It looks like today will be the calm before the storm. We are enjoying sunshine and relatively calm winds, so it was a day to hit the trails. I strapped on a pair of MSRs and headed down the Rich Lake Trail.
Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! I certainly wasn't going to take any animals by surprise! Apparently the rain we had over the weekend (Saturday night) was enough to make the snow very crunchy. Still, the critters have been out and there were plenty of good tracks to see, especially around the building.
Our friend the red fox has been very busy. Fox tracks ran hither and yon all around the the trails and woods within, oh, maybe a 300' radius of the building. Could it be that our birdseed is feeding plenty of mice and making for good hunting?
Squirrel tracks were also in abundance, which is no great surprise, but I didn't see any hare tracks. It seems to be hit or miss with the hares every winter - either there are lots of tracks or they are rare. Hard to know from one year to the next, although out the other end of town they are as common as fleas on a dog!
I was surprised by some large canid tracks. Too big for fox, so they must've been coyote, but I find it odd to see a coyote travelling solo around these parts. I suppose it's not unheard of, but our coyotes tend to be a bit more social than their western cousins. It stopped around several low branches, presumably to scent them, but it left no telltale golden snow behind.
Hopefully the 4-8" of snow "they" are predicting for the next couple of days will be fluffy and will cover the crunch. We shall keep our toes crossed.
One of the great plants of winter is witch hobble (Viburnum alnifolium), notable for its naked buds. Most plants' bud have protective sheaths around them that provide shelter from the drying winds and freezing temperatures of our northern winters. But not witch hobble. Its sulfur-colored buds are left exposed throughout the winter, giving us a glimpse of the leaves that will unfold when springtime rolls around.
Meanwhile, back at the ol' homestead, the deer have been making inroads on my shrubbery. I saw their first forays over the weekend when Toby and I headed out for our PM Stroll. When we got back, I found the bundles of old orange snowfencing the previous owners had left behind and tied them to the fence and around the hedge. Unfortunately, I put it up a bit too high (thinking that as the winter progressed the snow would get deeper and the deer would then reach the upper branches). Even as I finished the last few ties, I thought to myself "Self, what do you want to bet the deer will crawl underneath and still get the cedars?" Sure enough - in less than two days I saw deer tracks between the cedars and the dog fence: the stinkers had crawled underneath and had gotten to the good stuff! Grrr. I will have to get more fencing and put a second layer around the bottom.
Meanwhile, the ruddy "dears" decided yesterday to sample the shrubs in the beds out front: lilac, aronia, sand cherry. I discovered this yesterday as Toby and I waited in the garage for the door to raise and let us begin a walk. Being shorter, Toby saw the deer first - right out in the driveway. With a mighty bark and a short charge (he can only go so far on a six foot leash), he drove them away, but not before they had sampled the shrubbery. I subsequently hung three canisters of "Deer Fortress" from the shrubs - we'll see if that makes any difference.