Porcupine trailing and fox leadings.........
We've had two snows since I last wrote. The depth is up to the top of my boots! However, it is (or was, since it is now raining) nice and soft for hiking. I continue to follow Porcupines and find their antics amusing but also concerning. Some are attacking the bark of mature pines which doesn't bode well for the tree's survival. However, it is such fun following the ambles of these low-to-the-ground animals. I took some chances following these tracks from Land Fall all the way over, and west, to the Red Trail. If you remember following the red trail along the coast, you will recall those huge boulders to the right as you head north. Well, dear old rock climbing Ron followed the tracks over to where they entered that den a short way up on the white trail! I am sure I never would have done that tracking under normal conditions. The snow has a way of filling in the cracks and giving something to plug into. I wore cleats and had a hefty walking stick. In some places, I just slid on my butt! I came out in one piece and was able to confirm where those tracks were headed. Believe me, there were a lot...that place is overrun with these rodents. Occasionally we run into the animals themselves. Here is one that looks soft enough to pat, high in a fir tree. I thank my hiking companion, Kathy, for capturing this picture. This one spends its rest periods under a latrine.

I see fox tracks regularly, but only once saw signs of its digging and catching an animal. I found a dead shrew where activity indicated it had been pulled out of the snow. The animal was not chewed, but I understand shrews are distasteful and may be left uneaten. Fox are out looking for mice, voles, squirrels and chipmunks. They travel up and down the island in pursuit of food. I noticed their tracks led behind the compost heap where dead lobsters (from the pound) are thrown. It looked like some shells had been dug up, so I wondered if lobster should be included in their sought after food? I did find some scat, typical of the fox. Both tracks and scat of coyote and fox can be confused, though if you carry a ruler you should be able to distinguish the two. In both cases, the coyote's scat and tracks are larger. Here is the fox scat. Most Coyote scat is 3/4 in. in diameter, and is more likely to have bone fragments in it. You can measure fox tracks with two digits held together. That is about the width of a fox's track. Of course, I am still waiting to see the fox itself!

I was able to hike on the beaches this week. As usual, I have to "hit my usual haunts" to confirm that Sea Stars and crabs are surviving the 40 degree sea water and brutal surf. I turned over a few rocks and uncovered crabs and sea stars. I also found a small crab that was left high and dry by the tide, only to dig a hiding hole in the wet sand. There seem to be an abundance of amphipods that wiggle out from under over turned rocks. The seaweeds are tough. I tried to untangle a mass of colorful (purple!) rope draped with Knotted Wrack. I couldn't just pull away these plants, they had to be cut.

I will close this segment with a picture of where those porcupine tracks led me. Do you recognize that part of the Red Trail where we descend over the rocks to enter Starfish Cave? Imagine trying to climb down with a new slipperiness.....snow and ice! Winter has a way of hiding the poison ivy, too.

Today it is foggy, if you can believe it. Outside, I can hear the fog horn sounding a warning to river travelers. Life goes on here on the shores of Maine. 1/13/05 Foxy Ronnie