I've covered this before. I think. Since spending a week in the woods last September, tracks and trails have been a bit of a hobby. Sometimes I tell myself that I don’t have the time to explore them fully. But what is time? It’s just nonsense, and to say I don’t have enough time...well, that’s a habit that I’m trying to get out of. And then I went on a course in July, where we studied tracks and trails in such depth that my brain started to hurt, and then to sing. What a course! Fantastic!
Stuck in the forest it’s the track and the trails that help keep things interesting for me. I've been able to identify two kinds of deer that use this woodland, both from the footprints (checking for size, shape, presence of dew claws) and from the droppings.
Sika (deer – but sika means deer, so to call it a sika deer means that technically you’re calling it deer deer – oh dear, dearie me) have footprints with a bit of a pear shape. A bit angular (concave?) on the side, and about 5-6 cm long. Droppings – oval, with a small teat at the end, smaller than red, but bigger than roe’s...
Roe deer have tiny footprints, which look like wee hearts and can splay out quite easily in soft mud. Also in soft mud you can normally see the dew claw, making small indentations behind the actual hoof prints. The droppings also appear to be faceted (or to have faces, but not of the smiling variety as was mentioned on the course) and pretty dinky. Shiny and dark.
Through identifying these tracks and signs I was able to say that there are two kinds of deer in this forest, name them, and since then be on the lookout for any further signs. Thanks to that, I am building up a wee bit of a picture of what they do, where they go, and when new footprints appeared during one survey, when I might have disturbed them (it looked like two sika, moved from within the forest out to the open area, though they probably passed into a new, quieter bit of the forest to escape me. Both adult.)
The possibilities are endless. The other day while passing a lovely muddy puddle at the roadside (which has now been filled with stones, unfortunately) I saw the most perfect trail of toad footprints I've seen yet. Perfect. Well, the most perfect except for the ones that walked directly into a puddle that would have submerged the toad and then out the other side....zombie apocalypse, anyone?!
So much to explore: the difference between a corvid footprint and a pigeon’s. Or how about the gaits and what they mean for the animal and what action it was undertaking.... There are so many wonderful opportunities to investigate, discover, delve into.
Ah, isn't life just blooming inspiring sometimes?!