Well, it’s the first week of February and up until this point, it hasn’t really felt like a true Wisconsin winter. Overall, the days have been relatively warm and the snow has been seriously lacking. This week there is predicted to be above-freezing temperatures mixed with some rain (fingers crossed it changes to snow). This is a nice reminder to get outside while winter is still here and enjoy it before it’s gone!
While it may not seem like it at first glance, the forest is alive with activity this time of year! A week or so ago, I went on a hike in Madison with some friends and family in search of owls. We headed out just before sunset and in a matter of minutes we both saw and heard Great-horned owls overheard. We also watched two yearling deer walk right across the trail we were on that were less than 25 yards away.
While that was very exciting, you certainly don’t need to see wildlife to appreciate them. Sometimes, just knowing that they were there not too long ago is just as rewarding. One of my favorite activities this time of year is searching for tracks and sign of wildlife. Just the other day we found these enormous pileated woodpecker holes that were drilled in perfect line (see photo above).
Finding fresh tracks in the snow is another way of knowing that some sort of creature was here not too long ago. Although, if you have a child around the age of five, it’s possible the tracks you’re looking at were created by them. For example, my son loves drawing bird tracks in the snow along the sidewalk on our morning walk to school. They aren’t entirely convincing, but you still have to watch out.
The tracks above are from a crow that was casually walking down the sidewalk. When the tracks are this fresh, you can even see the little pads on the bottom of the bird’s feet and the nails cutting through the snow. It’s not hard to picture what this scene looked like in real time.
Speaking of bird feet, I was out the other day and stumbled upon a dead red-tailed hawk that was likely hit by a car. I felt bad for the poor bird and decided to move it from the side of the road to the edge of the woods. The last thing I’d want is for another animal to get hit by a car while trying to get to the hawk.
It was sad to see but also educational. It’s not every day that you get to see a hawk up close. It was so neat seeing the little scales on the bottom of the foot that act like sandpaper for extra grip when catching prey. It was also cool to see just how large and sharp the talons are. This was the foot of a hunter.
I hope you enjoy the rest of your month and drive safe out there!
See you next month!
*Did you miss an article? Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE. Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.