Friday, January 02, 2009

Mouse tracking in the Arberetum

So after our wonderful, wonderful 47 degree day during which we lost almost all our snow, things got cold again and we got a dusting of snow, 2 inches or so. This was light powdery snow, the sort of snow that the Inuit people call "light powdery snow." I'm sure there's an Inuit name for it, since they have twenty-two different names for snow, but since I don't know Inu, I punted. Anyway, I digress.

This little dusting made it really easy to see what was going on in the mouse world. All around the prairie there were little hopping tracks and burrows, made by artistic mice who had a sense of aesthetics. On top of the snow they made a series of mice-shaped body prints complete with tail. Sometimes they'd burrow under and leave a little bulge where they were foraging for seeds or hiding from the Redtailed Hawks that often roost in the trees around the rim of the prairie.

If you look carefully you can see footprints within the body print. At least I could when I took them, these are from my small Olympus, not the Nikon. Anyway, it makes me happy to see animal life a week after the Solstice. How these mice get enough fuel in the winter to stoke their tiny furnaces is beyond me. Yes, I know that seeds have a lot of fat in them, but it takes a lot of grass seed to make up enough calories to keep a little mouse warm. Mice thermostats are set on high all the time, so to me, it's miraculous.

I haven't been all that interested in you know I'm more of an invertebrate guy. But watching the mice tracks got me thinking. I'm sure there are hundreds of mice under the snow of Curtis Prairie, maybe thousands, who knows. I'm sure they're all eating. I wonder how many pounds of grass seed lies under the snow cover, how much is still hanging from the stalks, and how much a mouse needs to eat each day.

I'm sure there's info out there. I'll let you know.

Respectfully submitted,


P.S. Happy caNew Year.


Silbs said...

It is fascinating how life exists through the winter. We often see our local cayotes around sunrise as the come home from their night shift, and I wonder how they manage to survive (partially on those mice, I suspect). We keep the bird feeder full, and that attracts some wonderful birds. I was, however, surprised that you have had no interest in mammals. After all, you married one :)

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