It’s beginning to look and feel like January at last. We’re getting snow in small increments, here — ideal for preserving the tracks of small birds and mammals. The above tracks were probably made by a slate-colored junco, AKA snowbird. Juncos forage extensively on the ground, looking for seeds and insects, and in breeding season they nest on or very near the ground as well. The Wikipedia claims that juncos will sometimes eat their own droppings, then eat the droppings that result from that, and so on — an ouroborus-like exercise in self-consumption. It’s the rare being that can eliminate elimination altogether, like the mites that live in your eyelashes. Demodex mites lack an excretory orifice of any kind. They spend most of their lives head-down inside hair follicles, like shy woodland creatures living in hollow trees. Sometimes they emerge at night and walk around on your skin while you’re asleep.
Much as I like looking for tracks, what I’m really attracted to is untracked snow, which offers a vision of the world free of mark or blemish. Maybe that’s what motivates the coprophagous slate-colored junco, too: an aesthetic preference for a clean slate. Or at least a clean plate.
Thanks to Ambivablog for originally bringing demodex mites to my attention.