Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Trying to Spy on Eagles

When I met my friend Sue at Moreau Park this morning, we planned to go looking for porcupines up on Red Oak Ridge. But then one of the park staffers told us a deer carcass had been dragged out onto Mud Pond, where eagles and other critters were now feeding. Well, okay! Change of plans! Off we went to Mud Pond.

Sue saw one eagle and several ravens flying away as we approached the site, CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCHing through the woods on snowshoes. It's hard to sneak up quietly on anything on snowshoes. Wish we could walk as quietly as this fox did, balancing easily along the top of this fallen trunk.

We saw the carcass, sure enough, way out on the pond. So we found a place to hide among trees and we waited, waited, waited for the birds to return. Getting colder and colder and colder. I'd have been okay, but my nose kept dripping, and soon I couldn't feel it when I dabbed the Kleenex there. We agreed we'd better keep moving before we froze, so out on the pond we went, adding our tracks to the thousands of critter trails that were making a beeline toward that carcass.

It was coyote party time out there! And not just around the dead deer. From the signs in the snow it looked like they'd been dancing and prancing and rolling around like crazy. Is it by any chance coyote mating season? Sorry, but I didn't get any close-up photos of their tracks. I did get a nice wingprint photo, though. (And Sue caught sight of the actual eagle, hiding out in a tall White Pine, not budging while we were there.)

Even if I don't find what I hoped for, I always find something to please me out in the woods. Here's a pretty tuft of some kind of lichen, growing on a Shining Sumac branch. Could this be a Beard Lichen?

And here's a curving wand of Virginia Stickseed burs. Kind of cool to look at, but don't get these stuck in your pantlegs. They prickle and they're very hard to remove. How do I know? Guess.

The dead deer feeding site is clearly visible from Spier Falls Road. I'll bet I'd have a better chance to see eagles feasting here if I just stayed in the (nice warm) car. Maybe I'll come back tomorrow.


Ellen Rathbone said...

It's a bit early yet for coyote mating, but the eastern coyote tends to be a bit more social than its western cousin.

Your lichen could be an oakmoss lichen, too - Evernia spp. Oakmosses are not quite as wispy as the beard lichens.

Bird said...

...and there I was feeling soooo proud of the red fox tracks I found in the garden this morning! Wow, those eagle wing prints are impressive. In decent snow you must be able to read all kinds of exciting things - it's not something I have a lot of experience of, sadly. I am dying to read some more but uh oh, it's time to cook dinner. I'll be back and reading tomorrow - Happy new Year!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for the lichen hint, Ellen. Do oakmoss lichens grow on sumacs? This whole stand of Shining Sumacs was blighted by something this year. All the leaves shriveled and curled and none of the bushes set fruit. And now all the branches are crusted with lichens of several kinds.

Bird, it's so good to hear from you! It's true the snow is what makes winter so interesting up here in northern NY. I rarely lay eyes on the critters that inhabit our woods, but by the evidence of their tracks, I know they are out there.

squirrel said...

I enjoyed seeing the wing prints in the snow and I loved the stickseed burrs that looked like a necklace. I don't know how you can stay out in this cold weather. New Yorkers must be from hardy stock! I mean really, when you can't feel a tissue on your nose! But you know I am glad that you get out because I do enjoy seeing and reading about your discoveries.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Squirrel, thanks for your comment. Yeah, some of us New Yorkers actually LIKE the cold and snow and ice. We just wear lots of warm clothes. If I didn't wear glasses I could stay out all day in below-zero weather because I could cover my nose then. But my breath fogs up my glasses if I pull my scarf over my nose. Hmm. I wonder if SCUBA gear would work?

Holly said...

Love the wing prints!

Ever stand back and think about how weirded out most people would be at the idea of changing hiking plans to go TOWARD a dead deer carcass? I love that I'm not the only one who does that sort of thing, and I admit to relishing the idea of creeping out a few people, too. :)