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A Frozen Bog

>> Monday, February 1, 2010

Sunday dawned bitter cold, with temperatures below zero.  But the sun came out, and unlike the previous day, the sun actually accomplished something on Sunday.  In warmed to near 20 by the time we left home for our woodland wandering.  Unfortunately, along with the sun came the wind.  It will take a few days for my cheeks to lose their wind-chapped glow, I'm afraid.

Because I knew I might get called into work at any moment, we stuck pretty close to home and went to Beaver Lake Nature Center.  I do love Beaver Lake, probably in large part because of happy childhood memories there.

I knew it was going to be a good photographable/bloggable sort of walk right from the start.  As we walked from the car to the start of the first trail we walked past this fine fuzzy fellow:

He seemed to be snuggled in a wind-sheltered and snow-free spot, enjoying the sun.  The click of my camera shutter sent him flying over the tree trunk and bounding in absurdly spastic leaps through the woods. I felt mighty bad for having disturbed him, but appreciated having been privileged enough to spot him.

That would be his rapidly retreating backside, in the middle of the photo.  I wish I'd managed to snap a photo at the instant he was at the top of one of his bounds, rather than the bottom.  They were very cute flailing bunny bounds.

My favorite trail at Beaver Lake is the bog trail.  I am utterly fascinated by bogs of all sorts.  I've always liked bogs, and developed a deep affection for them when I was a college student in Maine.  My ecology class took a field trip to a good old fashioned Maine quaking bog.  The amount of life teeming in that bog was incredible, and now bogs always make me long for nets, sampling jars and waders.  Sphagnum moss, which makes it all possible, is awesome stuff.

A description of the Beaver Lake bog in an incredibly brief nutshell:

My very favorite thing about bogs, though, has got to be the carnivorous plants.

What an awesome concept.  I get so excited whenever I spot pitcher plants.

But I digress.  The only way we could even tell we were in a bog on Sunday was that a) there was an elevated walkway, and b) the terrain suddenly got very bumpy.  Compare the woods:

with the bog:

The underside of the elevated walkway apparently provides a convenient hiding and/or snoozing spot for wildlife.

Over and over again we walked past spots where there was access to the space under the walkway, and lots of critter prints leading in and out.

This particular spot had its entrance rimmed with soft rime.

I'm not sure if that rime formed because decaying matter in the bog was releasing heat, or because the critter stayed in there long enough to fog the place up with its breath.  I think I'm leaning toward the former, though, since there were other spots in the bog that had rime around openings but which did not have any tracks leading in or out.


Sadly, it wasn't a great day for tracking as the snow was so fluffy that most feet just left vague, indistinct shapes.  Certainly there are good trackers out there who would have had no trouble reading the impressions in the snow, but my beginner tracking skills didn't come up with much meaning out of many of them.  We did find this great melted impression, though:

Given all the hoof prints leading to and away from it, I'd say a deer decided to lie there for a bit.

The lake was so wind whipped that there weren't any tracks out in the center, just wind sculptures.

Were these left by a mouse?  Bird?  Not a clue.  But they were absurdly tiny and therefore cute:

These must have been made by a very little rodent of some variety or other:

He didn't take a very direct route to wherever he was going, did he?

I loved this set:

My husband took one look at it and exclaimed that whatever had made it appeared to have become lunch since the tracks just ended in the middle of the field.  After looking at it for a bit, I don't think that's the case, though.  There was no indication anything had snagged it from the air - no impact at the end, no wing prints. Moreover, it was squirrel tracks, but messy ones.  I think instead that a squirrel had scampered out, then decided to turn around and retrace his steps.  If you looked closely you could see spots where he or she had stepped out of the trail and then back into it.

Moreover, if you followed it back up to the clump of brush, you could see lots of nice clean squirrel tracks, and evidence of its most recent snack.

Spot it?

Somebody's been giving the squirrels handouts.

Elsewhere in the field, though, it did look like there might have been a wing print.  The faint parallel lines on the left look wingish, but beyond that I have no explanation to offer, and no idea what the impressions are on the right sidem since there were no tracks leading up to this spot:

Overall, what a lovely and fascinating day!  Not much exercise, but tons to look at and wonder about.  Wind chapped cheeks can be so incredibly worth it.

2 comments:

Ellen Rathbone February 2, 2010 at 3:26 PM  

Nice shots at BLNC! Ah...the memories. Were they doing any ice harvesting yet? That was a great school program they had there - but maybe liability precludes it now.

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: February 2, 2010 at 5:23 PM  

Ice harvesting? Cool! No, there wasn't any sign of anybody out on the ice anywhere we saw, although we didn't go all the way around the lake since that trail is just for skiing. I wonder if they still have that program?

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