Crusty Snow and Good Company

 

Found this little one in the spruce trees near my home this past week.

Found this little one in the spruce trees near my home this past week.

Written by T. Anderson

The Tracking Club met on Sunday, January 15 at the Ignatius Farm.  The Ignatius Jesuit Centre is located on 600 acres of land in Guelph.  German Jesuits first settled in the Guelph area in 1852.  The Jesuits played a role in establishing St. Joseph’s hospital, Catholic schools and the Church of our Lady Immaculate.  The Guelph Jesuits moved to the land that is now the Ignatius Jesuit Centre, in 1913.  This land had previously been the territory of the Mississauga Nation until 1792 when treaty negotiations occurred between the Mississauga Nation and the British government.  Since that time, the Ignatius Jesuit Farm has become a pioneer in organic crop management and small-scale community farming.

Sunday’s tracking conditions were challenging.  Many of the tracks were encased in ice or frozen in crusty snow.  However, this challenge did not stop Carolyn, Adrian and Tamara from exploring the cattail marsh, forest and field, west of the Ignatius Farm.

The first set of tracks were found in the cattail marsh.  A long-tailed weasel had bounded (or loped) across the snow crust, leaving tiny groups of four tracks that appeared more like two tracks.  Tamara shared a story about a long-tailed weasel that lived in her kitchen for a few days.  Visit Tamara’s Tracking blog for more information: https://natureguelphtracking.wordpress.com/mammals/weasels-otters-and-relatives/all-about-weasels/weasel/

The trackers skirted the edge of the wetland as Carolyn proved that the middle was still a little wet in places.  The edge of the wetland revealed a coyote trail and a barbed metal fence line.  Tamara was keen to follow the coyote trail to find out where it crossed the fence line.  Sure enough, the coyote had found an opening in the fence to cross into the field.  The trackers followed suit and came upon some unusual canine tracks.  The canine used a bounding gait, similar to a rabbit.  After reading Mark Elbroch’s section on coyote gait interpretation (from Mammal Tracks and Sign), we learned that bounding can indicate alarm, fear or chasing prey.  We observed rabbit tracks with the same gait and admired the similarities between predator and prey.  The forest called to us and we wandered onto icy trails, meeting a nice dog walker who was being walked by his polar-bear-furred canine.  The forest revealed a mysterious raccoon trailed that ended at a cedar tree.  A large blob was obscured by branches and foliage at the top.  Was it the raccoon?  Were there two raccoons?  Why did I forget my binoculars?  Was it a Beverly Hills-sized squirrel dray?  These were good questions to ponder on the way back to the parking area.  To wrap-up the morning, we observed a Pileated Woodpecker fly overhead in a classic undulating flight pattern and clambered over a rock pile while discussing “coprophagy” and how rabbits recycle their own droppings.  The next tracking club meeting is scheduled for February 12th at Preservation Park.  Hope to see you there!

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