Saturday, January 17, 2004

On Thursday I learned of Bernd Heinrich's book Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival. Heinrich is a biology professor at the University of Vermont who has spent countless hours investigating the winter habits of animals in Vermont and near his cabin in western Maine. The book has received terrific reviews.

My rambles over the frozen woods and fields of the estate have made me marvel at the ability of animals to eke out an existence in such a hostile environment. Sophie adores these frigid walks; it seems the colder it is, the better she likes it. As wrapped up in down and wool as I am, after 15 minutes in -30 windchill temps, I am desperate to get myself inside. Sophie is always crestfallen when I shorten the walk this way.

As we walk the trails, I tend to keep my eyes to the ground to keep the wind from blasting my face. And that's what has made me notice animal tracks. Some of them I know. Foxprints are easy to identify. Like tiny dogprints, only narrower, and in a straight line, almost as if they were one-footed creatures. One noontime, I came across four or five junckos and at least three chickadees, all twittering about in the bushes. I couldn't help but wonder what food could possibly be available here in the middle of January. Why weren't they at my backyard feeder? I can't wait for Winter World to arrive at my other local library so that I can get some answers.


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