November 21, 2004

MONO CLIFFS - 25th Sideroad entrance (North side)
Fall Tracking Day

Meeting Report & Photos by Alexis Burnett

Three people turned out for on a misty/overcast/sunny/cloudy fall day. It was however a beautiful morning and we began our journey by following a deer trail that ran parallel to the road. We stopped and looked at some rocks that were covered in different mosses and lichens -- so alive and vibrant as many of the other plants are dying/going to sleep for the winter. 
A little further down the trail we found a large larder of milkweed seeds and stopped to examine what was feasting on these abundant seeds. Many animals and birds feed on the harvest of the milkweed plant, from many kinds of rodents to rabbits and hares, chickadees etc... It has become a very important plant to a lot of these animals. It also has many utilitarian uses for us as well, but that's another story. So... do you know who has been storing these seeds in the birds-nest?
Or how about who was feeding on these seeds?
There were many animal trails coming and going from this field, some small and some quite large. When the sun goes down you could tell that many animas are moving on these small thoroughfares!
As we entered the forest and neared the top of the escarpment, we all split up and wandered alone through this enchanted part of the forest. Along the edge of the field there was at least one deer bed that we found and a lot of sign of the deer that move through this area. It was really nice to be able to wander through this area alone and really experience the mood and transitions of the forest. I spent a lot of my time following the deer trails as they weaved their way through the hardwoods along the top of the limestone cliffs. You could feel the impressions left from their hooves as they walked across the wet leaves.
I came across quite a lot of scat, many of it looked pretty fresh. These deer, along with many other mammals really change their movement patterns at this time of year. There was also some sign of the lingering "Rut" that is coming to a close in this area. I noticed a lot of antler rubs, some old a couple new, along with some foot scrapes where there was some scent deposited. It was a lot of fun to follow these trails left by the deer and get a sense of what their lives are like at this time of year.
The leaves on the forest floor were nice and wet, which afforded for a quiet fox-walk through the forest. Most of the summer birds have vanished from the landscape recently, but many of the more common winter residents were around. Including: Blue Jays, Chickadees, Red-Tails, Ravens, Crows, etc... At one point there was a Blue Jay imitating a Red-Tail. Has he seen the Red-Tail that was perched up in the trees in this area I wondered? Along the deer trails I also passed a number of raccoon scats, mostly containing apples, another sign of what the animals are eating right now and the time of year. There were a few large Red and Gray Squirrels around as well, it seems they have packed on some extra ounces of fat and fur in anticipation of the coming winter. There was also sign of a porcupine beginning to feed on bark as this porcupine had dined on some sweet cambium of this maple tree. I was wondering when these animals and others would be switching to a more fiber-based diet. The amount of succulent green vegetation is quickly diminishing from the landscape! The Red-squirrels could be seen stripping cedar bark from the trees to line their nests with. These small rodents are very busy at this time of year.
I decided to sit for a while on the top of the beautiful cliffs in this area and soak up this amazing fall day. It would be hard to capture the spirit of this day in words. It was very comforting to experience it alone, yet with others as we separately wandered alone. I'm thankful to Skeet and Colleen for joining me on this fall day and know that they also had a special time walking the land on this fine day!

Happy Tracking!

--Alexis Burnett


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