Sunday, January 10, 2010
The Trail of the Porcupine
I guess Sue and I didn't get our fill of freezing our faces off yesterday. Who cares if this morning dawned well below zero? We had a date to go porcupine tracking together today, and the sun was shining, so off we went. Our quest took us up a mountain ridge, where we left a well-trodden trail to bushwhack up, up, up (pant! pant!) to where porcupines have been known to live and eat.
Sure enough, we found much evidence of their presence: a packed, pee-piddled trough of a trail leading from rocky dens to a stand of hemlocks, where the snow beneath lay littered with stripped twigs and nipped-off branchlets.
Once a porky finds a good spot to eat, he returns there daily, not bothering to wander all over the snowy woods, wasting energy. So we thought we might find him enjoying his lunch up there in those hemlocks, somewhere. But we didn't. Maybe he was smarter than we were and stayed snuggled home in his den. So we looked for shed quills along the packed trough, and we struck out once again. But we did find many hairs.
We found lots of other critter trails, too: deer bounding all over the mountaintop, red squirrels dashing from tree to tree, foxes with their dainty pawprints precisely laid down in straight lines, and many, many mouse trails, including this one that runs from the stump to where the mouse tunneled beneath the snow.
We found a squirrel's nicely sheltered dining hall.
When I saw this stump, I had to look twice, since at first it looked like an owl's wing.
And this ice sure looked like the backbone of a fish.
Sue pointed out these dangling maple keys, remarking on the warmth of their color and wondering if they might be Mountain Maple. Hmmm. When Mountain Maple blooms, its flower clusters point straight up, they don't dangle down like other maples' do.