It's super cold and windy in Connecticut right now, but we had some lovely light snow yesterday, and today was sunny and clear, and I just couldn't stay inside any longer. So I bundled up (so many layers!) and paid a quick visit to Naugatuck State Forest this morning. I can't believe I've been away from this place for so long. The woods and lakes were wonderful, and aside from an early-morning ice fisherman, I was the only person there.
(The panorama option on my iPhone is cool, but the result looks so weird to me. Those paths to the left and right are a straight line in real life.)
The woods were quiet, but there were signs of activity all over. Deer and squirrel prints crossed the people-paths, and I saw these long vole trails pretty much everywhere I walked, left by the little creatures burrowing between snow and ground on their search for food:
And then, while I was admiring a particularly expansive network of vole trails right in the middle of the path, I heard little scritching sounds and saw the snow move.... And there was a vole right there, just burrowing around and nibbling on things and chattering on to him/herself! I've never come across a live vole before, and I have to say, I was totally enchanted by this creature. Here's a video of this little guy. (Listen for the chittering sounds at the end!)
I'm assuming this is a Woodland Vole (Microtus pinetorum) because these woods are the right habitat for this species, but glimpses of a dark wriggly body aren't exactly enough for a definite ID. Whatever the exact species, I can't believe how much this little prey animal just didn't care that I was standing right there, and it certainly wasn't trying to hide itself. I really could have just reached out and plucked it out of the snow. (And if I were an owl or a fox, I definitely would have.)
I used up all the space on my phone with that last video, but the little creature was still running around right at my feet, so I used up the last of my camera's battery (oops, I forgot to charge it!) to get one more quick video:
And then all my technology was used up, and I realized I was getting pretty cold, so I left the little vole to its work. What a cool surprise meeting! Yay, animals and snow. :)