A Slow Start to Winter

by Carl Strang

Compared to last winter, this has been a slow one at Mayslake Forest Preserve in terms of animal activity. Last year, flocks of siskins and occasionally of white-winged crossbills frequented the preserve’s conifers. This year there have been only the year-round resident birds joined by a few American tree sparrows, and birds generally have been quiet.

Coyotes have been active, and we have seen them more frequently. I saw three together once, so at least one of last year’s pups has stuck around. Their tracks indicate the animals usually hunt individually, however.

In the deeper snow of January, the coyotes as always took advantage of human footprints and other depressions to make their own travel easier.

I did not see any mink tracks until January 12, where an individual was traveling along the little stream and went up onto the bridge.

Muskrats, as I believe I mentioned in an earlier post, have gone more to mound nests than to bank tunnels this year. There are two of these in the parking lot marsh.

A single such den in the stream corridor marsh projects only a little above the ice, and that animal may have been forced into a bank den.

I continue to enjoy my lunchtime walks on the preserve, and always am hopeful that I will find interesting animals or signs of their activity.

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