Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Round Lake Nature Notes January 2012

As I write this article at the end of January, weather forecasters predict that we will see fifty degrees on February first. That means that the first days of January and February were both warmer than the first of December! At this rate the groundhogs won't care about seeing their shadows. They'll think it's spring and head straight to our gardens looking for parsley. Still not blanketed by snow, the groundhogs just might find something to nibble on. Many people are not missing the major snows that we usually have by now. However, some of us who like to snowshoe and cross-country ski are disappointed. Even Adirondack woods aren't boasting large snowfall amounts. Tom Peterson reported only a few inches of snow at Sherman Pond near Bolton Landing. The fourteenth annual snowshoe hike had to be postponed.

My husband and I have gotten out for a couple of local hikes to stave off cabin fever. One was to 100 Acre Wood only several minutes up the road in the Technology Park. Drive north on Route 9, head east at the first round-about, and make a left at the Tech Park entrance. You can access the trails from parking turn-outs and trailheads marked with kiosks from either Luther Forest Boulevard or Stonebreak Road.

The day we went was cold and clear with just a light coating of snow on the trails. Hiking boots worked fine. The trails are interconnected and well marked. The terrain is both flat and hilly. Dan ran the trails in the fall and said they are covered in pine needles, making for a cushioned walk or hike. There are several bridges over streams with wooden steps leading to them. A skier might be able to circumnavigate these areas if the streams are frozen. Stone benches are scattered throughout the two mile trail system. We saw a Red-tailed hawk on the drive into the park. A couple of Black-capped Chickadees showed themselves while we were hiking. This spot is definitely worth checking out!

The next weekend we hiked down the old trolley line by the lake. Again, there was no need for snowshoes. During the hike, we left the trolley line for a bit and cut over to the lake. Many animal tracks were evident in the light, fresh snow including Coyote and Red Fox. We noted the small, delicate, lace-like prints of a mouse or vole which had come out from under a tree stump. We then saw Red Fox tracks enter the scene. The footprints were in a line indicating the fox was walking. Then the fox prints changed to bounding, where the hind footprints come into and also ahead of the front footprints. The fox and mouse prints overlapped and then POOF! No more mouse prints. There was disturbed snow and ground. The fox prints walked off towards the woods. You can imagine how the story played out.

Out on the lake people were ice fishing. The lake was frozen up to the mouth of the outlet. At the spot where the ice stopped, a dark-bodied animal appeared to be fishing. It slid into the water and stayed under for thirty seconds or more. It went in and out of the water several times while we watched. Even with binoculars it was hard to get a clear sighting as we were a distance away. The body shape appeared to be that of an otter. Later, when we got to the spot where the trolley use to cross over the outlet, there were marks in the slushy ice and snow by the water's edge. They were six inches or so wide - otter slides! I have pictures of the slides and scenery from both hikes on my blog: