Nov 26, 2006

Fall Tracking
BRUCE TRAIL - 4th Line Hockley valley

Meeting Report & Photos by Alexis Burnett

On this warm fall day 5 of us ventured down the 'Peter Beechum' trail in Hockley Valley. most of the day was spend following a beautiful creek flowing through the hardwood trees on it's way down to the Nottawasaga river in the valley bottom below. Shortly after starting we came upon many 'digs' in the leaves on the ground. We speculated to as what had made this sign and came up with red squirrels being the best possibility. But we didn't rule out the opportunistic raccoon who's scats we found in a number of areas throughout the day.
We followed some deer tracks through the leaves and found some beautiful moss growing on the limestone rocks under the shade of the towering hardwoods.
The whole day we admired the magnificence of the trees in this forest. Sugar Maple, Hemlock, Hickory, Butternut, Yellow and White Birch, Cedar, White Ash and many other species were common. Their seeds were being utilized as a food source by many different animals. It was common to find the feeding sign of red squirrels, especially on these maple seeds. We saw many red squirrels this day and they were quite active in these last days of the fall. Their coats were very red in color and quite 'bushy'.
Along the edge of the stream we found many tracks of raccoons and a few sets of mink tracks. These were a great discovery and yielded us with many questions pertaining to these elusive, aquatic creatures. Here was a Leopard frog with a set of mink tracks right behind it. This little guy let us get quite close and observe him before diving into the mud. With these frogs and minnows in the stream we figured there was no shortage of food for this resident mink. How big was his territory we wondered?
Along the stream we also found what looked like squirrel tracks in the mud. Very clear tracks in a bounding pattern. This area was rich in animal life and there was no doubt as to the importance of this water source.

On our walk back we found a couple of mystery scats along the trail. Both seemed like they belonged to a red fox, but we could not say for sure? This one contained deer hair as well as a quill from a feather. This was placed on a moss-covered rock just to the side of the trail. A prominent place. This was common for these types of scats that we found this day.

All in all we found tracks and sign for many animals including porcupine, raccoon, red squirrel, mink, deer, red fox and coyote among others.

We had a good walk this day and learned many things about the nature of this place. It is always so good to have a group like this together, moving slowly and observing all that enters our senses. I thank everyone who came out on this day for a wonderful time and hope that you can all make it out again with us.

Happy Tracking!

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