Yesterday temps soared up into the mid 30's, so after a nice amble around the neighborhood with Lucy, Cliff and I packed up the cross country skis and drove out to Howland Island, a northern part of the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge. We always get to the island via the Savannah side- there is also access in Port Byron but that involves walking over a huge steel bridge with wide grating- too wide for dog paws. Anyway, the little land bridge that gave access to the Savannah end of the island was flooded. How annoying! I was sooo looking forward to skiing the island. After briefly hemming and hawing, I decided that heck, why not bushwack? Cliff and I would just ski along the flooded river and see where it lead us. I don't know if this is *technically* allowed in the Refuge, but after driving all the way out there I hated to turn around and head back without SOME sort of trek. And the Refuge does allow hunting during hunting season, and I'm sure the hunters don't stay on the trails. Anyways... with that in mind, off we went.
The snow wasn't very deep but it was very wet and heavy and stuck to my skiis a bit. And I've never had to break trail before... even in 3-4 inches it was TOUGH. My hip sockets were killing me LOL. But despite that, we had a wonderful time. You can see the ridge we followed in the picture above... to the left of the cattails & brush was a frozen marsh, then there was a slight hump of land, and then the overflowed river on our right. We skied (skii'd??) all the way to that distant forest edge and then turned left and skiid up the forest edge a bit before being cut off by another flooded area and had to turn around.
Crows followed us the whole way...
And along the far edge of the forest, I think... THINK!!... we saw an eagle's nest!! It was huge. The bottom of the tree it was sitting in was banded with metal (you can see it in the picture below). I wish I had binoculars with me. They probably wouldn't band the tree if it was a squirrel nest, right?
Besides the crows and an empty maybe-eagle's nest, the only other wildlife/wildish sightings we had were... FIELD MICE. OMG, they were everywhere and not afraid of us at all. Cliff seemed oblivious but as we went along I marvelled at their bravery. I mean, they would dart around on the snow not 3 feet from us. Two huge predators. When I stopped for breaks, some would run right over my skiis! They would scurry beside us for a foot or two before disappearing into the snow! *What* were they thinking?
Turning around to head back, and mice are running in my sitz marks right towards us. I snapped a picture of one daredevil (red arrow is pointing at him) who came running up maybe 8 feet in front of Cliff before diving into a hole. Are there not a lot of predators around to instill fear in these guys? I felt like the Pied Piper. Clifford, bless his heart, didn't seem to notice them at all. While he occassionally stopped for a sniff, his eyes were constantly skimming the horizon, not the snow around his feet.
Alas, Cliff finally got to meet a mouse. We had stopped for a break on the way back- the sun was pounding down on us, it felt like it was 100 degrees out, and I just needed to catch my breath. At this point I wasn't surprised when I saw a mouse pop out of the snow next to my boot, scurry between my legs but then he ran up between Clifford's back legs and jumped over his paw before disappearing in the snow. It was hysterical! I swung my camera around and aimed it at Cliff's paws, hoping the mouse would come out again and I could get a picture of it sitting under Cliff. Well the mouse came out again all right- popped out of the snow between his legs and ran right up to his mouth. I'm sorry for the picture, but I had to post it... I mean, the mouse practically jumped onto his tongue. Maybe it was suicidal.
I felt incredibly bad for the poor mouse and guilty that I had stopped to try to get a picture of him between Cliff's feet. He was a beautiful little creature- I had to examine him to make sure he was dead before we moved on. I didn't want him to suffer if he was still alive. Although I gave Cliff time to eat him if he wanted, he wasn't interested at all so we left his little body on top of the snow for a fox or hawk. I can't be mad at Cliff; he did what a dog - especially a hound- is supposed to do. Sorry, Little Mouse.
Hmmm. On a lighter note... we saw this strange track on our way back to the Scion. What the heck could have made it? The snow was a bit blown over to see a good paw impression, but the indentations were pretty big. A skunk? Porqupine? But they are low... wouldn't you see impressions of their underbelly on the snow too?