March 27, 2018

Back Yard Bliss

It won't be long before these trees are leafed out in their spring attire.

After several nor'easters blew through, we ended up with just enough snow to get out the snowshoes. It wasn't the deep powder of early winter, but the wet, heavy snow provided solid footing for a couple of extended hikes in the back yard woods. As usual, it was blissful.

I didn't see any ticks (one reason I like snowshoeing so much), but did see lots of other signs of life. The only creature I actually saw was an owl, which is always a thrill. Owls are very elusive, and no doubt they have seen me far more often than I have seen them.

 It is good to know owls, and all kinds of other creatures live in the forests surrounding our home. They are evidence that the ecosystem retains the ability to support them, despite human intervention such as farming, industrial logging, trapping and mining.

First stop - squirrel cafe. These small rodents like to perch while they eat their seeds. The evidence of their snacking is hard to miss.

Next is the porcupine dining area. Early this winter while out for a hike I came across a porcupine holed up in a tree. It was snuggled down in its woody bedroom, quills laid back, hardly moving.

Then this week, I saw its kitchen. Or its pantry. Bark is the food of choice for porcupines, most notably the growing layer underneath, which is called cambium. It is rich in nutrients, unlike the tough outer bark.

The spruce forest provides cover from nor'easters for all kinds of furry friends, such as rabbits, hares, squirrels, mink, fisher, fox, coyote, bobcat and more. They all prefer to hide from humans, which is an intelligent survival strategy.

A secure water source, such as Acacia Brook (which is at the bottom of the valley our home is on), means that wildlife of all kinds can live here. I am still waiting to see a river otter.

There are lots of things for owls to eat in this forest. Barred owls can hear the squeak of a mouse from 46 m (150 ft) away, and can detect them under the snow. All owls have the ability to fly silently, due to their special feathers.

Snowshoe tracks, and what left that squiggly track? Mouse? Vole? Large worm?

And finally, the blissful track hunter himself saying, "Peace" to all. I wasn't sure if I should post this, but reasoned that, hey, I'm part of nature, too.

It's the wild life for me.

Goodbye winter, hello spring. There is rain in the forecast, so the snow will not last long. Soon it will be time to pull back the mulch and check to see how the garlic is making out.


  1. Peace man! Hey Gregg, I have owl envy. Haven't seen or heard one in ages!

    1. Franny and Danny,

      This time I only saw the owl fly away from me. I tracked it for a short while, then caught another glimpse of it flying away.

  2. Anonymous3/27/2018

    Wow, Acacia Brook is gorgeous! Are you likely to run across a bear in your neck of the woods?

    My garlic, planted a few weeks ago, is just starting to sprout up through the soil.


    1. Madeleine,

      It would be possible to see a bear here, but unlikely. I have yet to see any tracks or signs. It would be an amazing sight, if not slightly scary.

      Garlic is so much fun to grow, right from the very first sprouts.

  3. We have great horned owls in our neighborhood and we're always thrilled when we hear them having conversations early in the morning. They sit high atop the pines, watching everything down below. They're awesome. Your photos made me grab my hoodie. Brrr. The leaves are finally coming out on the southern oaks here. I love that new, bright green color. You don't realize how much you miss it until you see it again. We just planted some veggies in containers. It will be our first attempt at growing food since moving here. Hoping for some good results.

    1. It sounds like you have lots of wildlife in your area, including wild boars. And dangerous dogs (was sorry to read about that on your blog). Oaks are one of my favourite trees. Good luck on your first food growing. Exciting.

    2. I'm reading a book by a historian and doing extra research on the social history of America, focused on USA history. It was the early settlers who brought over domesticated pigs and turned some of the lose on the countryside in southern USA. The wild bores are a result of that experiment. It is a terrible problem in south Texas and probably in other areas as they became quite aggressive and eat crops and some animals with a vengeance. Wild bores are not native to USA. In fact, I'm learning a lot of things that grow and reproduce here are not native. I had no idea how much of our non native species goes back to the earliest settlers.

  4. I love everything you post Gregg but have an affinity to your personal photos and stories about what you find on adventures. You do love winter and snow. Tracks in snow look so delicate and peaceful. Creatures going about their daily living and foraging for food. The evidence of their existence is distinct in a snow covered landscape. You live very close to the wild. It is most appropriate to include a photo of you out in it!

    1. Terri,

      I do love tracks in the snow - they all tell a story. Last year I found wing prints in the freshly fallen snow. It looked like an owl had landed to grab some prey, then took off with it. Tracks are the next best thing to actually seeing the creatures themselves.

      I am glad you enjoy these posts as they are my favourite to "research" and write. I like to share the peace and tranquility nature has to offer. I know you know about that.

    2. The wing prints sound very interesting. I too see stories in tracks especially those found on top of snow.


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