Life in the woods: Blood on the snow

Life in the woods is never dull. There’s always something to do and see. Activities change with the seasons as does the view. It’s easier in a snowy winter to see what happened when you weren’t looking, when you weren’t there. Most of the time it’s beautiful. The snow hangs in the trees after a storm.Trees crack or bend, giving in under the weight of heavy snow. Moose and deer leave tracks. Birds leave wing prints where they land. A partridge huddled into the snow but was long gone by the time I passed the spot days later.

Birds flit from tree to tree looking for their next meal.They’re singing again, and woodpeckers are starting to bang out their territories on trees and phone poles around the house. This day (It was Monday) while walking I heard a red-breasted nuthatch, the first one in more than two months. Its yank-yank-yank-yank made me smile.

Sometimes beauty is lost to an uncomfortable reality – death.

Fresh blood on granular snow

Fresh blood on granular snow

I know the blood is fresh. When the temperature is above freezing, as it was Monday morning when I took a walk in the woods, blood disperses through the snow quickly. When a red-tailed hawk kills a mourning dove at the feeding station outside my dining room window (a rare event) the blood is gone quickly, usually within an hour or two.

I don’t know what happened here. Perhaps a vole or mouse crossed paths with an ermine. The snow is too granular to make out small footprints. Whatever it was, it didn’t turn out well for something.

A snowshoe hare stopped here to dine...and poop

A snowshoe hare stopped here to dine and drop

chewed branchesA snowshoe hare doesn’t seem to travel far very far. It appeared on the game camera at night all fall, eating drops under the apple trees and clover in the tiny food plot I seeded for the partridge. (We don’t hunt partridge here because Guides hunt the area heavily with their sports.)

Look at how cleanly the hare slices through the twigs. I wouldn’t want to tangle with those teeth. It leaves tracks, droppings and chewed twigs behind. I seldom see the hare but I know it’s here by the stories it leaves behind.I hope it’s a male; I don’t want kits in the garden this spring.

usnea, old man's beard, lichenThere were a couple of lichens embedded in the snow, gathering warmth when the sun shines, melting their way toward bare ground. This is Old Man’s Beard (Usnea).

It wasn’t an eventful walk but it was nice to get outside, off the road, for a while and enjoy the sunshine.

Life in the woods today involves a brief walk with the dogs on this very cold, slightly windy day. Seedlings need to be watered and more seeds will be planted in six packs. In about seven weeks the seedlings will be transplanted into a high tunnel. We need vegetables to go with the wild game, fish, poultry and pork we’ll put in the freezer this year. More on that later.


Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.