Sunday, March 2, 2014

Reading Forest Shadows and Animal Tracks on a Winter Afternoon

Yesterday afternoon while looking for wildlife tracks at the nature preserve, I became distracted by the dramatic shadows that the trees were casting across the snow. They looked a bit like warped bar codes or perhaps like zebra stripes. Once I started looking at the patterns I found it hard to stop. The shadows behaved something like contour lines; laid directly upon the land as they were, they effectively described the topography of the forest. 
With out looking up, these"bar codes" can actually tell a lot about a forest
A good diversity of shadow thicknesses indicate a wide range of tree ages
In the younger forest the tree shadows lay straight and show few undulations
Now this reminded me of the atmospheric bands of Jupiter
- or perhaps the grooves in a phonograph record

In the meadow next to the forest, the tree shadows were most dense - only narrow, cloud-like wisps of light could reach the snow. In effect it made the ground look like the sky
Note the thin and rather sketchy tree shadows in one of our reforestation fields - virtually all young trees here
Undulating, wave-like tree shadows show the "pit and mound" topography of a forest floor never leveled by machines 
In this case significant drifting exaggerates the natural contours of the forest floor
These tracks tell of a recently emerged Eastern Chipmunk that managed to  dig up something to nibble on
White-tailed Deer have developed a vast network of trails that run throughout the nature preserve
A great number of fresh animal tracks converge on the frozen stream at the bottom of this gorge
Tracks of several small rodents radiate from the base of this Sugar Maple tree
Footprints of a lone coyote  that recently passed through this small woodland clearing

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