I donned my snowshoes and took a lap around our woodlot when I got home tonight. I think the chipmunks are out. I didn’t see any of them, but I did see plenty of tracks. We had a dusting of snow last night, and when it landed atop the frozen crust that was already there, it created the perfect substrate for capturing small mammal tracks.

Here’s a chipmunk hole hideout at the base of a small tree:

Chipmunk hideout

Chipmunk hideout

None of these tracks led to the base of any large trees, but plenty of them disappeared into holes in the snow at the base of small trees like these. The tracks are also very small compared to a grey squirrel’s.

After a little more tramping around I came across tracks of the chipmunk’s mortal enemy – the common housecat. I figure it belongs to the neighbors. There were plenty of cat tracks criss-crossing my property, both in the back and out front. Here’s a place where cat and grey squirrel tracks crossed paths:

Cat, bottom to top; grey squirrel right to left

Cat, bottom to top; grey squirrel right to left

They must have made these tracks at different times, as they both continue off in straight lines in different directions.

Here’s a nice cat print at the end of my driveway:

Cat track

Cat track

I like the detail it left here. Right after these tracks, the cat leaped up onto the snowbank along the side of the driveway with its claws fully extended. Then it scrambled up the bank and headed down my snowshoe trail. It must be quite a bit easier to walk on that as compared to bare snow. Less risk of this:


Looks like kitty broke through the crust and then clawed its way out.

While I was out I did check my sap bucket (that was the stated reason for putting on the snowshoes, though the real reason was just to walk around). It was far too cold today for any sap to run. I don’t think it got out of the 20’s.

Today David and I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. I saw some trailing arbutus in bloom on the way, first one of the year:

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

I still haven’t seen any with open blooms yet on my property though. When I took this photo, I prolly should have put the camera on the tripod. I had to set the exposure time to 1/8 seconds, which is a pretty long time. This actually came out pretty good considering I was holding the camera in my hand when I took it. Usually, it blurs when I leave the shutter open that long.

When we got to the pond I found another set of great blue heron tracks under the water. I cast a set of those a while back. There was a married (?) couple at the pond with a little girl (she must have been three years old), so I told them about the tracks, and they wanted to see them. They seemed happy when they spotted them, and surprised at how big they were. I guess these were six inches long, but that’s small compared to the tracks I cast a year and a half ago. Those were more like eight inches long.

David and I walked along the stream that empties the pond then. David crossed the snowmobile/ATV bridge, and then crossed back over a log. On the off chance that he might fall in, I got out the camera and set it on the continuous shooting mode. Here he is over the center of the stream:

David cross a log

David cross a log

You can see “Thomas the Tank Engine” behind him to the right of that clump of reeds (or maybe it’s alder) in the stream.

And here he is moments after he put his weight on a section that may have been a little too decayed:

David falling off a log

Look out!

The water was only a couple inches deep where he landed, and he wasn’t much worse for the wear. He said later that the fungus growing on the branch should have been a tip off. And I agree!

I’ve been seeing a lot of animal tracks by our catchment pond over the past couple of weeks. The mud we have there right now is particularly good at capturing them. I think the bobcat whose tracks I saw last winter is still hanging around. It seems to visit every couple of days.

I have been meaning to set up my camera out there unattended. I recently downloaded the Canon Hacker’s Development Kit, which is a collection of open source software I can load onto my camera to do things like motion detection (i.e., take a picture when the scene changes). Dunno how well it would work in the dark though, and I’m not 100% comfortable leaving my camera unattended that close to the road.

That aside, I went out there again tonight to look at tracks. I found no bobcat tracks, but there were plenty of dog tracks. Also chipmunk (surprise!) and a caterpillar of some sort:

Worm Tracks

Worm Tracks

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the caterpillar was green. I’ve been seeing tracks like this around the pond a lot, and was pretty sure they were made by some kind of worm. And now I’ve seen what’s doing it.

I also noticed that the beggar ticks have bloomed. These are nasty plants whose seeds are a painful achene which will instantly attach to your socks or pants, and they are very difficult to extract. I’d pull them up, but there are a lot of them. Maybe I should try anyhow, I dunno.

Today went pretty much as I outlined it in yesterday’s post. We arrive in Portland a little after 1:00pm. I was scheduled to teach at 2:30, but they had gotten behind by 30 minutes. That left me with two hours of free time. Beth and I changed clothes, and I hauled all my supplies into the room where my session was to be held. Then I took Penny for a walk. There is a long trail behind the Portland church running parallel to a new road in a new development. So Penny and I ambled down that way. It’s maybe a half mile long, and probably less than that. I was delighted to find several squirrel and mouse tracks, so I knew we’d have a shot at casting some.

Penny enjoyed the walk too, helpfully bringing me sticks to throw. I got back to the church, put Penny in her crate in the car, and then went inside. I sat in on a session led by Bill Wood, the Union Pathfinder Director (Union is the next level in the hierarchy up from the Conference). Beth sat next to me and listened as he presented his PowerPoint slides. Beth turned the pages in my handout (which was really just a copy of Bill’s slides). When that ended, it was time to work on Animal Tracking.

I had prepared for 19 students (it would have been 20, but I botched the first set of photocopies) and I had eight. I’m not complaining – I would rather have too many handouts than not enough. Four of the eight attendees were kids, and they didn’t seem terribly interested. That is, of course, a mystery to me since I find tracking so fascinating.

Of the four adults who were there, one had already earned the honor. I was afraid that almost all the attendees would have it already, so I had decided to focus on how to teach the honor rather than on the honor itself. I kinda did both, once I had an idea of what my audience was like.

First we went over some of the theory parts. I showed several of the photos I’ve taken over the past couple of years. Then we headed out to the trail and cast some of the tracks I had seen earlier. There’s no way they would set up before we left, and in fact, I’m not positive these will be successful. It was very cold outside, so the joint compound may have simply frozen before it could do any setting. I’m not sure how that will affect the casts. Maybe when they take them inside, they will simply reliquify. Hope not!

Then we went back in to warm up a bit and talked about telling dog and cat tracks apart, and telling squirrel and rabbit tracks apart. We also covered hopping vs walking birds, and plantigrade vs digitigrade walkers (that is, flatfoots vs toe-walkers).

Then we went back outside with some tempera paint so we could afflict poor Penny. Just as we did in the summer, I poured some tempera paint in a paper plate. I lifted Penny, and Peter (a friend of mine from the Limington Lantern’s Pathfinder Club) dipped her paws in the paint. Then I took her for a short walk. We repeated this and I took Penny for a short run. Then we measured the distance between the tracks. Check off that requirement!

We went in again, and that was pretty much the whole honor. I started gathering up my casts, and in short order, Beth and I were ready to bug out.

I asked David to go and collect our casts in the morning, and he said he would. But just to be on the safe side, I told Va that I had asked him to do that. She will help him remember.

One cool thing Va told me was that in one of the classes she went to, they presented my Wikibooks project as a highly recommended resource. That’s what it’s there for! Many of the people there already knew about it and sang its praises. Woot!

Beth and I headed out at around 5:30 I guess. We stopped at McDonald’s because they had an indoor playground. Beth was so well behaved that I decided I would endure the food and let her play a bit. But not for too long. We left around 6:00, and got home at 8:30.

I was supposed to swing by Ken’s house and pick up his pickup so I could fetch the fruit tomorrow. But it was so late and I had so many things crammed into my car, I decided to swing by in the morning instead. I didn’t really savor the idea of unloading my stuff twice when once would be enough. I called, but his phone was busy. I finally got through when we got home.

So tomorrow, Beth and I will get up bright an early (actually, it will not be bright yet). We’ll gnarf down some breakfast and hustle over to Ken’s to get his truck, then hustle over to Keene to get the fruit. I am really looking forward to my tangelos.

That’s about enough for tonight. Thank you both for reading!

This weekend promises to be packed. This afternoon Va and the boys headed up to Portland, Maine for Pathfinder Leadership Training. Every two or three years they offer the 10-hour basic training course, which is a requirement for Master Guide, and Va is working towards her Master Guide, so… she needs it.

But someone has to stay with Beth and Penny, and that would be me this time. She’s in bed now, and Penny is napping at my feet. I’ve just finished gathering up a bunch of stuff I need tomorrow afternoon for teaching the Animal Tracking honor at the Leadership Training session.

In the morning, Beth and I will get up, eat breakfast, and get ready for church. Then we’ll load Penny and all Penny’s stuff in the car and head out. We need to leave early, because I’ll need to hang a backdrop in the Cradle Roll Sabbath School room (Va changed over their program this week). I’ll also need to make about 20 photocopies of the hand-outs I’ll need for the Animal Tracking honor.

We’ll stay for Sabbath School (I’m teaching Juniors), but we’ll leave before the worship service starts and head up to Maine to join the rest of the family. I think we’ll get there with time to spare.

If all this goes as planned, tomorrow’s post should be pretty redundant!

I picked up my new glasses today. Here are the before and after shots:

See how the new specs transform me from a total doofus to a modern hip cat?

See how the new specs transform me from a total doofus to a modern hip cat?

So I guess my brother Mike was right. Now I can quit being a doofus and be one of those cool hip cats. Or something.

Today I took a lunchtime walk. I grabbed my camera and just went out looking for something to photograph. I haven’t been on a lunch walk in a couple of months, so it was good to get out again. Which reminds me – Jonathan and I were supposed to go for a run after supper, but we forgot. Maybe we should still go – it’s not that late yet. We both need to record our exercise for four months for the Guide class in Pathfinders, and we need to have that done before the end of May. That means we need to start just any day now.

But back to my walk. Nature is pretty hard to find in Concord in January. I did take some pictures of some hawthorns:



I don’t think I’d eat these, at this stage, but they are edible when ripe.
I saw several animal trails, but most appeared to be made by domestic cats and dogs. They were all pretty old tracks though. We’re supposed to get some snow tonight, so maybe I’ll have better luck Thursday (it’s supposed to snow from midnight tonight until late tomorrow). I found one set of tracks that were pretty fresh. I figured I’d take a picture of them too, but wanted to lay something next to them for scale. I dug around in my coat pockets and found… a tape measure! Not a bad scale at all! Here’s the best of those shots:
Not all that impressive, and I’m still not sure what it is. Probably a house cat. So that’s about all the adventures I’ve had today. Catch you all again tomorrow!

This morning I got up pretty early for it being a day off. I ate an orange and then took out the trash. To my surprise, we had a fresh inch of snow on the ground, and it was still falling. It stopped shortly after that, so we didn’t get much more than an inch.

Then I drove into Tilton. My plan was to go to Lowes, but I passed a True Value hardware store in the “old” part of town and decided to go there instead. I guess that store has been there for a hundred years, and I love browsing around in a place like that. I was looking for mineral spirits and a paint brush, which I found. I also found a bracket that I will use to hang Beth’s bird feeder Sometime Real Soon Now™. It was a delightful store, and I will go there first from now on.

When I got home, I took Penny for another walk down to Sandogardy Pond. I saw several hundred squirrel tracks (no exaggeration), and photographed a couple. This one turned out the best:

Squirrel tracks in the snow

Squirrel tracks in the snow

Va and Beth went into Concord a little while later. Beth was all excited because they were going to open a savings account for her. The boys and I fended for ourselves for lunch, and after that, I got to work on a costume for Camp In.

That has been an exercise in frustration. The sewing machine didn’t want to run at first, but I gave the shuttle a nice WD-40 bath, and it was soon humming away. Then it started making a messy tangle of thread on the bottom side of the seams. I know what causes that – maladjusted tension on the bobbin. I dug around for the sewing machine manual, but was not met with joy. I looked all over the machine for an adjustment, but didn’t see anything obvious. I adjusted the tension on the top thread, but that didn’t seem to make much difference. If anything, it made matters worse. I eventually resorted to hand stitching some parts, because there wasn’t that much to do. But tomorrow, I will have to find that manual.

I spent the better part of this evening going through my photos, tagging each one. They are mostly wildflowers, and I am tagging them by species using their proper Latin names. I’ve saved 5,467 photos (and taken almost 20,000), so this is going to be a long process. I’ve already tagged 3,844 of them, so it’s not going to be that much longer (I’ve been working on this for a couple of weeks).

I also have several insect photos, and up until now, I have not tried to id them down to the species level. But that has now begun to some extent. For the most part, I have been tagging them by their taxonomic Order (Diptera, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, etc). Last night I started taking the diptera (flies and mosquitoes) down to the genus or species level (if I could). I’ve also started down that path with the Coleoptera (beetles), but I’m going to save the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) for some other time. It takes a while to figure some of these out. Bugguide.net is a tremendous help.

I’m tagging my frogs down to the species, but haven’t done that with the salamanders yet (though that should not be hard – there are only about a dozen species of salamander in NH).

So far I’m tagging the fungi as… Fungi. I’ll drill down on those later. Same with the Bryophytes (mosses) and Lichens.

It has been interesting doing this, as these nature photos represent about two years worth of field play (can’t call it “field work” if it’s really just play). My photographic skills have come a long way since I started. Some of the early attempts were pretty pathetic. This new camera promises yet another leap. I have so far been able to apply what I learned on my previous camera, so that’s a definite bonus.