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Snow has a way of completely changing the landscape. Like a time-lapse photograph, it captures movement and tells a story. Instead of a just a snapshot of our own temporal field of view, we are able to see movement and change and the activities of a length of time all at once. On a walk in the snow this Wednesday, there were hundreds of trails from deer, elk, bobcat, coyote, small rodents, and turkeys (though no prairie dogs!). It was neat to see where the paths were separate and where they came together and in what direction they were going. In a few places there were more than tracks; one sumac bush showed clear signs of deer rubbing and a few horizontal teeth marks on an interior branch.
At a ridge about 2/3 of the way up a canyon, three different species of winter birds were congregating–hairy woodpecker, pinyon jay, and robin. I was struck again at how well the robin blended into the colors of the burned forest. We got to watch one of the pinyon jays working at a pine cone, prying out the seeds.
Some of the dust from the prairie dog town had blown onto the snow drifts, mixing with the snow and making it much harder than the surrounding snow. Because dirty snow absorbs more heat and melts faster than ‘clean’ snow, it seems that this snow had undergone more of the melt-and-refreeze process and so was more ‘transformed’ than the still-fluffy clean snow.
I have to admit I was unprepared and didn’t take any measurements or make casts of any of the tracks, so especially those of the rodents remain unidentified. I’ll have to take a kit next time.