ASP – Day Two

On my second day at the Park I decided to try a more challenging chunk of trail.  After all my troubles with my back and knees this winter, I was a little worried, but I managed OK!  I started at ASP 3 and hiked north along the North Country / Finger Lakes Trail.  This section of trail is very rocky at the beginning and very steep.  My heart was pumping hard!  Toward the crest the snow became deeper and covered the trail making my footing a bit unstable, so I turned back.  Still, I was on the trail for three and a half hours, taking loads of pictures – many of which I’m not ready to show… yet!

If hikes have themes, this hike was all about macros, scat, and butterflies.

Honey Mushroom rhizomorphs (Armillaria mellea)

A fallen log, covered with sapsucker holes that were beginning to be covered with moss.

I’m pretty sure this was fox scat.

And this is probably from a coyote.

I have no idea what this is, but there were at least a couple of piles of it and Lolli felt obliged to roll in it.  Very odoriferous!

There was also plenty of deer and turkey scat, which I didn’t photograph…

As the sun warmed up the air, the Mourning Cloaks began their bouncy flight all around me. Most of them teased and would not allow a photo. This poor tattered thing rested long enough for me to close.


Cross Country Skiing at Audubon

IMG_1980The trails at the Audubon Center & Sanctuary are truly multipurpose trails. No, that doesn’t mean that snowmobiles, ATVs, bicycles, and horses are allowed. Hikers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and a myriad of animals ARE allowed. I had the pleasure of skiing on Saturday (after Heather had blazed and refined the trail several days during the week – Thank you, Heather!). Here are some of the animal tracks I saw. I’ve indentified them with my best guesses. If you know better, please correct me!

The first tracks I stopped to photograph were on the big field:

I’m pretty sure these were squirrel tracks. Funny how he went under the snow for a bit, then emerged to continue hopping over the surface!

IMG_1985 IMG_1986
Looks like the feral cat who’s been hanging around the Center lately.

I’m pretty sure I saw mink footprints in at least three places along the trail: (1) out on the big field, (2) just on the other side of the Big Pond embankment, and (3) on the “Forever Bridge” and around the bank toward the photo blind on Spatterdock Pond. Here are some examples of what I saw:

(1) Big Field:


(2) On far side of Big Pond Embankment:
Seems like it was coming from the right, then sliding into the trail itself:

Then on the other side of the trail, it seems to have investigated the area under the tree before bounding off toward the pond:

Here are some classic mouse prints with the tail drag between them:

I’m just not exactly sure what these are, but I suspect they were made by vole:

Lest you think all footprints are made by mammals, I also saw these Great Blue Heron prints:

What do you think? Did I get the IDs right?

Someone Has Been Here Before!

On the same day that I photographed the barn, I was struck by the number of animal tracks I saw…

These were coming up out of the woods on one side of the road, then crossing and disappearing into shrubs on the other side of the road:grouse
Ruffed Grouse

At the end of the day when I was walking back to my car, I scared the poor fellow out…  He flew up into some pines.

I tried to imagine exactly what happened here:Deer
White-tailed Deer

It looks like the deer was dragging its toes.  Then scratched for bit to get to the grass… And are those larger imprints from its nose?

Mouse and Squirrel prints were everywhere!
Mouse Highway and squirrel

Although I found myself wondering the difference between mouse and vole, red squirrel and grey…

 Now who do you suppose did this?
Curious Tracks
A shrew perhaps??

Something came up from Subnivea, ran around in a sloppy figure eight, and jumped back down under the snow.  Curious…

These prints were just outside one of the barn windows:

These were very tiny, too:
More Shrew Tracks, perhaps?

I suppose this could be anyone:

But I’m going to guess it was a mole.

It sure would be fun to see all the critters that left these tracks… But alas, I saw only the grouse.

Forest Floor in Winter: Sans Snow – Part IV – Animal Signs

All around us, folks are getting snow… Still just a dusting here.  Do I sound like a broken record?  Here are more photos from last Sunday:

Hickory Nut Snack
Somewhere I have a book that helps you know who ate a nut based on what the shell looks like.  Can’t find it… nor could I figure out what to type into a search engine on line to find a suitable website…  So maybe one of my readers has tips?

Hickory Nut Cache
I’m guessing Red Squirrel.  Unlike Gray Squirrels, who tend to hide their nuts singly, one here, another there, Red Squirrels will create a cache containing a great deal of food.  Or, could it be remains of a Chipmunk Feast?  Hmmm….

What the heck is that?...
This photo represents a bit of an embarassment to me.  I originally posted it on Flicker with the title “Scat and a Hole.”  Gavatron, a visitor to the picture, posted this comment:  “Is that scat? They look like brown dead caterpillars to me. Weird.”  I looked more closely at the photo and realized he was right!  I’m puzzled by this…  the hole is very small – it was a tight fit for my thumb – and it seems to go quite deep and away…  Odd…  Any ideas?

Bottle and Scat
Believe it or not, I first noticed the rather old scat on the log at right before I noticed the bottle.  There were plenty of beverage containers in the woods, sad to say.  It is something I just cannot understand.

Dear Anheiser-Busch:  I challenge you to launch an effective campaign that will keep your customers from doing this.  Sincerely, The Woods.

Tomorrow:  Greenery  (This will be the last in this series!  I’ll have to go take more pictures!  Poor me… ha ha…)

Mystery Skull

Can you tell what it is?I don’t know how Patrick saw it.  It was a fair distance off the trail wedged in the root mass of an upturned tree.  I can’t imagine how it got there and why we didn’t find other bones.  Just this.

We were in the hemlock stand on the far side of Spatterdock pond where the ground rolls with pits and mounds.  We had to walk a balance beam formed by another fallen tree (and not fall into the puddles and muck) to get to the root mass to see the skull in the spot where it was discovered.

After extraction, I took this photo in my hand for scale:

Can you tell now?

OK, Nature Geeks…. What are your guesses?

(You can say anything…  I don’t know the real answer.  If I were out with kids, I KNOW what they would say:  Dinosaur!)

Embarassed by my Dog

Last week, while hiking at the gorge (and yes, Dave… the gorge is beautiful in winter!) we came to a spot in the trail that was blocked by a fallen beech.  That, of course, did not stop my dog.  As we picked our way around the blockade, Lolli, pretty much in the middle of the fallen beech, started barking like crazy.  I couldn’t tell if she was stuck, or just stubborn.

Terry said, “Just call your dog.”  Easy for him to say.  He has a well-behaved dog.  (I guess I should have gone to dog-training school.)  I called and called and called.  I kept thinking of a Julie Zickefoose post in which she wrote of her dog, “Don’t make me use the Darth Vader voice.”  Porcupine - No - ReallyAs I strained to see if maybe her collar was stuck on a branch, I finally noticed the cause of the commotion.  At the base of the tree was a porcupine.

Oh geeze… that’s all we need… a dog with her mouth full of quills.  “You better go up there and get your dog.”  Yeah, I knew that.  My dilemma, of course, was do I take the camera with me or not.  Hahaha!  Am I obsessed, or what?  Luckily, I didn’t have to climb very far up the hill before the porcupine decided to waddle away and up a tree.  Once it was out of reach, Lolli lost interest and re-joined us.  From a distance and without a long lens, I attempted a shot of the critter.  He’s up there… really!

Porcupine PottyLater, after we had eaten lunch, I was wandering around the campsite and found quite the pile of porcupine scat.  Oval, full of wood fiber, and according to Stokes, “sweet-smelling” – though I didn’t use my nose to test this assertion!  For me, the fact that it was the right size, shape, consistency and in the right location was enough for a positive ID!  Besides, there was a quill right in the middle of it!

Porcupine Quill




Apparently porcupine scat is quite tasty, too, since both dogs decided to snack on it.  Why do dogs do that???

Porcupines are not the fastest animal in the world…  They don’t need to be, given their protective quills.  Unlike the porcupines you have seen in cartoons who can take aim and shoot their quills, real porcupines can do no such thing.  Contact must be made with the quill, which will then easily fall out of the porcupine and become attached to you.  Backward-pointing barbs and the heat of your skin will ensure that the quill works its way deeper into your skin and it will take quite a bit of effort to get it out again!  When a dog has a run-in with a porcupine, the vet may give sleepy-time medicine before yanking quills with plyers.

Porcupine by Jeff TomeA huge pile of scat either at the base of a hollow tree or near some rocks usually means that you have found a porcupine den.  A small amount of scat may be found under feeding trees.  Porcupines are particularly fond of eastern hemlock which they will climb to get at the upper branches.  They won’t eat the last foot or so of the branch though and will drop it on the ground where it may become welcome food for deer.

My dog did not manage to get a snoutful this time.  With her curiosity, though, I fear it is only a matter of time.

P.S.  I snagged this photo of a porcupine from Jeff Tome’s Flickr site.  He’s so busy with his new baby, he probably won’t even notice!

Nature’s Agenda

I went out specifically to photograph more tiny critters in the snow.  The only trouble is, that’s not what nature presented me this time.  She provided plenty… enough for at least three blog posts!  Tube moths were first.  This is the second… one more to go.

Rabbit and Dog or Coyote orThe ponds at Audubon were frozen and covered with just the tiniest dusting of snow.  In that snow were plenty of footprints!  The traffic patterns in this one looked benign – the rabbits travelling east-west, the dog/coyote/fox? heading south.  I don’t think the dog-like prints were fox; fox tracks are usually in a straight line.  I suppose it could have been the neighbor’s dog.  I want to believe it was a coyote.  Here’s another shot… what do you think?

Dog or Coyote or

Goose FootprintsThese (at right) must be Wobbly Goose’s prints…  He walks in such a weird, bow-legged way.  You can read more about Wobbly at a previous post.

Wobbly Goose

Goose DancingI’m hoping these prints (at left) are from New Goose.  If they are, it means she is getting closer to the building.  I’d like for her to meet Wobbly, so maybe they can spend the winter together.  Ever since Broken Goose disappeared, we have worried about Wobbly being lonely.  (Yeah, we’re weird that way!)

New Goose

I’ve written before about asking the forest to show me something in particular.  It works sometimes.  Other times, nature has her own agenda… and that can be wonderful, too.  No tiny critters on top of the snow this time… but plenty of other stuff, to be sure.

Tiny Snow Critters and Other Stuff

Ann and Jeff on Redwing TrailAfter too much looking at a computer screen, and too much laminating of pictures for classroom presentation props… it was time for a walk outside.  Jeff and Ann came with me.  We went to the tower, then around Spatterdock Pond… a walk that would take a normal person about 20 minutes…  not naturalists, though…  Too much to see… too much to learn…

New GooseFirst we had to say hi to New Goose.  This goose showed up in late fall.  It seems perfectly healthy.  Why it didn’t travel with a flock, we don’t know.  We’d like to lure it to the backyard and introduce it to Wobbly Goose.  No luck so far.

Then we had to ponder berries and speculate as to why Ann’s Winterberry didn’t have berries.  Did the neighbor accidentally mow down the female shrub?  (Or maybe the male – so the female couldn’t get pollinated.)  Don’t tell anyone, but we sneaked a few berries into her pocket so she can try to plant new bushes at her house.

Winterberry Holly

SpiderThe most interesting part was when we got into the hemlock woods behind Spatterdock Pond.  We started seeing all kinds of tiny critters right on top of the snow.  For example, we saw at least 30 spiders in just a few yards of walking!  There were at least two different species… maybe more?

Another Spider

Beetle Larva?  Maybe?There were caterpillars, too, though I didn’t get a photo, and this weird looking thing…  a beetle larva perhaps?  (Jeff seems to think it is a Soldier Beetle – Cantaris fusca.  I’m not so sure.  It doesn’t quite match up with those in other photos.  See link to Bev Wigley below.)


Snow Flea - or Springtail...  I know it's hard to see - looks like pepper on the ground under a tree - but pepper that MOVES!The springtails were out at the base of trees, too… they look like pepper on the ground, but when you get real close, you realize they are moving.

This little Scout didn’t make it, poor old girl.  Found her on the ground just outside her hive. Those are Jeff’s fingers holding her:
Honey Bee

Wanna see more tiny snow critters?  Go to this site: Bev Wigney!

Turkey TracksOn the way back to the building, we pondered over turkey tracks, including one that confused us for a while, but we finally decided was Tom’s tail (not you, Mon@rch).

 Turkey Tail Drag
(Photography note:  as you can see, I haven’t quite mastered getting the snow the color I want it.  Still working with that notion of over-exposing for snow photos.  I’ll be working on that a lot this winter, I suspect!)

Is it Witch-hazelOh, and while I was photographing these yellow flowers and trying to decide – are they witch-hazel? – Jeff and Ann watched a mink playing in the snow on Spatterdock Pond.  I missed it!

Can you see how a 20 minute walk easily turns into an hour?