Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sapsucker Sign, and Icy Impressions

We had our first real snow of the season a couple of nights ago. (That freaky debilitating snowstorm in October didn't really count.) As far as I'm concerned, it never officially feels like winter until there's white stuff falling from the sky and covering the ground, and I'm very happy that we finally got it. It wasn't very much, though, and by now most of the snow has melted again, leaving just the faintest dusting in some parts of the Naugatuck State Forest where I went for a walk this afternoon:

The animals were quiet for the most part (except for the raucous Belted Kingfisher that seems to always be patrolling these lakes but is too quick for pictures, and a Great Horned Owl that was calling from somewhere deep in the woods), but there were plenty of other interesting things to see.

I've walked by this tree next to the path a million times before (roughly), but only today did I notice an interesting feature in its bark, one that I decided to examine more closely:

All those little holes peppering its bark -- each one about the width of a pencil -- are the work of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a woodpecker that I've encountered in these woods a few times before. I wonder how many years these birds have been working on this tree to make so many holes!

Some of the holes showed signs of recent sap flow -- these birds aren't called "sapsuckers" for nothing:

In other holes, the sap was welling to the surface, making a little jewel-like bubble:

And some holes were filled with what appeared to be seeds:

When I tried to pry this one loose, it cracked open. That looks like a seed to me!

I don't know if this is a sapsucker's work -- I didn't think they ate seeds, but maybe they do -- or if some other industrious creature has been using the bird's excavations as a kind of handy larder. (The hole is the perfect size for that seed.) Several of the holes were similarly filled, and some of the contents had even started to deteriorate, so they must've been there for a while. I can't tell the whole mysterious story of these holes, but they were fun to examine!

Speaking of mysteries, the ice on the lakes today provided some puzzles as well. A few of these large (several-foot-wide) snowflake shapes were scattered across the ice's surface:

Could these patterns have been created by stones falling through weak ice? I've never seen anything like this before, but it's quite pretty!

On the smaller lake, the ice showed different signs of disturbance:

Some small creature definitely walked across this ice while it was soft, leaving an impression of its passage. I have no idea who made these tracks -- here's a picture from another angle:

So many things to wonder about! If anyone has answers to some of these mysteries, I'd love to hear them!

Tomorrow, I leave for the last in my recent string of trips to exotic locations. This time, I'm going all the way west, to San Diego. There will be whale watching (so excited!!), and maybe time to explore some other things as well. So look for a (hopefully interesting) post about that in the future. And enjoy the cold weather while I'm gone! :P


  1. Hey Elizabeth! I know this post is from last month so I'm a little late, but your tracks look like something from the weasel family, possibly a mink or otter based on the habitat. In your second photo you can see how each cluster is two prints close together - this is a typical weasel bounding pattern. (You'll see the same pattern, but MUCH smaller, with least weasels etc.)

  2. Oh goodness, not last month, last YEAR. Haha. I came across it because someone followed a link to my blog from this page. :)

    1. Haha, late or not, thanks for the super helpful input! I've actually seen mink in this area before, so maybe that's what made the tracks after all. Very cool to know. :)