Dog, fox or coyote? Mouse, vole or shrew? Who left these tracks, when and where were they going? These were just some of the many questions heard on Saturday morning (January 21st) when the Berwick YNC Chapter went winter tracking near the Kentville Bird Sanctuary.
With almost fifty people and one dog out on the trails, there were many questions to be heard and frequent shouts of excitement when another clear set of tracks was found in the thin layer of snow that dusted the ground.
Tracking in snow (or other clearly visible substrate like sand or mud) is magical. It brings to life the activities of our non-human neighbours, leaving clues as to how they live their lives. The mystery that accompanies many tracks also fuels deeper observation and research and that was no exception for our group; out came the tracking guides and stories about similar tracks seen elsewhere and what people thought they were.
There is a deep satisfaction that can be gained just from the questioning and the more people the more diverse the questions, but its also satisfying to receive expert insights to confirm or refute a theory or idea about a particular track. Fortunately, we had Soren Bondrup-Nielsen, ecologist and conservation biologist along for our tracking journey and he was able to point out certain details the amateurs amongst us can’t (yet) see and helped us look for details that would help us in future. Beyond the recognised expert, there were also some amateur experts in the mix and as with any nature outing I have ever been a part of, the co-learning was rich and satisfying as people shared the tidbits they had picked up in their tracking travels.
With such a large crowd, a few splinter groups evolved and those who wanted to warm up their feet after a slow walk and much stopping joined an epic game of Vole and Weasel, a fast and furious tag game in which we imitate the lives of this prey and predator pair in their underground burrows (except we stay above ground).
All around it was a fantastic morning with perfect conditions provided by mother nature and our enthusiastic group of participants. My gratitude to all who came out, including our woodsy neighbours who obviously had had an active night and morning before our arrival.
You can view our photos