Friday, February 16, 2018

Outdoor Mom's Journal - February

During our outdoor time this week we went....exploring around the yard and down the street. Not too far from home since it was only 15 degrees with a biting wind; and I wasn't wearing a hat or gloves.

Started in the backyard and looked at the barn which needs some repairs and a fresh coat of paint.

Someone was looking out the window at me. Hoss was curious as to what I was doing.

Some of the trees took a beating this winter. Will need to have limbs and branches cut off and trimmed to woodstove length so we can run the wood through the log splitter this Spring.

There was evidence of rabbits all around the backyard. In fact, I saw one in the pasture running from brush pile to brush pile today. It was a rather large rabbit and it was running quite fast. The brush piles clearly serve an important purpose for them.

There are still no leaves on the trees yet. Have a while before that happens.

The playhouse and hobby shed also need some repairs and painting this Spring and Summer. I think the bushes need to be cut as well. They look overgrown from this angle.

I took a closer look at the evergreens along the east side of the backyard. Was surprised to see that one tree, in particular, has brown needles where the new growth is which isn't good. Will need to have someone come out and look at that the Spring.

The evergreens are a variety of types so the tops all look different from one another.

The apple tree is starting to get buds. I was very surprised because the weather has been so chilly.

Along the driveway, the squirrels have been stripping the pinecones to their cores. These cores are littering the driveway.

Little bits of pinecones also are all over the driveway.

This is one of the biggest trees on our farm. It's next to the driveway. It's on its last leg, unfortunately. Each time I pull into the driveway, I can see a hint of light through the trunk. The birds and animals have hollowed out quite a bit of it. It will be sad to see this majestic tree come down.

I crossed the road and found a trail of some sort leading from the road into the cornfield. Have no idea what animals the tracks belong to - perhaps a rabbit that was there a long time ago?

These tracks below were much closer together and larger. They are essentially in a straight line and lead far into the field. They're relatively big - but they look like they have been there for a while so the opening of each track may have expanded slightly as the days pass (which is common).

On the website Questions and Answers, a library patron had come in asking about tracks that looked similar to the ones I saw below. They were fair size tracks that went in a straight line.

"Tracking & the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Signs by Paul Rezendes includes both photographs and drawings of animal tracks. Browsing through the book, we read that there are different kinds of patterns. The “domestic dog is a double- or indirect-registering animal (p.178).” The red fox has a regular walking pattern, going in almost a straight line. It is a direct-registering animal. The walking gait of the red fox “is usually a straight, precise, narrow line of tracks (p.179),” and the accompanying drawing bears that out. This is because the fox walks with the hind foot directly on top of the track of the front one.

"Using the Key to Tracks in The Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks by Olaus J. Murie and Mark Elbroch, the shape resembles those of the weasel, the coyote, and the red fox. The weasel track is a bit small, measuring less than 2 inches. The coyote and red fox are both much closer matches. The coyote has a print of 2 ¼ to 3 ½ inches long. The red fox’s is between 1 7/8 and 2 7/8 inches. The coyote trail through snow (p. 163) shows the tracks in a straight line, but they are spaced 14 to 15 inches apart."

My other favorite tree is in the west pasture. It's silhouette was back-lit by the setting sun.

The tree's branches and limbs look so beautiful against the blue and cream-color sky.

There's a set of birch trees in a clump along the fence line. I like how they grow up and outwards from a central point.

On the way back, I noticed a bunch of tracks leading from the road to a culvert.

Going closer to the culvert, there was a clear path leading in and out of the den.

I'm not sure what kind of animal is living in the culvert, but it's something of substantial size.  There are four paw prints together in each group. I have no idea what animal left the tracks.

Coming back to the driveway, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the west side of the driveway has grown in with brush/shrubs. This used to be very open when we moved here in 1995. We've let it go partly for privacy and partly for animals to have some shelter.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about) can you tell the difference between a trumpeter swan and a tundra swan in flight?

According to the Sibley Guide, "[The} trumpeter has [a] thicker neck that droops noticeably at [the] base; [the] tundra has [a] straighter neck that narrows before [the] head. [The] trumpeter seems to have slightly broader wings, more rounded wingtips, slower wingbeats, and wings slightly more cupped/arched when gliding. [The] tundra tends to [its] hold wings flat, but much depends on the glide angle."

The Trumpeter Swan Society had this drawing that shows the difference in size between the birds:

Based on that information, Sophia, Olivia, and I saw a trumpeter swan flying northeast towards the St. Croix River when we were driving on Valentine's Day. They are such beautiful birds.

Now I'm wondering why it was flying by itself. Normally we see them in pairs or big flocks.

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting...still frozen here.

Nothing can be planted and harvested yet. I planted a couple of beds of strawberries in the fall using the growths from existing plants.

It will be interesting to see how many of the plants grow. If they do, we'll have to fence off the gardens since last year the rabbits ate many of the plants. In other garden, we struggled with the grackles eating the fruit.

There were rabbit tracks all over the raised beds leading from the wooded area.

I added nature journal pages about...turkeys on February 16th. I did a two-page spread because I found some images in a file I had of a turkey with spread-out feathers which I liked. It reminded me of the turkeys we had here who liked to display their feathers...especially Stuart. He was a great turkey.

Also did a two-page spread about eagles. We've been seeing them returning to the area this week which has been exciting.

Saw two on Valentine's Day circling in the air above us; and another one today on the side of the road eating a dead deer. A crow was with the eagle and they were peacefully co-existing and eating together which I thought was interesting. 

I am reading...
Flights of Fancy still. I'm almost done. The book looks at various birds and their history, myths, and other stories about them. Most the birds are from Europe. It would be more interesting if the majority of birds related to the U.S. and were commonly seen here.

I am dreaming about...the flower bulbs I planted this past Fall. I'm hoping that the squirrels and voles didn't get to them and that there will be more flowers this fall. It's always a surprise what comes up each year. If the bulbs haven't been monkeyed around with, there should be quite a few red and purple ones around the pine tree outside the kitchen window. Last year, many red ones came up which was so pretty.

Looking forward to the lilies as well. They were so tall and fragrant - and created such a beautiful scent each time we walked into the backyard from the driveway.

A photo I would like to share...One thing I'm looking forward to in a few weeks will be that the ice will have melted on the driveway.

For the majority of the season, we've been walking and driving on ice. 

Thank you to Barb the Outdoor Hour Challenge for the idea of doing an Outdoor Mom's Journal.


Rita said...

Oh, what a lovely post. I don't know much about tracks of the various critters, but they fascinate me. I am curious as to what has dened up in the culvert. :) How wonderful to have that land. :)

Barb McCoy said...

Your tracks are intriguing and the den in the culvert has me curious. :) We have had lots of mornings with ice walkways and roadways too. What a wonderful record of your February nature time!