In Shakespearian times, shepherds forecasted rain when mists arose on the surface of ponds and then ascended to the hilltops. True to the forecast, the tracking club was indeed misted with liquid sunshine (as my Scottish kinfolk affectionately like to call “rain”) during the November outing at Guelph Lake.
Upon discovering numerous vole highways across the trail, I could not help thinking, “O Wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here?”
We noted zigzag pathways into the goldenrods, made by cottontail rabbits. Deer tracks headed west into the adjacent farm field. The deer moved from a walking gait into a gallop, dew claws registering, endeavouring to move quickly through deepening snow.
At the edge of the farm field, we picked up a skunk trail. The trail led us up and over snow drifts. After determining that the skunk was intent to wander, we abandoned his trail near some browsed Sumac trees. While appreciating the velvety texture of the Staghorn Sumac branches, something caught our attention, “Aye! There’s the rub!” A male deer had shredded the bark of the nearby trees by rubbing his antlers and forehead on the trunk. Bucks do this to deposit their scent and to relieve itchy antlers during the rut.
A coyote trail pulled us further into the young forest, towards the back pond. A Rough-Legged Hawk observed us from her perch before heading eastwards to a line of tall Maples. Shakespeare wrote, “When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it” in reference to riding a horse but I can see a parallel with tracking a coyote as well.
At the back pond, we found a crayfish chimney. As the crayfish burrows down into a water-filled tunnel, it uses its legs and mouth parts to bring up pellets of mud to the surface, much like a brick layer laying bricks, until the chimney is complete. It is suggested that crayfish chimneys help oxygen flow down the tunnel, into the water beneath.
With thoughts of miniature, mud mountains, we ascended to the top of the Rotary Forest hill. We found another antler rub on an Oak tree and enjoyed a glorious view of the buck’s domain. We returned to the beginning of the route by following deer tracks and chickadee calls.
“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything”. ~William Shakespeare
*If you are interested in viewing the page “Polar Bears” from my recent visit to Churchill, use this link: