…bird of prey wings imprint in fresh snow.
One of the things that I love most about winter is the way that we can see the stories of wildlife unfolding so much more clearly.
I am very blessed to live on the edge of the small city of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Out my front door I have a neighborhood brimming with cultural diversity, community gardens, children all colors of the rainbow and inter-generational community. Out my back door I have the vast horizon of a city park, the wide, rolling hills of a public golf course beyond that and woods or undeveloped land on either side of me. This makes for great opportunities for regular meetings with the beloved beasts and birds who share our neighborhood habitat.
We have chipmunks, several kinds of squirrels, skunks, raccoon, fox, coyote and deer, a vast array of songbirds, waterfowl, herons, occasional sandhill cranes and stunning raptors/birds of prey. Being the sucker for nature that I am, it is nothing short of a miracle to have human community out my front door and community with nature out my back. I am actually in a position to develop relationships, and familiarity, with the animals that share this land.
I take daily walks that keep me happy, centered and sane. Throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn, there are plenty of opportunities to see, not only the animals themselves, but evidence of how they spend their time throughout the days and nights untouched by human observation. I am only an amateur at “tracking” but anyone can glimpse the wonder if you are paying attention and know what to look for. The deer have clearly been bedding down over here where the tall, billowy grasses are settled into comfy resting places, suitable to accommodate a family. Coyote has clearly been gorging herself on the bountiful mulberries available in June and July as her scat tells this story quite clearly. Everyone… squirrel, raccoon, canine and deer all leave tracks near the big puddles that turn into watering holes after a good rain.
As wondrous as this is, it does not compare to what we can see in the Winter when the stories of wildlife are so clearly laid bare before our eyes. We see written in snow, what our wildlife neighbors have been up to while we have been cozied in our homes sipping hot beverages, sharing great stories or planning a revolution.
When I come upon tracks in the snow, they are so magical that I am often compelled to bend down and touch them. They bring me closer to the earth. Deer walked right here in the night. Grandfather coyote, the one that everyone in the neighborhood knows and the same one who will stare down any dog, crosses the open space of park behind my house, in both directions every night. This is in accordance with his nature, as wild canines are creatures of habit that commonly follow established routes day to day. One of the easiest ways to discern the tracks of wild canine from those of neighborhood dogs is that wild canines travel primarily in direct routes or comparatively “straight” lines. They do this because they are conserving energy. Domestic dogs, who often only have to be cute to get fed, meander a great deal more because they are typically not concerned about where their next meal, and consequently their fuel, will come from. Considering this, our friend old coyote probably also follows this route in the other three seasons, but in Winter there is generous and undeniable evidence.
One of the most magical experiences of tracks in the snow that I have ever had, perhaps because it is so rare, has been the glimpsing of the impression of the wide wing tips where a bird of prey has touched down in pursuit of food. It is incredibly humbling to see and nothing less than a place where heaven touches earth.
Every day, every walk, I give genuine thanks to be alive on such a stunningly beautiful planet!
c ShuNahSii Rose 2015