishers don't really leave tail drags.

    Let me quote Rezendes a bit about the difference between otter and fisher tracks: "One of the best ways to distinguish between the two is to look for the otter's heavy tail drag. The fisher rarely leaves a tail drag, and when it does, the drag mark is very light, registering only in very sensitive snow.
    When otters travel overland, they usually move straight from one body of water to another. In contrast, fishers take a lot of sharp turns, circling constantly, going from tree to tree."

  5. Hmm. That leaves me ambivalent. There is a pond nearby and I also have a vernal pool just 50 yards from those tracks. But the animal was definitely doing a lot of circling and running around. The snow was very soft and the tail drag was pretty light, though very consistently present. So, not sure.