Today is the Spring Equinox of 2021. But, really, this post is a summary of the last season in photos since it is so overdue. The global pandemic kept me grounded which meant I and others did lots more clearing last spring of unwanted plants in the meadow. Ryan and Emily cleared truckload after truckload …
Since I can’t manage to mount a little hunting camera I bought over a year ago, I have to use fresh snow to record traffic through the yard at night. It works pretty well when the tracks clearly resemble the mud prints in the Animal Tracks of New England book I use, and when I apply Occam’s razor.
We nearly got through the winter without snow, but on 13 February, we had enough to find tracks.
See the clear tracks of a raccoon and deer in the photos.
The raccoon tracks appeared around the house before heading into the field; the deer tracks were down at the bottom of the field near the blueberry bushes.
Deer tracks, of course, are unmistakable, but I was also catching sightings of a family of three deer nearer the house and even in daylight. They would hang out grazing in the early morning beyond the guest house and around the compost pile before cutting across the field.
I got a photo of each of them but only post two. Not wanting the area around the guest house to become part of their regular route, I sprayed there with Deer Out. That seems to have worked well. I have not seen them there or anywhere of late.
On 28 February we had more snow. Before I could get out to check for new tracks, I saw what looked like a fisher cat or maybe a mink. He came out of the woods by the pond at the bottom of the field. I grabbed my bins for a closer look and, after a safe interval of time, my boots and camera. This snow was very wet and I did not get a good impression. I also could not match the footprint to either fisher or mink. For one thing, the impression this animal left was smaller.
Mid afternoon today, 17 March, I looked out the kitchen window and saw what I realized was the same animal. But this was Oscar, the neighbor’s cat. He not been around for months maybe because his master and mistress have put their house on the market and even, I thought, moved away. Certainly Oscar had retreated from my concerns. Yet today there was no denying that Oscar was back. I could see his white paws even if I could not see his white bib. And yes, he must have been my fisher or mink. Think horses, not zebras.
Just this afternoon I caught a glimpse of an Eastern bluebird and his mate. When they are here in March, there is a chance that they have chosen one of my bird houses as a nesting spot. But they were in the part of the field that Oscar had just been prowling. Please find a buyer for Oscar’s house! The bluebirds join me in this fervent hope.
A blizzard Friday night created a perfect canvas for animal tracks. But for two nights and days, only the birds and I left any marks in the snow. Then this morning I saw tracks. They ran from the fence about 20 feet into the meadow and stopped.
Trekking out to get a better look was hard. The snow came up to my knees. Near the fence, where a row of trees had blocked some of the snow accumulation, the tracks showed distinct toenails, pads and a stride of about a foot. In the deeper snow further from the fence, was a tail imprint. Coyote, I surmise.
Why did the tracks stop a few feet from the fence? On closer look, I see they double back. The coyote had the same problem I had with the deep snow only its legs were half as long. Remembering Winslow Homer’s fox, the coyote must have decided to avoid the deep snow.