ACTIVITIES AWAY FROM THE SHORE...
Here we are in a new month, a shorter one, too. We have gained more light each day, which is always welcome. Instead of anticipating sunset at 4PM, I am waiting for it to set near 5. The sun dawns earlier, but I'm still up in the dark eagerly awaiting the first glimpses of its rays. This picture was taken a few days ago when the snow was soft and deep. As you can see, a deer stopped to deposit some excess baggage before moving on. Such scat is easy to spot on the background of white snow!

In recent days, the temperature has remained in a very frigid state. The cars are back on the iced over ponds, and fishing shacks dot the ice cover. This next weekend there will be a fishing derby so some fishermen may be establishing territory. If the ice will hold a car, I will feel safe venturing out and perhaps investigating other ice covered marshes, including the Lily Pond! I checked out the Sprague Pond Preserve figuring it was a good time to walk the marshes and look for animal activity. I was able to walk up to the beaver lodge that sits in the middle of the dammed water area. One has to be careful in such moves since there may be an opening near the base where the animal comes up to breath and perhaps grab a stick or two for dinner. I am not sure the this lodge is inhabited since there were no openings in the ice, though the lodge itself was without a snow cover, as if warm bodies inside had melted it. I checked the shoreline, looking for openings, but the only holes in the ice were away from the shore and without animal tracks surrounding them. Maybe they are breathing holes? I was disappointed in not finding signs of otter activity that I'd observed in the past.

I trudged up the hill to the pond, following a trail used by snowmobilers. On the way up, I saw these tracks that have been scarce. These are those of a Snowshoe Hare, I believe. I would love to catch sight of these animals that are snow white in winter, only to lose that fur with new growth of brown hair. I once saw one that was in the process of this change. In the white phase, it helps to have snow on the ground so they can remain hidden from predators.

I continued to the top of the hill and walked out on to the pond where fishing had been occurring. There were drilled holes, that had frozen over. In fact on my way back, I ran into a snowmobiler who was going up to do more fishing! I was concerned at the places these vehicles enter and leave the pond to the detriment of the plants on the shoreline. I did spot a dead deer carcass whose bones were sticking up out of the snow. It was on the edge of the pond. How long it had been there, I do not know, though tracks of a squirrel were nearby. Maybe it was looking for bones to chew! 2/2/10 Ronnie on the ice......