Grit Blogs > Nature and Gardening at the Edge

Tales in the snow

Snow fell on Christmas Eve giving us a white Christmas.
White Christmas is not common here but always possible. Some drive to the
mountains to enjoy the snow when it doesn’t fall on the plains. A running joke
is that celebrating Christmas on Halloween ensures a white “Christmas” as it
seems to snow more often on Halloween than on Christmas.

 This years’ snow fall was only an inch or two but continuing
cold weather kept it on the ground for days. It is always interesting to me to
see what wildlife is about after a snowfall. Deeper snowfalls may keep animals
in for a day or even two but soon they are out foraging for food.

Bare patches in the snow with lots of rabbit, deer or other
animal tracks show that where they have dug down to eat. Larger animals such as
deer may eat tree bark while heavy snow cover is on. If you see a cluster of
their tracks in your orchard, check the trees.

Of course animals are about all during the year but their
trails and eating habits are often nearly invisible to us without snow cover.
On the dry lands, antelope may follow a trail that is all but invisible but

that is consistent. By walking their range after a snow, you can easily see
their trails.

Occasionally animals seem to play in the snow much as humans
do but their tracks usually show the daily activities. Clusters of tracks point
to grazing or eating. Deep widely spaced tracks usually indicate running either
after food or to escape being caught. More leisurely deposited tracks will show
the trails to and from water, food or cover. Look carefully and you may also
find spots where animals have bedded down in the snow.  Deeper holes made by rabbits can sometimes be
found in deeper snow banks.  Amazingly
the rabbits appear to use these for days during heavy snow. During warmer hours
they may sit on the snow bank enjoying the sun ready to pop in if a predator
appears or the temperature drops.

I found a lovely bird print in the snow that didn’t really
tell a clear story. The size of the bird does not seem to indicate a bird of
prey. Perhaps it the bird simply flew down from the overhanging tree and spread
its wings to make the landing.

Today the Christmas snowfall is well tracked up in the lawn
area and ample rabbit droppings are deposited. The story is less interesting
than after the first fall. Subsequent snowfalls on old snow may make tracking
more challenging. Frequently the snow will crust during sunny days. If it
crusts with many tracks making it rough, new snow and new tracks will be more
difficult to trace. Likewise granular snow and very dry drifted snow may Snow on the plains
capture many tracks.

The snow tales are obscured now and sadly the moisture
content was not a big help to plant life or animals. Perhaps we can hope for
another snow with or without a holiday.