Happy February!  I don’t know about you, but if someone were to ask me what my favorite month is or even my top 5 favorite months, February usually isn’t in the running.  When I think of February, the color gray immediately comes to mind.

I need to kick this habit though because February is a wonderful time of year!  The days are finally getting longer, buds on trees are starting to form, and cardinals are starting to sing in the early morning!  While we watch the snow melt from this unseasonably warm week, let’s get outside and see what else February has to offer.

Rodent tracks in the snow

Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of rodent tracks in the snow which always brings a smile to my face because of how sneaky they generally are.  While I have seen mice and voles run right by me while out on hikes, it’s not very common.  As sneaky as they are, covering their tracks is impossible so it’s nice to see where they choose to hike when no one else is around.

While looking at the tracks found at Westport Prairie, I heard what sounded like a Red-tailed Hawk screeching overhead and when I looked up, it was actually a Blue Jay!  Did you know that Blue Jay’s often mimic the screech of a Red-tailed Hawk?

Coyote tracks in the snow

Being a mouse means you really need to plan your hikes, because right about where the mouse tracks ended, the coyote tracks (pictured above) started… One easy way to tell if tracks belong to a domestic dog versus a fox or coyote is to look at the path of the tracks.  Dogs rarely walk in a straight line while foxes and coyotes are much more efficient with their consumption of energy.

These tracks were fairly large and spaced pretty far from one another which helps with my coyote identification.  Fox tracks are generally a little smaller and spaced closer together.

Just looks like grass, right?

As I continued my hike, I ventured a little off the trail to identify some prairie plant seed heads (as one does).  As I got closer, I saw a cottontail rabbit burst from the grass and it raced away from me.  It was startling but also confusing because the grass here was very short and this was a fairly large rabbit.  It didn’t seem possible for something that large to be completely obscured less than 5 feet from me.

I carefully walked around the area to see where it came from.  I thought maybe there was a hole in the ground that it was hiding in.  It crossed my mind that maybe it was just in plain sight but not moving so it camouflaged in with its surroundings and I just didn’t see it.

Eastern cottontail nest

As I crouched down to get a better view, I found this perfect little nest (pictured above) tucked away under the grass.  It looked well-insulated and very cozy!  There’s no way in a million years that I would have ever found this nest if I hadn’t accidentally flushed the rabbit.  In that moment, I looked around and wondered about all of nature’s other secrets that are almost literally under our feet, and we just don’t notice.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  Spring is not all that far away so try to get out and enjoy all that February has to offer!

See you next month!