Journal for February 2004

There’s still a lot of snow on the ground this weekend – there were 5 or 6 inches of new snow – so Mike ran the snowblower when we got here, although we were able to drive in.

Dick and Mary Broeker came for lunch and we sat in the sun in the dining room and talked.  It was about 15 degrees outside, but with the sun coming in the windows, the dining room got up to 79 degrees.

Last night the moon was almost full, and the sky was completely clear.  It was almost as bright as daylight.  We looked hard for coyotes, but didn’t see any animals.

Today I walked up the hill and planted another acre – now there’s only one more to go.  It was a nice walk, but exhausting, because there’s so much snow.  I walked up on snowshoes, and then did the planting without them.  It felt good to be able to walk more easily until I got to the edge of the field on the south side, sheltered from the wind – the snow there was over my knees.  The wind was blowing which made it easy to spread the seeds, so even with all the snow, it only took an hour to plant.  Hopefully I’ll get the last acre done tomorrow.

On the road, on the way up the hill, I found a place where a raptor had killed a rabbit.  I’m sure it was an owl – probably the Great Horned Owl that we heard hooting last night.  There were nice clear impressions of the wings where he caught the rabbit, and lots of tufts of fur scattered around in the snow, and several clear impressions of one wing when it took off again.

While Mike was snowblowing the driveway, I watched a Red-tailed Hawk catch something in the septic system field, eat it, and fly away.  I think it must have been a mouse – it had a small, long body, and a long tail.  The hawk ate it in about 4 bites.

I finished the last acre of seeding today – a small acre, and my path up the hill is so well trodden now that it’s easier to walk – so it was a much easier time.  On the way up the hill I saw 2 more places where an owl had caught or tried to catch something.  One was a perfect print of wings and feet and a beak, but no footprints around it, so I assume it was an owl catching something under the snow.  Farther up the hill was another spot, on the bank of the road, where there were two wing marks around a small hole with leaves coming out of it.  I didn’t see any sign that the owl actually caught anything in either spot.  But I hope the owl stays around and builds a nest.

This was a nice quiet weekend.  It was nice to have finished most of the seeding – I still have a few odds and ends to do.  I planted a few seeds in the wet area at the bottom of East Center Valley – Flat-topped Aster, Fringed Gentian, and Tall Meadow Rue.  The snow is very deep, and I hadn’t brought snowshoes, so my legs got wet and cold.  I’ll go back with snowshoes to finish the job.

Mike plowed out the driveway with the blade on the gator – it gets closer to the ground, so the surface is smoother and easier to walk on.  The snow at the top of the driveway, at the road, was much deeper, and it’s hard to see where the edges are, so he kept getting stuck.  I sat in the car and pulled him out every few minutes.

We had lunch at Dan and Jackie’s and met her friends Roz and Mark.

It’s still cold this weekend – -10 yesterday when I got up – but it warms up a lot during the day, and it’s beautiful and sunny.  The sun comes up so much earlier – at 8:00, when the sun used to just be hitting the tops of the trees on Stag Ridge, now it’s almost down to the field below.  And by 9:00 the whole house is bathed in sun.  The house gets hot in the afternoons, with the sun shining in, even when it’s cold outside.  It was about 15 degrees yesterday afternoon outside, and it got up to 78 inside.  Nice.

We’ve heard the Great-horned Owl both nights this weekend – once quite close to the house.  And Mike heard coyotes last night.  We found several very fresh coyote/fox scat on the newly plowed driveway this morning – they like walking there as much as we do – it must be a lot easier than walking through deep snow.

I planted a few more wetland seeds at the bottom of Pine Point Prairie this afternoon, and walked up the dugway to Big View Prairie.  I found a fox or coyote den – a brown trail – it looked muddy, but it was through clean snow – that led to a pile of slash and fallen trees just below the top of the dugway.  I also found another nest that looks like it might be a hawk nest – on a tree leaning out into the frog pond valley.  None of the nests I found are occupied right now.

Today is a very snowy day, but none of the snow is sticking – very odd – it’s like phantom snow.  It’s very warm – 37 degrees – so it must all be melting as it hits the ground.  It has been snowing hard all day and there’s no accumulation at all. Yesterday was 40 degrees and sunny – it felt like spring.  I like this late winter weather.

Yesterday I took a long walk in the snow, with the big boots on.  The snow is still about 10 inches deep, so it was hard walking, and at the top of the cabin road, right as it goes up the steep hill to the field, there was a drift that was up to my knees.  The snow was very smooth and heavy – like icing – and it showed the tracks of animals very clearly.  I saw a long wandering opossum track that came up under the deck, probably to eat birdseed, and then it wandered back and along the gulley into 3 Finger Valley.  There were lots of tracks of mice, with long tail marks, and other small mammals, with no tail marks.

Last night we heard a screech owl – the first one for a long time.

This morning when we took our walk there were loads of footprints on the driveway – several opossum, and lots of raccoons.  It’s the first time I’ve seen raccoon prints since last fall – they must be waking up after all this warm weather.  The raccoon tracks come in pairs – a front foot and a back foot next to each other, and the front and back feet trade places in each pair of prints.

We watched two Red-tailed Hawks swoop around each other, and one landed on a nest high up on Stag Ridge.  It’s not there today, but we’ll keep watching – maybe we can see one of their nests this year.  I walked up on top and planted all the odds and ends of seeds I had in the Narrows Prairie.  I walked down and didn’t see any owl prints in the snow – and we haven’t heard the Great Horned Owl this weekend either.  I hope it comes back.