cold days & coyote

We’re finally into a stretch of cold weather now, with temperatures dipping to -18 C. (0 F.) or further by nightfall. By day, the skies are usually a clear, cold blue with near translucent ribbons of clouds. What little snow we have is dry and powdery, but when packed, it becomes crunchy so that it sounds like we’re walking on styrofoam. The surface glitters as though carpeted with mother-of-pearl sequins. At high noon on a sunny day, the cold and brightness combine to bring tears to your stinging eyes. Contrast between light and dark seems more vivid. You notice subtle gradations. The waxy-smooth bark of the poplar trunks now seems to possess a dozen gray-tones instead of one.

Yesterday, Sabrina and I hiked around the trails looking for signs of the Coyote (Canis latrans) that sang for us the night before last. We found a network of tracks leading from the edge of our back yard, out along the many pathways through the fields and woods. It seems the main runway is along a wide, cattail-filled drainage ditch, but they’ve also been making the rounds of the hiking trail we walk each day. They’ve marked their territory on top of the snow-covered ant hills – and then scratched through the surface, churning up the underlying leaf mulch and dried grasses. Of course, all of this is of great interest to Sabrina. She almost appears to be scowling as she looks to me after inspecting the latest markings. “Who scratched this up since we passed by this way yesterday?” I watch for distinct footprints. In this dry snow, there aren’t many, but every now and then I catch sight of one just before stepping on it. I carefully step back a pace and shoot the odd photo (see inset – click on image for larger view). Their prints are compact, narrow, with center toenails close together.

On our way back across the fields, I thought to make a little .mpeg movie clip to show how it looks and feels to walk on cold, dry, crunching snow. Of course, I made the mistake that I so often do, of turning my camera to the vertical instead of the horizontal (a thing I often do when shooting still photos). There’s no way to “turn” a vertical film clip to horizontal. I wasn’t going to bother posting this clip but it’s really the sound that matters most, so I’ve uploaded it. It’s short (about 18 seconds) and small (about 850 kb). You’ll have to turn your head to one side if you really want to watch it, but do listen to the crunching snow (and me mumbling “C’mon”). That’s what it’s like to walk in cold snow — for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure yet. It seems, the colder it gets, the louder the snow.

Tonight is the weekly Mudpuppy Night at the dam in Oxford Mills (you can read all about it here). It takes place each Friday night throughout winter. If we can muster the energy and brave the cold, we’re hoping to drag ourselves and my camera gear out to shoot some new photos of mudpuppies. Assuming that there aren’t any technical failures, I’ll post some photos over the weekend.

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6 Responses to “cold days & coyote”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    I am amazed by how cold it’s gotten so quickly there. Wow. Quite a transition. The clip is great listening. When we had the snow here, it had a very similar sound. It was also very dry and powdery. Made me think we could never quietly approach any wildlife with all the racket we were making. Sabrina looks like such a good dog.

  2. Cathy Says:

    Waaaa. Some window popped up that said ‘windows media player’ cannot blah blah blah. Unfortunately I’m not very savy when it comes to glitches like this. I really wanted to hear the crunching snow:) Well – we head home in the AM and I see that Ohio is plenty cold. Crunching surely ahead. (I always love pictures of Sabrina)

  3. Pamela Says:

    Nice print, Bev. It is hard to find good ones under our current conditions. We’ve had canids all around the yard and right up to the house the last few nights, as well as at least one domestic cat, but most of the tracks are merely suggestive. I think most of the canid tracks are fox (and the one scat I’ve found looks foxy to me), but some may be coyote too. The coyotes are certainly around and plenty vocal lately here too.

  4. burning silo Says:

    robin – Rapid drops in temperature are fairly normal for here. We’re in a region that seems to sit on the edge of different weather systems, so we can have mild day above freezing, and then see the temperature dive 20 or even 30 degrees F. in hours. That’s one of the things that makes it a bit treacherous as far as doing things outdoors. It may seem nice when you leave home, but then you hike half way around a lake and it starts getting cold fast. We tend to pay a lot of attention to the forecasts when we’re taking off to go hiking or snowshoeing!

    Cathy – That’s too bad the movie wouldn’t play! I saved it to .mpeg format as that usually works for everyone. Well, take my word for it — it wasn’t that great anyhow! Sounds like you’ll get to hear your own crunchy snow pretty soon. (-:

    Pamela – Yes, very hard to get good prints with the snow as it is right now. From what I’ve seen around here, the coyote tend to stick to the trails and walk along the same paths we do unless they are moving from one area to another. I guess it saves on energy. Unfortunately, it makes for muddled looking prints. The fox seem to wander on unbroken snow much more, which is usually just what I see them doing when I catch sight of them. They’re usually checking underneath all of the spruce trees in the yard, probably to see if there might be a rabbit hidden away beneath the branches. It’s sometimes fun to follow fox tracks to see just where they’ve been. They certainly do a lot of snooping around!

  5. Duncan Says:

    Installed Quicktime today and checked out your clips Bev, good ones, keep’em coming!

  6. burning silo Says:

    Duncan – Glad you installed the Quicktime as you may enjoy watching some of the Mudpuppy salamander clips that I’ve just posted this morning!