Sunday, February 14, 2010
Out in the snowy woods
Haggis and Mary and I, having done all our chores, left Aimee to the laundry and went for a walk.
(This might mean I've got over myself after yesterday's outburst. There's nothing like a good sarky winge to make you feel better.)
I took pictures. The weather was nice enough to walk without gloves and hat, so taking pictures was more pleasurable than it has been lately. We walked on the snowmobile traile, where the snow is packed hard. Anywhere else, you'd need snowshoes.
Here's one of our forest beeches. Not the most numerous in the woods, this tree is more noticeable in the winter because the young saplings keep their leaves until quite late. Traditionally this has been thought to protect against competition by shading out other species in the early spring. The leaves also mulch out the competition after they fall. A paper I read lately says that this has another adaptive "purpose": protection against browsing. Apparently the leaves are unpalatable, while the twigs and buds are. But deer can't eat beech twigs and buds without getting nasty-tasting leaves, so they go eat something else.
Then we saw one of our local brooks, frozen solid, barely a trickle of running water. This is typical. The only running or open water around here is in the bigger streams and rivers, or ponds and and lakes, where motion and depth help prevent freezing. Anything shallow and still, or any relatively weak trickle, is frozen down to its base.
Also common, though, are areas where the canopy or brush has prevented much snow from gathering, and/or where a southern slope aids melting. This are little cavities of green and brown in a world of white, and very important for rabbits and mice and other small herbivores.
We saw coyote scat, with an interesting gray powdery texture. What was the coyote eating? Cement, it looks like. My best guess is that these are bones from small animals, or from picked-over carcasses of larger animals.
Haggis and Mary had fun sniffing at, and then eating, the coyote scat. Dogs eat some pretty gross stuff.
Sheep, of course, prefer hay. I started throwing hay for the sheep outside by the front door to the barn instead of inside. This is because this spot is easier to see on night checks. Eventually the uneaten hay will pile up as bedding and the sheep will bed down there for the night too becuase it will be softer and warmer than the bare ground where they bed down right now, all the way at the back of the barn where I have to jump the fence to see them.
The damaged fence in the foreground is also typical. Snowplows take out fences, even if they don't touch them. The snow they move pushes the fence over.
Once the snow is gone, I will pick the fence up as best I can, but it won't be until the ground thaws in late April that I can replace the bent fence posts.