Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Feather on Crusty Snow

Yesterday was a beautiful day with a bright sun and clear blue sky. The air was cool, hovering around the freezing mark, and the mild west wind made the humid air nippy. The snow is not very deep at about 15 cm (half a foot). There is a thick crust of ice on top of old snow and a light wisp of new snow on top of the ice. The wispy layer is blown off the ice in the windy clearings. When walking one noisily breaks through the crust, so any ideas of startling and sighting some wildlife were out. Indeed I did not flush out any wildlife as they were well forewarned by this noisy operation.

This snow and ice strata allowed for easy observing of animal tracks and the dramas told. Snowshoe hare tracks were plentiful as were those of fisher, coyote and fox. There were also some ruffed grouse tracks. The ice layer must make it hard for the herbivores to forage. The snowshoe hares have completely eaten and stripped all the bark from one branch that broke off of a poplar tree along one of the trails. Poplar is not a tasty food so the supply must be getting scarce. Is that possibly why the hares are moving around so much and all the tracks?

Halfway out I came across a handsome feather that fell on the snow. It is pictured above. From the down at the base of the feather it is likely a breast feather and the colour pattern makes me think that it could be form a ruffed grouse; but there is considerably more brown than is typical of a ruffed grouse and it is quite large so it could also be from a hawk or owl.

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