Monday, July 15, 2013

The fruits of our journey

“Hey Mom! 
We need an answer over here!”

The questions seemed to leap out of the low growing plants this passed tracking club as a large group of budding naturalists scoured the trail for signs and tasty berries. Mothers and children, exchange students and apprentices, 19 all told made the trip out to Kimbercote to see what mysteries the woods held that day.
            Early and often berries captured our attention. Mulberries and strawberries, raspberries and currants, lined the side path of the Bruce Trail we chose to wander. Among the low plants we also found marks in the mud that formed from the rain the night before. More then once we found raccoons sharing watering holes with birds. Deer splayed their hooves in the soft muddy trail edges.
            As we hit the creek edge the trail cut west and rose out of the valley. As the path rose the landscape changed. The open path with plants, shrubs, and young trees gave way to denser crops of trees and tightly growing cedars. After a steep dark path we found a clearing with a picnic table facing a great view of Blue Mountain and Georgian Bay. Looking out into the cloudy valley we had snacks and chatted about the questions that we had taken with us.
            A short path took us back to the Bruce. Every step showing another clue to what animals had passed on the long descending slope all the way to the mulberry tree that we started at. I’m sure many eyes watched us part, wondering when this large group of naturalist will take to the woods again.

Garrin Carter

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Experiences That Connect

The large majestic birds circled high above our heads climbing as they went, their rotations taking them closer together, then apart. When the passing got so close they were almost touching one flipped over and reached with its outstretched talon to the other, almost clasping ... but missed. This dance played out over and over above our tracking group’s heads as we stood mouths open. These beautiful young Bald Eagles appeared to be practicing the moves that will one day lead to mating. The display was a wonderful high watermark of a rich and full outing.
With what will likely be one of the last substantial snowfalls of this winter, our small group gathered at the Kimbercote location here in the Beaver Valley. Being aware that the thick powder of snow had just finished falling about two hours prior, we knew that any clear tracks we found had been made fairly recently that morning. This made keeping our heads up an important practice knowing that what made those tracks might be just around the corner.
As exciting as the tracks were it was the other types of sign that caught our attention for much of our wander. In particular, the trees inspired many great questions like “how many different types of woodpeckers have been feeding on this tree?” and “What’s been browsing on these low branches?”. Extra thanks to Kyle for all the great hints and tips on Tree ID and leaving us with some great questions.

Looking up, we came across a raccoon cleaning its tail in the tree above seemingly unconcerned with our presents. Does it even see us? In touching the bed of a hare that had been lying in it just minutes before and untangling a maze of tracks to find it was all done by just one coyote are experiences that connect you with these creatures in a way that is unforgettable. Only by looking closely at the vole’s tiny tracks could we have noticed the small spots of blood that drew us completely into its world and made us fully wonder where it is now. By being out there in the woods we become a part of that world, not just observers of it. Most of the time it’s not that the aloof raccoon hasn’t noticed you yet, it’s just more likely that it has been watching you for a very long time.

Garrin Carter

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tracks around the world

The lagomorph that made this bed
doesn't turn white in the winter

This months Tracking Club meeting had an international feel to it as not only did we have people from Kitchener-Waterloo, Orillia, Toronto, and Guelph but also from Germany, UK, Japan and beyond thanks to the University of Toronto Outing Club and their group of exchange students. With 24 trackers taking to the land it was one of our biggest groups yet.

As the snow fell on the hills of the Beaver Valley in chilly -10c air, the group went out with the hopes of catching those tracks before they got covered up by the falling white blanket. Our local fox and coyote population seemed to be out and about as usual with the deer that left signs of their beds, nibbling, and passage. The chickadees and Hairy Woodpeckers kept their eyes on the group as the group spotted a mink trail and caught sight of a European Hare bounding away.

The day was thick with good questions. Was this a raccoon or a porcupine? Where is the animal that made these tracks now? Can you see them in your minds eye? The day also inspired wonderful insights into how well these animals are adapted to the chilly winter and how even in those temperatures there is plenty of flowing water to be found.

At the end of the day though it is just great to get out and spend time quietly sitting in the woods, inviting nature to go about it’s routine, then to return to so many like-minded souls to share these experiences. Thank you to everyone who came out and we hope to see you all again soon.

Garrin Carter