The Wisdom of the Marks

 In classes, earth tracks, grey county, Landscape Tracking, mammals, Mentoring, naturalist, nature, nature education, Ontario, tracking, wilderness skills, wildlife tracking, workshops
The site of a porcupine, raccoon and flying squirrel holes in this big old Basswood tree
Saturday and Sunday, July 26th, 2015
Written by Tamara Anderson – 2nd year Tracking Apprentice
In his book Nature Observation and Tracking, Tom Brown Jr. writes; “The earth tries to be flat.” He was referring to how weather and gravity “conspire to erase tracks”.  This past July, the tracking apprentices observed the subtle traces of summer tracks at Allan Park near Durham. We also created tracks and signs at Alexis’ house and watched how they changed over two days.  Lately, I have been tracking the landscape just as much as I have been following the footprints of animals.  Approximately 10,000 years ago, a receding glacier scraped the surface of the land that is now Allan Park and deposited material from the Canadian Shield.  Some of the material was ground into sand, silt and clay. A huge chunk of ice from the glacier dropped onto the landscape and a kettle lake was formed.  Allan Park is part of the Horseshoe Moraine. It includes a trail system that reaches an elevation of 30 metres in some places. 
Fawn Tracks
On Saturday, we wandered the rolling, forested pine, spruce and cedar hills beside the glacier-made trout pond.  The sandy edge of the pond revealed the opened shells of snapping turtle eggs.  This prompted a few questions:  How does temperature affect turtle egg incubation? Do predators leave different signs when they predate turtle nests?  I learned that the “J” shape of the Jack pine cone is a helpful way to remember the cone-makers identity.  Sue asked about whether any local species of rats are native to North America and which snakes have live birth?
Watching Tracks Age
On Sunday morning we were enchanted by the purling rattle of a Sandhill crane in a field near Alexis and Bobbi’s place.  Sandhill Cranes beckon my attention in an ancient way. After reading about Sandhill cranes, I discovered that they are the oldest known surviving North American bird species.  That morning, we returned to Allan Park and found a trail on a steep hill that led to different interpretations.  It is amazing how the track of a sliding deer can look similar to the five toes of a barefoot, feral child;)  After following a doe and her fawn’s tracks along a sun-baked, sandy trail, we ventured into a cool, deciduous forest of Hickory, Basswood and Maple.  The tracking apprentices used tracking sticks to track each other in leafy debris.  Luke and Miriam discovered a vole tunnel and burrow network at the forest edge.  We lightheartedly discussed how best to classify this trail.  If vole trails under the snow are called “subnivean” then would this trail under the leaf-litter be called sub-humusean?  We also wondered whether the trail was from a red-backed or a meadow vole.  Do meadow voles occasionally lives in forests?  What is the range of the red-backed vole? Alexis located a flying squirrel latrine in a basswood tree. Flying squirrel scat accumulates in areas where the squirrels nest and cache food. The scat often flows out of tree cavities, low to the ground. 
I will end this post with a continuation of Tom Brown’s tracker wisdom; “There is hardly a square foot of ground that is absolutely flat. Every depression, every bump, every fissure, and every scratch on the landscape was made by something. Whether it was made by a rabbit, mouse, bulldozer, fish, frog, or volcano, it is the tracker’s job to notice and interpret it.” (Tom Brown Jr., Nature Observation and Tracking)

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