Thaw

roof-snow slide

The weather’s been warm over the past few days, and the snow’s been melting fast. This morning, though, with below-freezing temperatures overnight, the snowpack was firm enough to support me on snowshoes. I was able to crunch along on the surface without breaking through, stepping over the shallow graves the sun had dug for dark twigs and leaves that had fallen on the snow.

I started out following some coyote tracks that must’ve been made late yesterday afternoon — the pads and claw-marks had only blurred a little. Then as I made my way up the ridgeside through the laurel, I started coming across wild turkey tracks so melted they were barely recognizable. I could just make out the backwards-arrow shapes deeply incised in the snow.

I reached the ridgetop trail and joined two, slightly less melted sets of turkey tracks headed in the same direction. The morning had started out sunny, but now the sky was growing steadily darker, and I hurried to get back before the rain started. I almost missed the pile of turkey feathers in the snow beside the trail. A set of canine tracks intersected with the turkey tracks and headed down over the other side of the ridge, more feathers scattered along the way. Score one for Wile E.

turkey feather

Cold rain began to fall less than a minute later. Striding down the hillside on top of the snow, I felt like I was walking in seven-league boots. I clattered into the house and bent down to unstrap from the snowshoes. When I straightened up again, huge snowflakes were swirling outside.

Now it’s late afternoon, and there’s still snow in the air. A cold front seems to be blowing in. Maybe winter isn’t done with us, after all.

*

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while — or if you’ve ever taken a look at my home page — you’ll know that I feel a special sense of kinship with the porcupine. So I was happy to see the great post on porcupines at Burning Silo last night (see also today’s follow-up post on porcupine quillwork).

There for a while this winter, I wasn’t seeing any sign of porcupines under or around my house. But one night last week, on my way down from my parents’ house, I heard a distinctive chewing sound coming from the pear tree. A large round shape clung to the topmost branches, silhouetted against the sky.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

8 Comments


  1. It took me a moment or two to “read” the first photo, to understand the positive and negative shapes! That’s some snow overhang!! And the turkey feather image looks like a gorgeous etching or drypoint. All your snow photos lately have left me yearning…. No, no, spring is coming, I don’t want snow! Though our mountains have had lots the last two nights, leaving a stunning line half-way down – so beautiful.

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  2. Yeah, I was worried that people might not know how to interpret that frst shot. Glad you figured it out. As for the other, I must say I was surprised it turned out so well, considering that it was shot in haste under low-light conditions.

    Must be nice to live in a place where you can drive up into the winter and back into spring again. The West is cool that way.

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  3. I walked out early this morning and sniffed skunk…a spring sign. maple sugar weather too, in the 40s with dips into the teens at night. enjoyed your links.

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  4. I didn’t get the first pic until reading the comments here – now I see it properly.

    I’ve only seen a porcupine once, in the Adirondacks, and it was resting or feeding on the thinnest of branches – quite a surprise.
    I wonder if they’re at all common here in NJ and I’ve just missed seeing them.

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  5. q.r. – Well, it looks as if the maple sugaring weather has gone away for a while – 18 F this morning with a new dusting of snow.

    Laura – Porcupines are fairly recent arrivals in central PA, though we’ve had them here in Plummer’s Hollow since I was a kid. Places south of us, near the Mason-Dixon Line, are just beginning to see them. The other newcomer is the fisher, which was reintroduced to the state about ten years ago – one of the few natural predators of porcupines. We’ve had at least one fisher here in the hollow, last winter, but probably had them even before that, judging by the number of dead porcupines we found. You’d know better than me whether northern NJ has fishers or porcupines, though I suspect the latter, at least.

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  6. Love that feather photo. The starkness of it conveys the story perfectly.

    I mentioned on bev’s porcupine post that I’ve only seen a porcupine once, and that was over 30 years ago. I was living up in the “pot-growing capitol” of California. Lots of hippie farmers and their dogs in the hills. Porcupines and dogs don’t mix very well at all. A dog with a mouth full of quills is not a happy thing.

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  7. Hi Dave–

    Just back from the Carolinas (with a horrible 3-hour detour in PA: 17 miles! What is it about roads and your state?) and had an instant of vertigo looking at the overhang. It looks like a magical staircase for an instant, before the regular old seeing kicks in. The feather is lovely.

    I once again had a howling, grieving reaction to what’s happening in the mountains at home. Have to write about that soon.

    That cathedral post struck a nerve, I guess: what a lot of warnings…

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  8. Great photo of the snow overhang — also both of the turkey feather photos. Thanks for mentioning the porcupine posts!

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