Making tracks

It’s such a lovely feeling hiking in the snow and leaving fresh boot prints behind us. Of course, while we may be the first people walking on the white stuff, we’re seldom the first to make our mark as other animals and birds have been there before us.

We don’t often see the wildlife around us so the snow gives us a great opportunity to discover more. We don’t have to go far to see the evidence. The hostel garden under snow shows us how many animals pay us nocturnal visits. We’re no experts but we think we’ve identified deer, fox, badger and cat (not our two, they’re busy keeping cosy indoors!) tracks in our garden.

Heading out from the hostel, our local winter walks always take much longer than they should as we investigate the paw and hoof prints. The snow opens up this fascinating secret world and the tracks range from bold, confident strides to timid dashes.

We’ve noticed how the smaller rodents take the quickest route from between patches of cover. Being small they don’t sink so deep but in the middle of the prints you can see the groove made by their tails as they scamper along. We’ve spotted red squirrel prints scurrying along fallen tree trunks in the forest and the distinctive prints of rabbits and hares.

There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to the deer tracks emerging from the trees and criss-crossing the snow and we recognise this pattern from catching glimpses of them during the daytime. The fox and the pine marten, on the other hand, look like they follow the footpaths and forest roads until something attracts their attention! It seems that unintentionally we humans have made it easier for animals to travel long distances through the forest.

All these animal tracks make it look like a super-highway out there. In reality it’s probably not gridlock but more like a tightly choreographed dance as they try to avoid each other. It’s a shame that we can’t actually see all the activity since it mostly happens at night but it’s an enjoyable way to use our detective skills to get to know our local wildlife and its behaviour!

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