Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 18, 2015

I was able to enjoy some long ski trips on Lake Wicwas this week as the firm crust supporting a layer of light snow, kept dry by the cold weather, made for fast and easy skiing.  I took the opportunity to travel around the shore line to find what animals have been active.  Before moving onto the ice though, I found ample evidence of small animals in the woods, including mice and squirrels collecting their food.

These tracks are from a mouse hopping from one hole to another near a tree, hoping to avoid a fox traveling in the same location.

Mouse Tracks

And foxes there are, plenty of them all around the lake.  Usually I see their tracks following along in mine, taking advantage of less taxing travel in my packed trail.  However at this moment the trail is frozen so unevenly that they are happier walking on top of the crust.
Note the Squirrel Track Crossing the Fox Track

Signs of red squirrels are omnipresent, with piles of chewed pine cones dotting the bases of white pines where they sat on a branch shredding cones.
Red Squirrel Picnic Spot
Out on the lake there are fox tracks almost everywhere along the shore and sometimes right across open expanses of ice.  Near the shore they trot along slowly looking for food, but out in the open where there is no prey they go into gallop to get across quickly.  At one point I saw a long trail across the ice that looked like a fox track from a distance, but closer approach revealed it was an otter.
Otter Tracks Across Lake Wicwas

When it came upon the slightest hump in the snow, it left an unmistakable calling card:  a belly-slide!
These tracks were in the cove at the entrance of Blake Brook.  Later, on the far opposite side of the lake I found a hole in the ice where the otters have come up and made a latrine.
Otter Latrine

There were no tracks going to or from this spot, and there were no other holes anywhere nearby;  it amazes me that otters can swim so far under the ice, and find a hole to come up for air.  I expect there are smaller  holes, unnoticed by me, where they can breath but are too small for them to emerge onto the ice.  Regardless, they must be pretty good navigators under the ice. 

Sadly, after today's rain event, there will be no more skiing until we get some fresh snow.
Freezing Rain in January!

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