Saturday, February 14, 2009

Night Visitors

At night it becomes a different world outside. Now in the winter, especially, the tracks left in the snow tell a story about what happens after darkness falls, to those who care to try and read them. I study the impressions and try to imagine the creatures that left them. There are tunnels and little narrow trails weaving through the yard, which I guess are from shrews; tiny, fuzzy, brown animals that resemble mice with stubbed tails. Rabbit prints are everywhere and deer tracks are easy to spot. Not as easy to decipher are the ones that look like little hands pressed into the snow...raccoon or opossum?
One morning, not long ago we found a pile of gore and entrails left behind the garage. It was apparently all that was left of a rabbit.
There is a big hawk that hunts in our neighborhood, but it was hard to tell if this was his handiwork. My husband has been sitting silently out in the screened-in porch late at night indulging his cigarette habit and has seen a lone coyote stride up the driveway and head down behind the garage on two occasions, so it may have been his leftovers. We have also seen a fisher. His long, bushy, chestnut-colored tail disappeared behind a blue spruce tree, as he slunk along the edge of the woods.
There is one set of tracks that we just can't figure out. It travels across the yard from a big white pine and goes directly under the porch. In between the large footprints, there is an impression of a thin tail, and the snow is pushed aside, as though it's belly were dragging. Whatever it is, it may have set up house under there, or maybe it was just seeking refuge from the weather or some predator.
The yard becomes a secret world after the sun goes down. Nocturnal animals emerge and dramas play out in the darkness, just beyond our doorstep.


  1. its amazing whats out there. as the climate changes there will be different animals prowling our neighborhoods. its fascinating to really watch, learn and jusy enjoy the world around us........good to see ya back, deedee.....jc

  2. It is fascinating how you observed the winter world evening, well, in Brazil, we just have many gnats in summer (early evening. The photo beside your message is really nice.
    Take care,

  3. Hi Deedee, firstly thank you so much for your sweet comments on my dog, Bear. I know that she would be delighted to help you try to work out just what is out there at night! Maybe a little bit later on and she will be up to it... I hope you find out a little bit more about the unknown tracks you mention at the end of your post - do you have Badgers over in your part of the world?? Warm wishes to you, V xx

  4. Ok I love the idea of the one set of tracks you cannot figure out. I remember not being able to find Dad one night while we were in Yosemite. His response upon return: I was following the strangest set of animal tracks. This did not comfort me but I understand(& have) the urge. Many small comforts in the night. ~Mary

  5. "The yard becomes a secret world after the sun goes down. Nocturnal animals emerge and dramas play out in the darkness, just beyond our doorstep."---ooo! keep going Deedee, this is interesting---the primeval forests--sends a chill down my arms.

  6. A secret world emerges from your description. You can't imagine how special that is to this city dweller. More!

  7. Thanks, JC!

    Rosana - We have gnats here too in the summer. What's worse, we have black flies and mosquitoes and those little blood suckers bite!

    Mary - Yosemite is an incredible place, always wanted to go there. It's great you got to share it with your dad. It's such a big place, lucky he found his way back to you!

    Veronica - There are badgers in the central and western parts of the U.S. They look a bit different from the European variety. I don't think we have any at all here in the Northeast.

    Clay - Yes this is a mysterious place. I will write more in the future about the natural(and some maybe not so natural)occurrences in this place where I live!

    Lyn - So glad you enjoyed it! I do have more tales to tell.

  8. How encouraging, that critter folks are recolonizing so many urban fringes of America.

    Possum tracks usually have more spread-out fingers on the smaller front feet, and the toes on the hind feet point outward (sideways) except for the "thumb" that points ahead.

    You might try making a "track box" -- a small area with fine dirt or sand that you rake smooth and watch for fresh tracks. Put a few kitty treats around it as bait!

  9. Thanks, Ecorover-yes it is amazing how many wild things live right here off a main road in suburbia. The snow has melted so much now that it will be harder to tell if it's a possum or not. I like that idea for the track box, though-maybe we will try that!