Indeed, it did take quite an effort to make my way through deep snow in the woods, but I didn't feel it was safe to go out on the ice where the snow wasn't so deep. Because the river rises and falls with dam operations, the ice breaks at the edge and water pours over the surface, weakening the ice. It was obvious from their tracks that many animals had ventured out there, quite likely to drink from the only liquid water to be found for miles around.
Lots and lots of trails on the river today, and I'm guessing that almost every one of them was made by minks. I don't know where the coyotes and foxes and fishers are traveling these days, but not through the deep snow of these woods.
One reason I think that minks made these trails (aside from the aquatic habitat) is that they made tunnels through the snow of just about the same size as a mink's diameter.
Here was a different track! Looks like a bunch of turkeys were wandering out on the ice.
This imprint of a turkey's tail feathers confirmed my guess.
I was struck by the stark beauty of these alder twigs silhouetted against the snow, reminding me of Japanese ink drawings I have seen, perhaps of plum blossoms. (Ah, plum blossoms! Spring!)
Here was a flash of bright color in these snowy woods! Some vivid orange-red growth has infested the bark of this birch tree. From a distance it looked as if blood was streaming down the trunk.
Is this a fungus? Or is it a lichen? I wonder if someone can tell me.
More odd stuff. Fungal blobs proliferating on the trunks of Hop Hornbeam trees. Looked like a family of hedgehogs climbing the trees.
I couldn't pry up the frozen ruffles to examine the underside, so I don't know how to ID these growths, either. The tops look a bit like Turkey Tail, but I've never seen that fungus form tight blobs like this.
Update: A very helpful fellow blogger named Don Butler (www.wcny.blogspot.com) has suggested that the red stuff oozing from the birch bark could be the fungus Phlebia radiata, and that these blobby fungi on the Hop Hornbeams could be Sweet Knot (Globifomes graveblens). Two new fungi for me, and a wonderful new blog to follow as well. Thanks, Don!
When I first started out through the woods today, I was freezing. But after trudging through this deep snow, it didn't take long before I started stripping off scarf and hat and unzipping my coat. Oof! Hard work, indeed!
Heading home, I was glad to step out of the woods onto this plowed road for the last couple hundred yards to my car. I've been hunkering down too much this frigid February, and I can tell my endurance has suffered. But hey, it's MARCH on Sunday! Winter will soon be over. Won't it?