Saturday, January 9, 2010

Magic Forest

January 9, 2010
Wilton Wildlife Preserve, Wilton, NY

After an all-day “flurry” yesterday that ended up depositing several inches of fresh, fluffy snow, this morning dawned crystal-clear and cold. The snowflakes were big enough to see sparkling in the morning sun.

Today was the much-anticipated workshop on tracking, hosted by Wilton Wildlife Preserve.

There were about 15 of us, including trail-friends Jackie and Laurie (fellow Moreauvians), and Ellen, who came all the way from Newcomb.

Our instructor was Vince Walsh, of Kawing Crow Nature Awareness Center

Well, “instructor” is not exactly the right word... He shares his knowledge (which is considerable) but at the same time, encourages questioning – curiosity – first-hand experience – and demonstrates the power of putting our minds together to solve a mystery.

Indoors, he gave us an overview of things to look for, and factors to consider in making an identification. We discussed gait, speed and habits of various animals.

Outdoors, he had us consider the snow itself; fresh tracks, old tracks. Determining when a creature had passed this way, or why.

It was a different sort of walk for me, compared to our bird-watching of late – today we spent most of the time looking DOWN:

And GETTING down, for the obligatory Take-a-Whiff-of-This-Fox-Urine moment.
(it smelled like Heineken.)

Besides the fun of being out on a sunny cold day with good friends, and learning something new, it was enlightening to watch Vince stop and investigate,

teasing out a story from a faint trail –
It was like watching Sherlock Holmes at work

Like magic !

Of course it’s not magic, but knowledge, gained from lots of experience.
The magic is, the world’s a clean slate every day, when tracking.
There’s always something new.

We got a small taste of experience today, and I look forward to the next time we go walking with Vince. I’d follow him anywhere.
Even if it’s uphill!


  1. Magic, indeed! It's hard to define exactly what it was that made the day so special, but your photos and text come close. I love the snowflakes, especially, and that last one of Vince running uphill. Wouldn't we love to follow him?

  2. That snowflake photo... I didn't know it was possible to see such beautiful snowflakes with the naked eye! (forgive my ignorance; I've lived most of my life in a city where snow is rare). I am absolutely stunned. I read about the tracking workshop over at Woodswalkers place, and it's great to read some more here. I am hugely envious. That last picture of tracks, just above the one of Vince is also incredibly beautiful.

  3. jackie -yes I would venture that snowshoes have opened up a whole new winter world for me - a slow quiet way to explore ! now all we need is more snow...
    bird -nice to hear from you, I have just now found your blog & will follow it. Is snow in England that unusual? Long ago, I spent a Christmas in Wimbledon Park, and there was a rose blooming in the little dooryard garden of the house I stayed in.

  4. Oh! I am so sorry that I missed that one. But I hope to take his class in February, I hope you'll be there then, too.