Another snowstorm, on Sunday through Monday, left about 6-8″ of fresh, powdery snow across the fields and forests around us. On Monday morning I headed across the street and into the forest behind the house, as I have done so often over the years, bushwhacking up the steep hill through the woods. The forest is relatively young and open, having been logged periodically and well managed for a variety of species – pine, fir, hemlock, oak, maple, and more. I enjoy rambling through these woods, following the fading trails left by loggers, especially in winter – because the snow exposes stories of the wildlife that live here. It’s hard to see in the photo below, but the deer walked this path earlier than me, this morning.
My weekend wanderings through the woods near home allowed me more glimpses of the white-tailed deer living therein – emphasis on the white tail, because I only tend to spot them after they’ve chosen to bound away from me, white tail flashing and leaping through the trees until they fade into the distant brownness of the tree bark and leaf litter. Yesterday I saw them three times, though never with enough time to capture with a camera. Saturday I also saw a big ol’ turkey waddling off into the bushes.
Several of my favorite paths pass by vernal pools – intermittent shallow pools formed by spring rains and snowmelt, on deep-frozen ground not yet ready to absorb the moisture. Not much spring life there yet, but I’ll check again next week. (Last year these pools became active in May.)
So, photographically, all I have to share this week is another “new” thing along my path. It was very windy last week and this hemlock snapped off at the base. When a tree like this falls in the woods; do you think the deer hear it? 😉
Yesterday afternoon I took another walk up the hill behind our home, to revisit the curious spot where a deer had met its end (discovered last week). As I climbed the hill, a family of wild turkeys slowly tried to sneak away – not easy now the snow has melted and the crisp, dry leaves of fall cover the forest floor. I noted they were heading uphill away from me, but toward the summit that I would soon reach by a looping path. As I neared the crest, two deer bounded away, flashing their white tails. One paused and turned, curious about me. I was able to approach much closer, allowing me time to capture photographs and video.
I never quite know where I’ll go or what I’ll find.
Last weekend’s hike to Holts Ledge emphasized the end of winter/snow hiking, despite the spectacular powder snow I encountered on Kinsman Ridge two weeks ago. That change, coupled with area roads swallowed under a mud season of “biblical proportions”, led me to stay close to home for my hiking this weekend: literally out my back door. It’s a common mud-season opportunity for me, while the trails remain muddy in the mountains and the river is still shedding its winter ice. Today’s outing led to two interesting finds! Read on.
Nothing like a deer carcass to bring everyone together.
As I drove home today along the Connecticut River I noticed a dark object out on the ice – clearly, a carcass of some unfortunate deer. It was already attracting visitors that, from a glance, appeared to include a bald eagle. I dashed home to pick up my camera. When I returned, I found three bald eagles – one mature adult, and two juveniles – enjoying the spoils of this opportunity. Several crows were nearby, but were shooed away by the eagles whenever they came too close.
It was interesting to see that each eagle looked quite different – even the juveniles looked very different, perhaps of different ages. I also noticed the mature eagle flying alongside one juvenile several times. Family members? or rivals? hard to tell.
I shot well over six hundred photos, most of them out of focus – on my first visit it was snowing heavily and the snow wreaked havoc on the camera’s autofocus mechanism. But I returned later when the snow stopped and the sun came out. I saved a dozen decent photos for you in the gallery, where you can see each of the three eagles, sometimes together.
Today broke sunny and blue, with a foot of fresh powder smothering the landscape. It snowed hard for nearly 24 hours, and left us with this beautiful, soft powder. As I went out to shovel this morning I was intrigued to see the deer had already criss-crossed the lawn and pawed through the snow under crabapple trees to see if they could find any treats.
This weekend I woke in the middle of the night to a loud party just up the river. It was clearly a pack of coyotes, howling and yipping excitedly, and continued for perhaps ten minutes. Clearly, something big had happened in the coyote world! So the next day, as I was driving down the road, I looked out across the ice and saw what I expected: a large group of crows picking at a deer carcass, whatever was left after the coyotes had had their fill. Today, there was little left (below, and two more photos here). No scavengers were out there today, so I presume all the edible parts are gone.
The site was perhaps 10 meters out from shore, right in front of one of my neighbor’s houses. She happened to be out shoveling snow as I walked by today. “Yesterday was a pretty dramatic scene,” she said, “as various scavengers competed for access to the remains. Murders and murders of crows* came by; even the local bald eagle tried to elbow his way in for a piece of the action.” She said she had snowshoed out onto the ice for a closer look; I chose to stay on shore and use my 500mm lens to snap my photos.
* yes, a “murder of crows” is the collective noun for a group of crows. [Wikipedia]
Although the mountains still hold fantastic winter conditions, as I found last Thursday on Worcester Mountain, the immediate Hanover-Lyme area has little snow left. Our yard was still covered in an inch or two of old hard snow, but the neighboring woods were becoming largely bare. All that changed today, as a powerful nor’easter swept up the coast. We accumulated 8.5 inches of fresh white stuff, far less than what some saw down east – the coastal regions received a foot or two – but eight or nine inches is quite nice indeed. It was a bit warm here – topping the freezing point for the afternoon – so the snow is a bit wet. At higher elevation I hope to find deeper, lighter powder. Read on and check out the gallery of photos.
I returned to the hillside behind our house for another stroll this afternoon. This time I encountered a group of four deer, leaping off through the forest before I had a chance to capture a photograph. I also passed through an area with extensive deer activity, including two deer beds – shallow impressions in the snow where a deer had clearly slept overnight, leaving an icy patch where the snow had melted under her.
I also returned to the tracks I’d examined yesterday, now armed with the guidebook. It’s now pretty clear these are fox tracks, presumably red fox. Much harder to see in these photos than in the field, I’m afraid.
I try to reserve a bit of daylight, each day, to get out for a walk. When I’m especially busy, or lazy, I walk up the road and back, keeping an eye peeled for that bald eagle I saw over the river last week. But when I have a bit more time and energy, I don my pack and strike out up the steep hill on the other side of the road. These hills were formed several centuries ago when the Connecticut River was formed by the receding waters of the Pleistocene-era Lake Hitchcock, after the glaciers receded from what is now northern New England. The hillside is steep, but it’s a good chance to get my legs moving, to fill my lungs with fresh air, to follow my whims, and to see what I might find. What did I find out there today? read on.