Tuesday, April 10

Reading the Forest - Animal Tales

This is a work-in-progress for a busy beaver.
Just about anyone can enjoy a walk in the forest. You don't have to know your flora and fauna, your history or geology, in order to appreciate the fresh air, natural surroundings and gentle workout that comes with a hike through the woods. But if you're so inclined, you can get more out of the experience than a clear head and physical exercise. If you pay attention and read the signs, you'll see the forest tells a story.

Work of pileated woodpecker.
Actually, it tells many stories—of the creatures that call it home and the history that shaped the land in recent years and in the distant path. While we rarely get to see the actual animals in the woods (they're too shy and stealthy most of the time), we can see where they've been and what they've been up to.

A pair of pileated woodpeckers have been busy all around the property lately. We hear them rat-tat-tatting every day, but more than that, we see firsthand the results of their work. This is just one long-dead tree trunk that a woodpecker has "written" on. You don't even have to see the woodpecker to know it's been here, or to know it is one big bird.

We can also see that a cousin of the pileated has also been active. These neatly drilled holes are the work of a sapsucker. This smaller woodpecker makes the holes to get to the tree sap, eating both the sap and the insects that are drawn to it.
Neat holes drilled by a sapsucker.

Old scar on a tree, scratched open for sap.
Birds aren't the only forest inhabitants who like sap. This scar is a few years old, but you can clearly see the claw marks where a bear scratched through bark to get to the sap. 

Other animal stories are told by tracks and trails (pictured bottom), scat (not pictured!) and even hatched egg shells from a snapping turtle. The well-gnawed tree trunk (pictured top) is clear evidence of beaver activity.
Empty shells from hatched turtle eggs.

Snow is especially good at telling a story of what just happened. It's an excellent (though temperary) slate for recording tracks, trails, skirmishes and the food chain in action. I've seen a little track from some unfortunate little rodent end abruptly at a swish made from the wing feathers of some fortunate bird of prey. I didn't get a picture of that scene but this photo (taken after a wild turkey trotted through our yard) shows you what I mean about the wing swoosh.
A wing swoosh and footprints in the snow tell us a wild turkey was here.
Animals are just some of the character in the forest stories. Rocks, trees and even the earth have their own tales to tell. I'll have to save that for another post. This is one story that is, well, to be continued...

Moose track.

Moose trail.

No comments: