Yesterday afternoon, Mr Johnson and I took a trip out to our deer hunting woods. He had put a block of "deer candy" out a couple weeks ago and wanted to find out whether the deer had found it yet. (In case you're wondering, deer candy is the brand name on a big mineral block enhanced with molasses and other stuff deer are supposed to like, plus it's supposed to help the bucks grow better antlers.)
It was a sunny day, but nowhere near the mid-30's temps predicted by the weatherman (a stiff breeze from the east felt pretty chilly blowing across the snow). I was interested in going along mostly because there are a pair of bald eagles that hang around down there and I wanted to see if I could find out if/where they're nesting. It's ideal habitat for the eagles, with high limestone bluffs and a river meandering through the bottom with some open water most of the winter. There are towering white pines along the bluff tops and also large deciduous trees on the rest of the hills.
When we finally found the deer candy, we found that no deer had yet partaken of the treat, so we moved it closer to their trail. I happened to look up and see a Bald Eagle soaring overhead. It headed to the top of a white pine, but I couldn't see if a nest was there. A few minutes later another eagle soared over and we knew it wasn't the same one because it had a feather missing from one of its wings. I stayed there a while to watch some more and it wasn't long till I saw both of the eagles soaring overhead and could even hear them vocalizing a little.
I couldn't get a good photo--I have yet to figure out how to take a good picture of a flying bird, but I did manage to capture a few seconds of video (hope you don't get motion sickness watching it!)
I watched long enough to see one of the eagles land in a tree across the valley. My monopod/walking stick came in really handy for taking this picture (not to mention helping me maneuver up and down the hillsides in deep snow).
Here are some interesting tracks I found in the snow.
I'm thinking raccoon, but 'coons generally hibernate around here in the cold weather and I thought these footprints were really big for a 'coon.
Anybody have an opinion on these tracks? We've seen some pretty huge 'coons in these woods before, and maybe the weather has been moderate enough to wake up some of those big daddies.
I never see a fungus covered tree without thinking of Jennifer! This was a really nice one.
Looks like a woodpecker has decided to excavate for a new home in this tree. I asked Mr. Johnson to put his big paw next to this freshly drilled hole so you could get an idea of how big it is. It's about 4" deep into the tree, but nothing's been chipped downward yet. This hole is only about 6 feet above the ground, so pretty easy to view, and I'll be curious to see if there's any more development when I visit this area next time.
Here's an interesting-looking tree. What do you suppose happened to cause this tree to grow this way? I'm thinking maybe when it was a much smaller tree another larger tree blew over onto it. Of course, there's no evidence of a blown-down tree near there anymore, so this crooked tree will remain a mystery.
It was getting late, so we decided to head for home. Along the way, Mr. Johnson spotted a couple of hen turkeys scratching around in some corn stubble where enough snow had melted away that they were able to find something to eat. One of the hens was pretty cautious and took off shortly after we stopped the car, but I got a good picture of this other one still searching for food. Those big feet can really scratch!
The discussion in the car was Mr. Johnson asking if I could hear her clucking....at first I couldn't (concentrating on taking the movie), but then I listened closer and heard it (affirmative at the end). The hens are funny birds.....they will walk around in the woods just clucking softly to themselves as they dig and scratch for something to eat.
Hope you enjoyed this little trip to the woods without having to bundle up!
Here's an Update on the tracks: I got a couple of e-mails this morning from Richard and he was busy doing some homework for me. He sent me some links to look at for porcupine tracks: http://www.bear-tracker.com/porcpine.html and http://www.fishbc.com/adventure/wilderness/animals/porcup.htm. Sure looks a lot like porcupine tracks to me. What do you think? I never even thought of a porcupine, but according to Stan Tekiela's Mammals of Minnesota field guide, Fillmore County (where I took these pictures) is at the western edge of the North American Porcupine's range and they are active all year round! Now I wish I had paid more attention to where these tracks led. You can bet that next time I'm down that way I'll definitely be searching for these tracks again to see if I can solve the mystery. Thanks Richard for your help!