Sunday, February 10, 2013

This Place Goes to the Dogs at Night & Pictures from the Frost Forest

A Gray Fox with eyes glowing in the trail camera's light

Lately the trail camera has been capturing video of the various kinds of wild dogs as they prowl the nature preserve at night. Several nights ago it caught a pair of Gray Foxes as they were traveling together along one of our foot trails. I say together, but they were more working their own assigned sections of the trail. I’m not sure if they had any kind of sharing arrangement worked out –that is, if one of them came up with something, would they be obligated to share it with the other?

A Coyote turns around to wait for its companion to catch up

The very next night, a pair of coyotes was doing nearly exactly the same thing in the very same area. They were working different sections of the trail –both making quick forays into the surrounding field. This entailed rushing through the brush and trying to scare up some mouse or other kind of creature.

After a quick foray into the brush, the second Coyote walks up the trail
Even in the poor lighting, distinguishing coyotes from Gray Foxes is pretty easy. The long legged appearance and loping gait of the coyote can be compared to the foxes’ relatively short-legged appearance and more even gait. Fox tails are always extremely bushy and they account for a disproportionate amount of the animals' overall size and length. Foxes are small animals with feet that are not much bigger than those of a domestic cat. Their weight too, is comparable to that of a medium sized cat.

A Red Fox is recognizable even in poor light by the black on its legs
Gray Foxes have always been the most common fox species at our nature preserve, but in recent years, the Red Fox has been literally gaining ground. Still, I was surprised to see the Red Fox show up on the trail camera several times. A good way to tell the Red species from the Gray in these poor quality night pictures is to look at the legs. The Red Fox has very dark fur on the lower parts of its legs. This is most pronounced on the animal’s front legs. The Gray Fox does not usually have dark legs.

White tailed Deer are the most frequently photographed animal by the trail camera

Discerning a Gray Fox from a Red Fox by looking at its tracks is very difficult. They are the same size and the same shape. Coyote tracks are noticeable larger, but they can be mistaken for the tracks of domestic dogs. Foot prints tell a lot about the behavior of these animals, and if you follow a set of tracks for a few hundred feet, you can learn much about these wild dogs’ investigative methods.

Someone is curious about the strange machine hanging from the buckthorn tree

Several weeks ago our area was in the midst of a deep freeze. This fostered the formation of impressive ice crystals on our hill top trees. Some of the trees were especially laden with long white crystals, so much so that it looked like their branches were actually made out of spun white glass. In the bright sunshine, it made for an impressive effect and it was well worth my hand-freezing efforts to get pictures of it in the sub-zero temperatures.

A well frosted tree border

The morning sunlight kindles the ice crystals

These tree tops resemble cloud formations - many of which are also composed of ice crystals

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