Monday, January 30, 2012

January Tracking Club

Despite the rain, a group of ten people showed up for this Saturday Tracking Club. There was soggy snow all over the Snoqualmie Valley, and so the best place for clear tracks was under the Tolt Bridge in Carnation. After a quick awareness game, we scampered under the bride and found more than I had bargained for! There were a lot of questions to ask, like which small mammals hang out under bridges more often, mice or shrews? Can I tell song sparrow tracks apart from junco tracks? Hint: junco tracks are stouter, sparrow tracks more spidery. Some five-toed masked bandit had also been spending plenty of time under the bridge. How many were there? Where did it or they go from here? I was especially glad to bring my visiting dad to this tracking club. It was a good chance to share inquiry and problem-solving, some of the really fun adventure of finding and following footprints of wild animals.

After we wore out our noggins with detailed bridge tracks, we went to Chinook Bend, where a young eagle circled around us. We walked down the road and tracked some larger animals in the snow. Big, cloven-hoofed, shaggy brown animals, to be precise. Cows? Moose? There were two of them strolling through the snow-covered meadow, and their tracks went from one clump of orchardgrass to another. The orchardgrass was chewed down to the ground. Why did they choose this species of grass? A quick taste test revealed that the orchardgrass was sweeter than the other plants growing there. Eventually my dad got bored with the big beast tracks (they were elk) and wandered down to the river to watch buffleheads and mergansers. People who know me won't be surprised; I'll take birds over mammals any time.
Tracking Club, as usual, was a good day of questions and adventure, showing how many stories can be recorded in the landscape when we stop to pay attention. Pretty much everyone can work up enthusiasm about good animal questions, even dads who are reluctant to get on their hands and knees on the dirt. Go tracking with someone you love today.

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