Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November Trails -- Part 2 -- © Dave Spier

Gray Squirrel digging -- © Dave Spier

I'm dressed in complete camouflage, including face net and gloves, and sitting against the base of a tree trunk. A Gray Squirrel approaches, stops momentarily to dig in the leaves, and then continues on its way less than four feet from me. It's totally oblivious to my presence because I'm motionless. This is surpassed only by a memorable experience many years ago, even before I switched to camouflage clothing, when a chipmunk walked across my shoe, unaware of its nature or the presence of potential danger. I was sitting on a log, but again the secret was remaining perfectly motionless and silent.

Autumn's leafy pallet has mostly fallen, but the woods still have color in the sunlight. Green grass and ferns contrast with brown leaves littering the ground while gray tree trunks reach to blue sky. The afternoon's warmth brings out a solitary tree frog peeping in the swamp. Most amphibians are now buried in the mud to hibernate through the winter. Even the hardy tadpoles of bullfrogs and green frogs, the ones that take two years to mature, are now scarce in shallow ponds.

Insects are plentiful. Flies, gnats, crickets and other flying arthropods seem out of place for November, and where there are insects, can spiders be very far? I know I've been sitting too long when I notice a spider stringing webs across my camera tripod.

Daylight is fading as a Pileated Woodpecker, the largest of our tree knockers, flies through the forest canopy and lands high in a tree and lets out its typical repetitive call, similar to a flicker, but louder.

Deer scat (droppings), Allegany County, NY -- © Dave Spier
At dusk I leave the woods, having once again succeeded in finding scads of deer signs -- trails, tracks, scrapes, rubs and scat [droppings] -- but not a single, breathing whitetail. They wait for the cover of darkness to move about. I pass some apple trees on the ridge, another good location for deer, but all I see is the rear end of a cottontail rabbit (another white-tailed vegetarian) as it disappears into the weeds.

What did you see during the warm spell? Contact me at northeastnaturalist@yahoo.com More nature photos can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_spier and http://picasaweb.google.com/northeastnaturalist 

November Trails -- Parts 1 & 2 are based on an original slide program by Dave Spier.

Buck rub, Letchworth State Park, NY -- © Dave Spier

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