Snow has made everything earthly clear and quiet.
My mind is simple and patient.
– Tuomas Anhava, Finnish writer
The predicted big storm fizzled once again. We certainly live in a region in which weather forecasters are challenged to get it right when it comes to predicting snowfall. Of the predicted 5 to 6 inches, with some maximum predictions calling for up to a foot of snow, we actually had about 2 inches of white stuff fall here in the woods – about 1 inch of sleet, and 1 inch of snow.
Snow scene in the woods on the far side of the property (click photos to enlarge)
But, no matter how much or how little, snow is always magical (and sometimes maddening). This storm combined with some very cold temperatures (it got down to 7 degrees here one night) so things have not melted at all until yesterday’s high of 38. The biggest problem we have here are the hilly roads that invariably turn to ice-covered ski slopes (great for sledding, not so much for trying to go anywhere in a car).
Busy intersection on the squirrel highway
For us, it is always fun to see what is out and about, moving in our woods that we might miss were it not for the repository of tracks left behind. It was shocking to see how many gray squirrels inhabit these woods based on all the tracks…more work for the resident red-tailed hawks for sure.
The wanderings of the local deer herd are along their usual well-worn trails, especially just outside our deer fence, down in the ravine, and up on the south-facing slope.
Deer have been digging for acorns
This being a good mast year, they have made the rounds and dug beneath some of the large white oaks throughout the property, with most of it happening on the south-facing slope on the far hill, where the ice accumulation may be less.
Our yard bunny is still around, though I haven’t seen it in quite some time. Hoping it will be selective once the spring wildflowers start to emerge, but that seems a far off possibility right now.
A lone raccoon has been at the huge hollow tulip poplar near the house, and it, or perhaps another, crossed the hillside over to a neighbors woods. I am surprised we have not seen it beneath the bird feeders, looking through the discarded seeds for a snack.
The typical pattern of fox tracks
We found a set of canid tracks inside the fence (they had crawled under the low bar of the side yard gate). Once inside, there were places where the pattern in the snow resembled that made by a cat, but these tracks had claw marks. Not sure whether it is a red or gray fox (both live in these woods), but I am betting red, since their numbers seem to be increasing.
Unusual bird track
Among the many bird tracks, there was one set that stands out. It has a normal three toes forward, one toe back print, and then one with just a depression with one toe back.
Crow with deformed right foot, with the front toes curling backward
We recognized it as the track trail of an American crow with a disabled right foot that we have seen the past two years. It is generally with another crow (presumably its mate), and seems to manage just fine.
The activity at the feeders has been frenetic, with American goldfinches, dark-eyed juncos, purple finches, and pine warblers mobbing the seed and suet, along with the usual appearances by downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, and a ruby-crowned kinglet.
Fox sparrow doing what they do in thick cover
The hermit thrush has stopped by to grab some suet, and we had a rare visit by a fox sparrow, though it was reluctant to get out in full view, preferring to scratch through the snow and ice in the thicket of wildflower beds out front.
Walking in the winter woods is such a treat – the serenity and quiet, the small details of texture frozen in time, and the signs of life unseen.
Ice patterns in the creek
The intermittent stream below the house seems more intermittent than ever, but an ice artist left some unfinished work in one of the few shallow pools.
The woods may be quiet after a snow event, but they are watching, and waiting for the sun to finish its work, until the next time. For us, we anxiously await both the ability to be able to get out of the neighborhood, and the next chance to experience this…