Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 21, 2016

2016 is turning out to be the year of the rodent - there's just no end to the stories they are telling this year.  A couple of weeks ago I noted ten red squirrels in the yard at once - they were everywhere!  But recently, ever since I've seen the hawk flying over the cove on an almost daily basis, the squirrels have become much more scarce - only two or three, and frequently none.  Even the gray squirrels have gone AWOL, and I'm pretty certain it's not a coincidence.  Well, this week I found where at least one squirrel has gone off to, and it wasn't pretty.  Consider this fair warning to those who would rather not experience the harsh reality of nature up close!

Walking along a well trod trail, right in the middle of the path I found a bloody bit of creature.  

By the whiskers and markings, I presume it is the remains of a red squirrel, apparently the nose and skull of the little guy.

Located under a large tree with a branch protruding over the trail, I surmise a hawk - but maybe an owl - caught the animal near by and then sat on the branch and tore it apart, devouring the portions it liked, and leaving this remnant behind.

Its little teeth, fine for grinding seeds and other small food, were no defense against a predator.
These are teeth made for grinding - not much help in a fight

Here are a couple of somewhat more-intact specimens I saw this week, and they were doing their best to keep an eye out for trouble.

But sometimes they just have to go heads-down in search food, and that would be the time for action.
Hurry up, dear!

I wonder if birds watch and wait for that moment to launch their attack.

Later, out in the middle of the lake I was attracted to some animal tracks that appeared to come from nowhere, just random tracks in the snow with no path coming or going.

Going to investigate, it became clear these were the marks of a very large bird.

Large footprints

And there was another small smattering of left overs.

I don't know what event took place here;  I doubt a bird landed to eat - it would be too exposed and there were no other leftovers to be seen.  Perhaps one bird was being harassed by another, and it dropped its meal, and one went down to collect it?  I guess this is just one more mystery that Lake Wicwas will keep to itself.

Have you noticed the sun is getting brighter, and higher in the sky, and the noon-time shadows a bit shorter?  Mating season for red squirrels and many other animals is about to begin, so their population will rebound quickly.  And just in time for the subsequent mating season of owls and hawks which will take advantage of the increased food supply to nourish their offspring. 

Days are noticeably longer now - only four weeks to the equinox!

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