Friday, January 22, 2010

Traffic in the Yard

We have had a proper winter so far this year, meaning the snow-cover has been continuous this month. On one week in particular, conditions were cold and still enough that every animal print stayed crisp.

Traffic in the front yard, above, show clearly where animals feel most comfortable moving about. (There were bunnies on the doorstep.) In the woods behind the house, the tracks were so overlapped as to be one big jumble in places.

Whatever made these tracks in my neighbor's yard was pretty wide. The track is too small to be made by humans. The feet dragged too much for deer. Possibly it's the neighborhood coyote. (We finally got a good look at him in December, when he took a leisurly stroll across the yard.) But why would the coyote be running in zigzags?

I'm not sure if this is a coyote print, or a quirk of melting snow. More likely it is a deer print that just happened to toss the snow in a pattern that looks like toes. The snow was getting pretty sloppy when I took this photo.

Deer prints are usually the easiest to identify, even after significant melt. Smaller critters still baffle me, though. I usually can't tell the difference between gray squirrel and bunny. Fox and cat are also impossible to tell apart. Or perhaps that's raccoon I'm seeing. Heck, for all I know some of the prints could belong to a fisher cat. The neighbors have seen one about in recent years.

I should mention that our little red squirrel is back. I don't know if they range farther in the winter, or if they are just easier to spot when the leaves are gone and the ground is white.

In between some bunny-sized tracks here you can see where something tiny went skittering along. Perhaps it is one of the mice that have more recently moved into our basement.

This is my favorite. Figured it out yet?

. . .

It's a print made from the tail, legs, and wing-tips of a crow as it went hopping and flapping. I'm not sure if it was coming in for a landing or taking off.

Deer tracks leading away to the neighbor's well. That's the same route the coyote took when he left the yard, too.


Pam J. said...

Nice! I also take pictures of wildlife prints in the snow, especially those that don't make sense to me. It's been said that we have coyotes here in the metro DC area but I've not seen one...yet. I agree: it's been a "proper" winter.

Michelle said...

I used to live in the metro DC area! My parents are still there, in fairfax Station. They've been enjoying the snow, too. Stay safe on those icy roads!