Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Mystery After the Blizzard

  Front yard Saturday evening.


Asters, and a white pine that will shelter birds in another decade or two.


Saturday's blizzard left frozen waves having troughs with barely a foot of snow while peaks approached 

three feet–and spots bizarrely bare around many trees.  That night I dusted off the snowshoes I'd 

purchased after after the snowy winter of 2015. I sank halfway to my knees with each step and promptly

fell. With my snowshoes floating a foot higher than my hands as I tried to rise, I recalled that the 

snowshoes had come with ski poles!  Today, though, in snow consolidated by the two intervening days, 

the snowshoes proved their worth.  

Curious to find what animals had been about, I went track hunting.  My first surprise was the garage 

where local stray cats often shelter in cold weather: no sign of any coming and going.  Were the cats 

trapped, or gone from the neighborhood, or was the snow simply too deep for them?  If the last, where 

were they sheltering?  

In the backyard and the scrubby woods behind I expected to find the usual bird and squirrel tracks, and 

hoped for coyote.  (It's been years since a coyote regularly visited us in hopes, I suppose, that the egg 

shells in our compost signaled the presence of actual eggs.)  There were no coyote tracks, and barely 

even any squirrel tracks.  Only a few short trackways showed squirrel travel mostly between very small 

trees.  Perhaps these trees were too small to feed a squirrel, or perhaps there weren’t branches near 

enough for aerial travel between such small trees.


A few places that drew my interest turned out to be irregular marks of snow and ice fallen from trees.

Long shadows.

Then I spotted tracks made by something that bounded rhythmically to make larger impressions about 

a foot apart.  The back of each impact was marked by a pair of wedge-shaped impressions that 

somehow made me think of a Batman silhouette.  The front of some of these impacts had a single pair 

of small, much-deeper impressions.  (The scattering of snow left when the animal leapt back upwards 

after each impact showed the direction of travel.)  Although some of these trackways.went from tree to 

tree, most of the eight or nine I saw either began or ended in the open–several feet away from the 

nearest tree.  





A bird then, a raptor, even, perhaps sometimes dropping from a low perch, its wingtips making the 

“batman” ears on either side.  


Was the bird hunting?  There were no smaller tracks. Could hidden rodents even be detected beneath 

so much snow? The impacts didn’t seem deep enough to reach the ground beneath, and there was 

never confusion of the snow showing a struggle.  All unsuccessful hunting?


And why so many hops in succession?? 



For now, the mystery remains.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Nippenicket Autumn


Nippenicket Pond, at the southestern edge of the great Hockomock Swamp.  Paddled clockwise. 
 November 11th, dipped a paddle for the first time in ever-so-long, slowly paddling nearly the whole pond over an hour or two.  Autumn colors around here seemed to dip a toe for weeks, then dove in  This was the best time on the water in a long while

An autumn meadowhawk (identified by the good people of iNaturalist) not only landed on my kayak, but returned after I accidentally scared it off.

Autumn colors nearby and close-up.


 A couple of islands are large enough and high enough to be permanent, while several others are gauzy things with no dry land at all when the pond is high, as it is now with all of this summer's rain.

Tupelo can be told even from a distance by its deep, deep red autumn dress.


A naturalist's kayak gets messier than most.


Red maples losing their leaves.


The very northern end of the pond is too choked with floating vegetation to paddle easily.


Watershield is a little unusual in having leaf stems that connect to the center of the blade.



Land and water are not mutually exclusively categories here.


Nearly all the flowers that brighten the pond in summer (especially the two kinds of water lilies) are gone, except these that emerge shyly from the underwater stems of Carolina fanwort.