ANIMALS ON THE MOVE......If you ski or snowshoe, you should be here now. We have snow on top of snow, and the end isn't in sight. The only problem is getting down here and finding a place to leave your car. The parking behind Head Beach is not plowed, and there are icy ruts restricting any thing but a drive through. Once you reach the Kelp Shed, there are a couple of places to leave your car, but not many. I was over there last week during that bitter cold spell when the temperatures only rose into the teens. The wind was blowing and made your eyes water. Consequently, I headed for the woods, just as most of the animals did. Deer tracks are all over the place, often mixed in with porcupine trails (seen to the left). When I am out and about, these animals are not visible even though I stop to look overhead for those quill equipped creatures. I also had fun following the tracks of a grouse and wondered if I found its protected resting point before discharging scat and taking off. Of course, I didn't see that animal either. Now that I look more closely at this scat picture, I see a distinct track below the piles. This is not a grouse track, but from some other animal that must have gotten wind of the excretion and checked it out. There were multiple tracks in this area, but I'm pretty sure a grouse discharged this scat.

Probably the most exciting tracking find was over at West Point. I was checking our property over there, and came upon the distinctly different Opossum tracks. This animal is more often found in places farther south, such as Connecticut where I used to live. They leave a star-like front paw pattern, but their hind paws have a thumb that angles out making their tracks unmistakable. This largely white animal has ears and a fur-less tail that are both vulnerable to cold temperatures. Incidentally, their tracks led under every porch and house without a basement, even under a turned over boat! Here are their tracks, on the left.

The intense, sub zero temperatures we've had recently, have led to some interesting morning scenes along the Kennebec River. Our winter home has a view of this waterway, and this is what we've been seeing. There is a small island, called Goat Island, that sits out from shore. I am looking east across the river to the Arrowsic/Georgetown area. There are no boats, or ships for that matter, seen on this waterway. The water rises and falls with the tide. Ice chunks are often seen floating by, but the water itself is warmer than the air above creating this misty scene.

I also have been hiking on ice in recent days. All the local ponds are frozen over. Center Pond is a popular site for ice fishing. Anglers even venture into Sprague Pond to see what they can catch on that water body. I hiked all over Center pond, and onto the trails behind. Unfortunately, there were more vehicular tracks than those from animals. I've even seen cars parked on that pond. I've walked all over the Lily Pond to explore its edges. Mostly deer have left their tracks there, and the beaver lodge remains unoccupied. Such was not the case when I checked out the wetlands leading up to Sprague Pond. I marched out to the lodge that exists there, and noticed animal tracks leading up and into an opening in the top! A beaver has vent holes in the top, but gains entrance under the ice. I talked to a local trapper, and he said this lodge is also unoccupied by a beaver, but may be used by some other animal, perhaps a River Otter? Some openings in other areas suggested it may be an otter since scat droppings contained fish scales. Oh the puzzles of tracking animals in winter!
1/20/09 snow covered Ronnie.