Snowshoe Adventure: Tahoe Snowshoe Hare

This was an outdoor weekend spent in the Sierras. We spent an afternoon taking a hike on snowshoes. It looks really cold and dreary in this photo but it was really not all that cold…above freezing by a few degrees. I could have done with a few less layers. :) I took off my gloves for awhile and that helped. Most people we saw on the trail were on cross country skis but we enjoyed the crunch, crunch , crunch of snowshoes. I was on the lookout for mammal tracks.

We saw lots of canine tracks beside the trail but as we worked our way up from the lake into the conifers, we were rewarded with these tracks.

In this area there were many little “rabbit trails” giving us a clue as to what sort of mammal was in the area. I came home and discovered that they are more than likely Tahoe Snowshoe Hare tracks. (Lepus americanus tahoensis) See snowshoe hare.

We are new to identifying tracks so if anyone thinks they are from a different animal, please leave me a comment.

Not only did we see some mammal tracks but we were treated to a “new to us” bird. The red-breasted nuthatch. He was seen clinging to the side of this pine, sticking his head into little holes looking for some bark insects. He moved easily in all directions while clinging to the bark. Amazing.


Red-breasted nuthatch

I was busy taking photos when a bunch of ducks flew into view. We saw them later eating some seeds that a fellow hiker had left along the shore. They were later joined by a few Canadian geese.

So I think we had a successful outing….we did manage to find some mammal tracks in the snow and that was our aim.

From the Handbook of Nature Study, page 217,
” An interesting relative of the cottontail is the varying hare or snow-show rabbit that lives in the wooded regions of north-eastern North America. Of all animals he is one of the most defenseless; foxes, mink, and other flesh-eating inhabitants of the woods find him an easy prey. He has not even a burrow to flee to when pursued by his enemies…..He has one important advantage over his enemies: twice each year his heavy coat of fur is shed. In the summer the coat is a reddish brown that so blends with his surroundings that he is hardly noticeable; in the winter it is perfectly white so that against a background of snow he is nearly invisible.”

Anna Botsford Comstock has included pages 215-219 with information on the cotton-tailed rabbit. I found these pages very useful in coming up with a way to study our snowshoe hare. Even though the information doesn’t completely apply to our hare, we can adapt her activities to our study.

Winter nature study at its best.

Winter Wildflowers: I Can’t Believe It

 

Wild Radish California
(You can click on any photo to make it larger.)

Wildflower Morning is sponsoring a winter wildflower blog-a-thon and this week we were challenged to find a wildflower that blooms in winter. I thought this was a pretty daunting task considering it has been snowing off and on for a few weeks here in our area of northern California.

But I was so surprised on Monday when my husband and I were driving down the mountain and I actually saw some areas with wildflowers blooming right along the road. I had to go back with my camera and take some photos for you all to see. It actually started hailing on me while I was shooting these photos and my husband thought I was a little crazy for sticking it out.

I think I was a little wildflower starved because I took a lot of photos. I want to thank Elizabeth Joy for sponsoring this event. If I hadn’t had the challenge on my mind, I might have missed noticing these beautiful wildflowers. I had my eyes open and alert the last few days searching for something to photograph. I was rewarded for my diligence. Scroll down after the wildflower photos, you will see the added gift I was given while I was photographing the flowers.

I have yet to identify the flowers so I will come back and edit if I come up with something. I tried for about an hour with my field guide and the internet and didn’t come up with a name. I am sure someone knows what they are…..pretty much the same, just different colors.

Wild Radish

 

I look forward to seeing everyone’s winter wildflowers.

 

Bird’s Nests in Winter: We Found One!


(click to make the photos larger)


Here is the whole nest that we found under a tree in our front yard. It is amazingly made with small little twigs and hair. Here is a close-up.

I have no idea what kind of bird made this nest. We do know we have a scrub jay that nests in this tree but this is so small it can’t possibly be the jay’s.

On page 46 of the Handbook of Nature Study under the sub-heading:The Study of Birds’ Nests in Winter:
“But after the birds have gone to sunnier climes and the empty nests are the only mementos we have of them, then we may study these habitations carefully and learn how to appreciate properly the small architects which made them. I think that every one of us who carefully examines the way that a nest is made must have a feeling of respect for its clever little builder.”

I couldn’t agree more.