There are always clues created by wildlife for us to decipher, telling a story of their habits and lives. By learning the language of track and sign we gain insight into Nature’s mysteries. Who left this track? How did this feather get here? Why are the birds all calling from over there?
Beginner students will learn a new way to look at the world and experienced trackers will be challenged toward a greater understanding of Nature.
$50 per participant 10am to 4pm January 23 2021 Litchfield CT
The snow is slowly leaving us here in New England. Before it turned to slush and ice I got out to do some tracking in beautiful conditions. In this video I go into detail on how to distinguish Red Fox from other species without using measurements. I also include a good explanation of a few ways to tell canine from feline and, we see a bit of hunting behavior by our friend the fox.
Thanks for watching. Please like and subscribe. If you want to learn more about tracking first hand go to my school’s website www.threeredtrees.com
This year at the Maine Primitive Gathering I only took a few pictures. The Gathering has come to be so important to me, a chance to see so many special people and feel part of a community that shares a common interest. My time there this year was abbreviated so I was not able to connect with as many of those special people as I wanted to.
The images here do not begin to do justice to the scope and dynamic nature of the Gathering. I was too busy enjoying myself to take pictures that might express this better. Dozens of instructors taught workshops about archery, bow and arrow making, friction fire of all types, tracking, survival skills, health and healing, and many other primitive and wilderness skills. Many families attended, I saw a lot of little babies on their mothers hips and kids running everywhere. What follows are a few examples of what went on.
Some oldtimers and whippersnappers Mike, Al, Nick, Red and Bob, all experts in one field or another, there to share the knowledge.
One of many workshops.
Garlic Hawkers Rich, Gabby and Maple
Some of the boys hanging out around the fire.
A fire workshop on group friction fire. Here they are teaming up on a giant hand drill.
Someone saw me looking around for my daughter and our friends and asked “Looking for your tribe?” and I thought, yeah I am, my tribe within a tribe. In this place I am a member of the the Gathering Tribe, the Fire Clan, the Deneen, Andy, Gabby, Jace, Evan, Dena, Maple Tribe (my “extended” family) and the Long Time Instructor Society.
Pardon my sentimental words. To be part of something meaningful is a great feeling and a tough thing to explain.
Deneen and I had the opportunity to put our tracking to good use for the Mammal Team at White Memorials BioBlitz over the weekend. For 24 hours a large team of scientists, experts and volunteers counted every living species on White Memorials 4000+ acres of very diverse habitat. The final count was 931 species. The Mammal Team counted 31 species, many of which were identified by tracks or sign. There were also direct observations, live traps, and audio monitoring for bats.
Here was the Mammal team’s list and how they were identified.
Human direct observation
Domestic Dog tracks and direct observation
Domestic Cat tracks and direct observation
Domestic Horse scat, tracks, direct observation
Domestic Cow direct observation
Red Fox tracks
Raccoon tracks, scat
River Otter scat
Long-tailed Weasel tracks
Striped Skunk scent
Woodchuck direct observation
Porcupine feeding sign on trees
Muskrat scat, tracks, direct observation
Beaver tracks, feeding sign, dam and lodges, direct observation
Jumping Mouse spp tracks
Grey Squirrel tracks, direct observation
Red Squirrel track
Chipmunk tracks, direct observation
White-footed Mouse (the Mammal Team leader found evidence, I forgot to ask him what kind)
Meadow Vole caught in live trap
Mole spp tunnels
Little Brown Bat audio monitoring
Big Brown Bat direct observation, audio monitoring
Silver Haired Bat audio monitoring
Red Bat audio monitoring
Hoary Bat audio monitoring
Eastern Cottontail direct observation ( I could not completely rule out New England Cottontail which are know to be on the property in a different location)
White-tailed Deer tracks, scat, direct observation
I also share some images from our time on the land. At the top of the page are Red Fox tracks.
Above Long-tailed Weasel tracks, below a painted turtle laying here eggs.
Above the Litchfield Country Club Golf Course at dawn (the clubs land is part of the White Memorial Foundation).
Below a spider in its web (sp unknown)
Above turtle tracks, below a beaver trail.
Above Raccoon tracks along with bird tracks (possibly Killdeer or similar).
Below Muskrat tracks.
Above Osprey pestered by a Red-winged Black Bird, Below nest and eggs of a Northern Water Thrush located under bank of a small stream (one of the Bird Team identified it for us).
Above Jumping Mouse sp tracks, below old Porcupine feeding sign (missing patches of bark)
We spent all of the second half of the 24 hours searching for just a few more species, we already counted all but 2 or 3 of the final number by early morning (the time went from 3:13p on Friday till 3:13 p on Saturday). Several species we knew were there eluding us including Mink, Fisher, Bear, Shrews, more mice and voles.
Three Red Trees lead a tracking walk at White Memorial Conservation Center a few days ago. I had gone ahead to scout and found these tracks pictured here. They were quite small and covered some distance in the open. They were beautiful and I was excited. I thought they were Longtailed Weasel and told the group so when they came later. I even convinced Deneen. We both thought on first seeing them that they were skunk but they were so small, much smaller looking that all the other skunk tracks we had been seeing recently that I called it wrong. It was not until I got home and looked at these pictures without the pressure of an audience, that I saw that the foot morphology was all wrong for weasel and all right for skunk.
In my defense the first bit of track I came across was this confusing section below that I mistook for some sort of 3 by 4 bound. I still don’t know what was going on there.
I struggle with differentiating mouse from vole tracks when behavioral clues are not obvious. Voles, at least the commonest of souther New England, baseline movement (sometime known as harmonic gate) is a trot while mice move in a bound most of the time. Of course they are each capable of both gates as well as others. There are distinctions in the foot morphology but I have not looked at enough clear tracks of these species to reliably see these differences with confidence.
The creature in these pictures moved in a protected area close to cover most likely exploring the cracks and holes in the frozen sand at the bottom of a big eroded drainage. All kinds of things blow in there from the sand barren-like wild blueberry fields above.
The measurements I took fit into several mouse and vole species. Some of the morphology is apparent but not consistent. In some sets the right foot looks different than the left.
If I have it right the toes of voles show more connection to the pads giving them a finger like appearance. I don’t really see that in these tracks. These do however walk a great deal like a vole is more likely to do.
There were a few bounds mixed in as well.
Every time I think I got this tracking thing licked I find something else to learn.
Woke up the other day to these wonderful tracks outside the house. A skunk, no doubt looking for a mate, galloped down the path from the driveway past the basement door. I can tell its a lope because to start with the track pattern is in a broken rhythm, there is a space between each set of four. The next thing to look for is where the front and hind feet fall in relation to each other. Above the tracks of the hind feet both land past the tracks of the front feet. In the below photo one hind foot does not land past both front feet but beside it. That is a lope.
What does it matter? Well it is reflection of how the animal is moving and possibly its state of urgency. Often in tracking information can be hard to come by and any more of it is welcome.
March 9 we are leading a free tracking walk at White Memorial Nature Center in Litchfield CT. Come learn more about tracking with us.
Went out tracking today. The snow was good, a layer of powder several inches deep on a layer of crust, then more loose snow. Forgot my snowshoes so it was a bit of work to get around. In the end I walked several miles. Here’s what I saw.
Trailed this deer and the others with it. Not far from the road where I picked up the trail I found them but not before they found me.
I spooked them out of there day beds and watched the last one leave. It moved away slowly, stopping and looking back before bounding away. I did not have the camera out so no picture. It wouldnt have looked like much anyway. The deer were bedded in the laurel on a flat bit of ground on a hillside. As I approached I knew it could be a bedding area and even thought to crawl but felt that if I crawled over every rise I would never see anything. Hard to be patient.
Beaver Brook Pond, sunny and beautiful.
Little mammal tracks. Some others showed a fairly short tail. They are small enough to consider shrew or the smallest mice. They were on the swamp ice. I went through several times and retreated.
Upstream on Beaver Brook a Mink slide. It was the only sign of Mink all day.
On the way out found these older Otter slides. They went on for a couple hundred yards.
Above is where they eventually went into Beaver Brook. Below is as far as I went in the other direction, about 200 yards. I ran out of steam and headed home. The next body of water in that direction is the Farmington River more than half a mile away.
Deneen and I went to Roraback Preserve a couple weeks ago where we came across this little Brown Snake. I have never seen one before but read they are rather common.
We sat down for a break by this beaver lodge and quickly heard a beaver slap its tail on the water. It swam around for a couple minutes then dove under the water and went into the lodge right in front of us. We listened to it shake off and have a snack while it was in there. It was a very cool experience.
Deneen and I witnessed two Woodcocks competing in their courting ritual on Tuesday Feb 21 just after dusk. Yesterday morning the 22 we heard another one in a different location (our house) just before dawn. Last year we first noticed them in the middle of March. It has been unseasonably warm here in CT this winter but maybe they always start this early.