My daughter and I attended an owl prowl with ASRI a few weeks back. The evening was cold and my ten year old was not especially enthused about being out in the dark. With these walks, sometimes there's an owl, and sometimes there isn't.
My daughter was quite animated talking on her cell phone to a classmate about expanding her business of making putty. There are three classmates in her company. They talked about cost of supplies, what to sell items for, and how to promote their business. She warned her friend that they couldn't use a drawing for their logo that had been copied from a comic book because if they became "famous", that would be "copyright". I listened amazed at all the details she had thought of, having successfully had a selling gum business after having a mock society business selling used toys for "town money" last year.
We got to the site, missing it at first in the dark. I carried her coat until I could get her to wear it. we saw some familiar faces there. We followed our guide Marina, learning about the best places to look for roosting turkeys and where in the trees certain owl species might be. We found rabbit tracks, but our group of a dozen found little else. The children soon tired and the cold got deeper. My daughter made it through to the end, and we went home.
I decided to go back the next weekend during the day. I tried to get my partner and daughter to join me, but they were tired and uninterested. So I went alone.
I don't often hike alone. I prepared my backpack carefully and dressed in layers. I was very comfortable and had my camera. It was mid-forties and there were many birds, like these mourning doves. Without the leaves of oak and maple, it was easy to find nests, like this squirrel one.
The ice made artistic brush strokes across objects in the water. I looked for ducks, but found none.
Some seeds still hung on, perhaps as food. A paper wasp nest hung dormant in the sky.
Much of the water and earth were still, with just the wind and the crunch of my own shoes making sound.
Would deer or other animals be interested in this fungus, looking like melting frosting?
Many hollows and snags, but still so quiet.
Then a familiar tap, tap, tap. I followed it until I found the downy woodpecker.
Going across fields and uphill, I sometimes crossed paths with other hiker groups. We nodded and went on.
The hill had pudding stone and lots of lichen and moss.
Where were the animals here?
Shiny silver paper near a path detour. I did four of the five trails. It was worth photographing the map, because the path disappeared under leaves at one point. Then on a side trail, I wasn't immediately sure how to get back on the perimeter trail. Brief pauses, but being alone, I was able to check the map on my phone.
This was on the Hemlock trail. From afar, I hoped it was a bee hive. But it appears to be a burl of some sort.
Getting back on the Perimeter trail, an overturned tree blocked the path. Past that, the boardwalks were underwater and covered in ice...
Luckily, I had just purchased micro-spikes at Job lot for $5. I slippd them over my hiking shoes and they made all the difference. I put my camera away and took my time. It was worth it.
Upon crossing the water and entering mud, I took off the spikes and rebalanced my pack. Had I gotten my camera out sooner, perhaps I could have shown the three does and baby white tailed deer that raced across the hill before me right at that moment. The photo below was too late. But had I not braved the ice, I would have missed the deer entirely.
It was getting late, getting dark. I still had about a mile and a half to go.
I saw more birds near another pond with scrub, forest, and field nearby. Many habitats here.
A beaver home, perhaps? No chewed trees in sight. Muskrat?
A more unique nest hanging above the pond. I continued on the trail, but the melting ice was flooding it. I saw a three foot impasse I tried to navigate by jumping to an exposed root, but I slipped and soaked my right foot. I brought extra socks, but the trail wasn't over. It got still more impassable, so I slipped into the woods, heading in the general direction of the fields that would take me back to my car. I remembered this area from the night hike. In the woods, off-trail, I found white-tailed deer pellets.
Then some walnuts. Do the deer eat these?
Back at my car, I changed my socks. I thought of the deer and other discoveries I made, just from being a little bit brave and a whole lot prepared. I called my partner to tell him I was coming home.