Friday, December 17, 2010

Tracks in the Snow at Sunrise

I awoke to this view after being jarred awake by a phone call from the robot version of Superintendent Maxwell at 6 AM letting me know I could sleep in this AM (can we opt out of the call and just get the e-mail or text?).  While sleeping in was no longer doable (early morning phone calls are always disconcerting), I was happy to be up to appreciate the sunrise.  Our Eastern view is obscured during the warm months by foliage, but once the trees drop all of their leaves, we are able to enjoy the sunrise through a veil of bare branches.  This morning's was especially lovely with the new snow on the ground.

Since I was up, Laika had to join the party, so we went for a morning stroll around the backyard.  By the way, she is recovering very well from her second surgery.  She will still need to be on a leash outside for another month or so, and she's not bearing full weight on the most recently treated hip, but as far as she's concerned, she's raring to go.

With snow on the ground, I gained a little insight into her sniffing and snorting frenzy when we go outside.  Normally it's impossible for me with my human sense of smell to know what interests her so.  She will spend hours sniffing around every bush and blade of grass in the yard (she's got a built-in fur coat while I shiver in my pajama bottoms and slippers). The tracks in the snow this AM revealed a little of what she knows that I don't.

There is at least one red fox that lives over the edge of our yard.  We've seen it on several occasions, but not recently.  I see evidence in the form of berry-laden scat and the odd pile of bird feathers that it frequents our yard but haven't had visual confirmation in a couple of years. The fox family keeps different hours than do we.

This morning, Laika pulled me toward one of her favorite patches of bushes, and I noticed a trail of animal tracks winding in and around it.  It's always fun after a snowfall to try and guess what's been cruising your yard based on the tracks left behind.  I'm no expert tracker, but I've made amateur identifications of squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, cats, birds, dogs, and foxes just in our yard.  I feel pretty sure the tracks we found this morning were left by our friend the fox.  They were smaller than any of the neighbor dogs' paws, larger than the black and white cat's that considers our yard its territory, fatter than a raccoon's, and certainly not a squirrel's.  Combined with the fact that they disappeared over the edge of our yard into the gully where the foxes have their den, and I am 95% confident of my assessment.  Here are the pictures.  See what you think.

Fox Tracks?

My hand (disregard sausage fingers)  for reference.

Sketch from a red fox website

Online verification - see top picture leftmost track

Laika put her nose to every one of these tracks in utter excitement.  The cool thing is that she doesn't need the tracks at all to find the fox's path.  Her nose tells her what is normally invisible to my senses.  It's really remarkable and why dogs are employed for a wide range of tasks from bomb and drug sniffing to detection of disease and epilepsy (may not be scent related in the latter case, but still cool).

Our extra two hours this morning has expired.  Time to get the kids on the delayed bus and get on with my day.  Thank you Laika and Superintendent Maxwell for the early morning adventure.  Everyone get to work and school safely as you make your own tracks through the day.


Anonymous said...

Great Photo of the sunrise! We've seen the Red Fox in our part of the Cape recently (Swan/CSC Road area).

Christy said...

Thanks Nels! Full disclosure, I did a little editing with the computer. My point and shoot washed the color out a lot, so I boosted it back up with some photo editing software. It was just that spectacular in real life, but my camera didn't do it justice. I'm playing around with a 30-day free trial download of Aperture on my Mac. I have used Microsoft Digital Image Pro in the past on my PC and was/am very happy with it, but I'm doing more and more on my Mac, and I'd like to find something comparable. Didn't want to spend the money without testing it out. The user interface is not what I'm used to.