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HomeAlgonquin Winter Tracking

Algonquin Winter Tracking Expedition 2006

Wednesday (Day 4)

We spent today exploring part of the Mizzy Lake trail, in particular the part that runs along an old railroad grade.
Otter tracks, scat and plunge hole.

Dan is using a long pole to obtain a sample of the scat, in order to verify that it is indeed otter scat. We couldn't go down to the area of the tracks and hole due to thin ice.

Otter scat smells very fishy, as that is what otters eat. And before you gross out over the concept of smelling scat, this is a valuable aid in tracking when done with care. Sometimes scat contains parasites that can be airborne, so one must be careful with this.

Further along, we came upon wolf tracks on the edge of a frozen lake. Here the wolves have come in to shore to spray their scent on this Balsam Fir tree.

How did we know these were wolf tracks? Because our leader, Dan, told us! Seriously ... one measures the track size (width and length), and measures the stride and trail width. Also, when you can find a clear track you can actually see the shape and configuration of the pads and toes, and even claws, all of which provide clues to the species of animal that made the tracks.

West Rose Lake.
Passing through a wet area thick with Speckled Alders.

There's a Tracking Quiz on this website inspired by some sign we found in this area. Click here to go to Tracking Quiz #27.

Photo by Dan Gardoqui

Sapsucker holes on an alder. Sapsuckers are birds that eat the sap of trees. They drill a series of holes in various trees and shrubs, and return later to drink the sap. They also eat the insects that are attracted to the fresh sap as well.
Otters aren't the only animals who like to slide down slopes, or even along level ground, in the snow. Here's a slide made by a Mink!
Track identification in action! The Mink that made the slide left behind some clear tracks before it went downhill. Here we are measuring the tracks to verify that they are indeed Mink tracks.
The rest of nature was not forgotten on our day-long outings. We did a lot of tree & shrub identification as well as tracking. Also wildflower identification - well, not the flowers, but the remnants of last year's plants.

This is White Birch, showing the flower and leaf buds ready to open come spring. Which one do you think is the flower bud?

And here is a Balsam Fir masquerading as a spruce. Most people think of Balsam Fir needles as lying flat, but sometimes they stick up like this! I think they do it on purpose so that people can get into arguments about what species of tree it is!  :)

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