Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Snow Games

Yes, it's me again, back with yet another skiing tale. We had three inches of snowfall overnight, more fluffy, light stuff.  I thought the sunset might be pretty, so I went out around 5:15PM armed with our old digital camera, a tiny click box that we bought years ago when digital photography was relatively new.

I followed the trail from our house up to the woods a quarter-mile north and then headed east into what was a corn field last summer.  I heard a bird singing in the woods and though I didn't see the songster, the call sure sounded like a Red-winged blackbird.  Poor thing, I'm sure he wasn't expecting this much snow anymore.  I don't know how migratory birds survive when they come back too early. 

For that matter, I don't know how any animals are surviving this winter.  With snow this deep, hunting for food must be a tremendous chore.  I have noticed the rabbit tracks are dwindling rapidly and I've seen an increase of fox traffic on my ski trails.  Mom has had a flock of turkeys coming to her bird feeder this week, too.  They're usually kinda shy but hunger has forced them to take what they can get.

As I skied along, I came upon a bunch of fresh tracks in the forty-acre field that reminded me of something from my childhood:

What happened here?
 When I was in grade school back in prehistoric times, ok, the 1960's, in the winter at recess we would play a game of tag similar to 'Fox and Geese'.  The person who was 'It' (or the Fox) would select a large area of fresh fallen snow and make a series of trails, usually in a  circle with other maze-like trails branching off.   

The 'Geese' or in our case, the kids who weren't 'It' would run around on the trails trying to elude the Fox.  The rules were everyone had to stay within the confines of the trails no matter what and if you stepped outside the trail to avoid being tagged, you'd be It.  When the Fox tagged a Goose, the Fox would yell, "You're IT!" and everyone would then run away from the new Fox.  

 Now, now, don't judge us by our games.  It's cold up here in the Great White North.  The silly game of tag kept us warm and was good exercise.

After looking more closely at the tracks in the snow, I realized I was looking at a real game of Life and Death.
The tracks puzzled me at first, but then it made sense when I saw the feather imprints in the soft snow.  This must have been an owl or a hawk, hunting for voles in the deep snow of the corn field.

It was getting quite dark and my camera isn't very fancy, so I didn't get a terrific picture here, but the imprint above reminds me of an owl.  It looks as if the owl dive-bombed the field and plowed right into the snow face first.

There were tracks all over the field, this must have gone on for quite some time. 

I've read that owls (or maybe hawks, too) can hear the mice and voles under the snow and have to drive their talons as deep as they can in the snow to catch their prey.  
In some places, it looked as if the bird of prey had dug in the snow every few feet, probably trying to reach the rodent.
This track was puzzling, looks like the feathers brushed the ground on either take-off or landing.
This was a Battle Royale, by the looks of things.
The tracks were spread out over five acres.  I wonder who won the game?  My money is on the raptor.

By now my hands were cold and the camera battery was going dead and the sun was already down, so it was time to make tracks of my own.

I'm grateful to have a warm house to return to and food on the table. 

P. S.   Thanks for putting up with me and these repetitive skiing posts, by the way.   I did order my flower seeds last night, so in a few months I'll be posting something other than my Albino Landscaping.  In a few weeks, I'll be posting dirty pictures because once this snow all melts, we'll be wallowing in mud.


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Wow, what an interesting post and those photos were amazing.

Getting back home, where there is warmth, light, love and good food sounds really good to me.


Alison said...

Those wing and feather imprints in the snow are beautiful and fascinating! Thanks for sharing them with us. I've been sowing seeds like mad lately.

Pamela Gordon said...

it was interesting to see the evidence of the fight between the bird and whatever it's prey was on the snow. I've never seen anything like that before. Your sunset photos came out beautifully, Karen. I'm surprised the red winged black birds are back in your area. Do they know something you don't? Could spring be lurking just around the corner?

Gatsbys Gardens said...

I did plant my tomatoes and peppers today after much deliberation that spring was never coming!


Garden Fancy said...

Very cool post! What a dramatic picture the snow tells. Thanks for noticing it and for sharing it with us!

Jennifer said...

Like you, I have been thinking on many an evening when we walk the dogs, that it must be so hard to be a wild creature this winter. The snow has remained at the two foot level for most of the season. The cold has been unrelenting.
Those claw marks in the snow look so violent! Who would guess that something soft like a feather could have made them. It is always hard to know wether to be sad for the creature that lost its life or happy for the bird of prey that had a good meal.

Beth said...

Looking forward to your dirty pictures! lol
I find tracks in the snow fascinating, and you did a good job figuring out what was going on. At a time this winter when we didn't have much snow cover, there were a lot of pure white feathers in our backyard. I am guessing they were from a hawk, as there are some hawks that have pure white undersides. But usually the hawk is the predator, not the prey. It is fascinating to try to figure out these mysteries.
Hugs, Beth

May Munro said...

These snow picture shows different things, snow disrupts all daily activities and creates a havoc on roads.

Gloves and Mitts

Pam's English Garden said...

Fascinating prints, Karen. I haven't been able to go far from home this year so limit myself to what I can see through my window. The funniest sight was a mole tunneling its way through the snow bank. Like you, I wonder how the animals are surviving this winter. P. x

HolleyGarden said...

I've never heard of that children's game, not ever having snow to play in. But the tracks in the snow are amazing, and I love how you explained the game first. The tracks made sense when you put it that way. I feel for the creatures in all that cold and snow, too. I hope spring comes soon!

Debbie@Debbie-Dabble and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Good for you getting out and enjoying this never ending Winter!! We are supposed to get more snow on Wed.!! Thanks so much for your visit and I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you!!