Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March Tracking Club

Last Saturday morning I heard the rain as soon as I woke up, and my first waking thought was, "I bet we'll go under the 124th St bridge today." The bridges are dry-ish and hold tracks well, especialyll when heavy rains mean the sandbars are flooded. But when I met with the five other people who were gathered there to help run this Tracking Club, they mutinied. "No more bridges!" cried Joe. "We were there the past three months!" So Chris suggested scoping out the Redmond Watershed area. Off we went. Even if it meant sign tracking rather than a lot of clear prints, at least we wouldn't be under a bridge.

Maybe it was the heavy rain, or maybe past participants were worried we would wind up tracking deer mice under bridges again, but a small group of three people showed up. I'll speak for myself and say I had a fantastic time wandering through the woods with some very skilled trackers, looking at everything from edible plants to salamander eggs. Everyone got the chance to identify salamander eggs by feel, which was a lot of fun. Snags next to the water's edge led to a good mystery: both beavers and woodpeckers leave wood chips as a sign of their feeding. But given a handful of random chips, could you separate the beaver from the woodpecker chips?

There was a place where a large woodpecker had been pecking into a live cedar. The cedar tree was only 10 inches in diameter--probably small for a nest. No obvious insect sign in there. I have since noticed a similar hole on a cedar near my house. Any ideas what the birds are pecking for?

Rain or not, I had a blast during Tracking Club-- a big hats off to the participants and the stalwart team of trackers and scouts who make it possible. Roaming through the woods exploring with a team of knowledgeable fun-loving people felt like a powerful way to get engaged with the questions of the landscape. Let's get out from under bridges more often.