SAP AND PORCUPINE ACTIVITY.....Were you looking for signs of spring? Well, here is one! The trees are tapped, and the sap is flowing at the campground. This is Chris's project, and he is hanging these water jugs attached to spiles that have been inserted in Maples. The sap has been flowing, and some jugs were overflowing! Not only that, but the wind was blowing and some jugs were grounded. A fellow hiker tried to taste the sweetness of the sap before reattaching a jug. These trees that are being tapped are not Sugar Maples, but Red Maples since that is what is growing on the island. The plan is to evaporate the sap on an open fire, which I hope to witness. Frankly, I am used to buckets being used to catch the sap. By the way, the sap wasn't sweet, but squirrels and birds think otherwise.

We have lost a lot of snow, but hiking in the woods can still be hazardous if you aren't wearing cleats. I've been scouting around for signs of spring since I have chosen that subject for a class. I am getting a bit impatient, even though I know it takes time and warmth for changes to occur.

On a recent outing, we followed the Orange Trail where it borders the cliffs on the north end of the campground. There was no snow to observe tracks, but the presence of porcupines was stark where these animals had debarked small trees. These trees stood out in lighter colors. Some were saplings, and I couldn't imagine these rodents climbing to the tops. It was also interesting since some of the chewed trees were birches.......talk about chewing paper! We climbed down to observe the dens of these animals. The huge boulders formed a nice tenement housing for porcupines. My companion suggested next time we bring flashlights to see if we could see the animals inside. In the picture below, you can see how meticulously a tree has been chewed, leaving the incisor scratches as evidence. If you remember the habits of porcupines, you know that their dens often are marked by a pile of scat left at the entrances. Their scat is light in color and more oval and elongated than a deer or rabbit's droppings. In the picture on the right below, you can see the openings where porcupines have climbed into for shelter and a snooze. We saw no animals up in the trees, but they might have heard us coming.

We continue to be wrapped in sunny but chilly days that must give the frogs heart failure as they attempt to emerge from their winter quarters. Last night I drove over to a place off Parker Head Road where Woodcocks have been heard doing their spring time Peents and spiral dances. It must have been too cold because I heard no Peents and saw no aerial flights of these interesting birds with their long beaks.

A friend called to see if I wanted some deer bones she had found off Pennant Trail at the campground. We lost a deer this winter, and frankly I am surprised we haven't lost more with all the snow making deer travels difficult. I also found an antler this week over in Arrowsic. I was off the trails, but to be truthful the antler was badly chewed and must have been on the ground since last year. Other animals chew antlers to get their needed minerals for bone growth. No wonder We aren't tripping over bones and skulls left in the woods. They provide a dietary supplement and disappear. I figure if I don't find freshly shorn antlers in the spring, I won't find them until next year. It is always a particular joy to find these cast off growths. 3/24/09 Chilled and thrilled Ronnie, who just set two national records in her swimming.