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Who went there?

“I say, Holmes, whatever do you suppose left such odd impressions in the snow over there?

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“Odd, my dear Watson? I should say, rather, exactly what would be expected from a female circus dog with one lame trotter, walking erect, bearing on her shoulders a juvenile bonobo in a mauve linsey-woolsey cape, carrying in its right hand a rutabaga—by the leafy top, mind—and in its left a toy umbrella whose ivory point drags on the ground. -Each, of course, wearing a sailor cap and chewing, respectively, a salted sow’s-ear and a stalk of sugar cane.”

“Astonishing, Holmes! Though perhaps I should expect no less. But tell, pray, which subtle clues in yon whiteness revealed so much to your keen gaze?”

“In the snow? None. I merely chanced to observe the motley party pass this spot ere we rounded the corner, reflected in the glass of your pocket watch, which you have left dangling by the gold chain given you by that grateful heiress.”


Though most tracks hereabouts tend a trifle more to the pedestrian, so to speak, some remain fairly mysterious unless one has seen who- or whatever left them, and under what circumstances. For example, these segmented lines, proud of the ice by up to an inch, might (from stride length and weight of impression in what had been light powder snow, later blowing away everywhere not compacted by skis) be assigned to an adult male human, perhaps with W for one or more of his initials.

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Other imprints may have a distinctly artificial aspect, like this “negative snowflake”

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that could have been some kind of practical joke or artistic whim, but in fact was indifferently created by such a pair as these

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crossing in opposition.

 

Sometimes there is a more dynamic story to be read. Any light-aircraft enthusiast will recognize this

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as an overloaded takeoff into extreme wind shear. Note  ground contact by primary leading edges at both wingtips; lack of debris suggests that no damage was done to the airframe.

 

Back to that first track, here from a slightly more vertical angle:

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It is easier to decipher the inscription when time is unrolled: time since the tracks were laid down, and time over which they were made. It also helps to remember recent weather. In this case, unseasonably warm, with soft snow slush when something walked by once. Then a colder, finer over-fall, shortly before the end of which it passed again. Then almost-melting temperatures to sinter the loose flakes against wind movement without losing detail, then a harder freeze to preserve it all until morning. But what was it? And what made those scratches? As with the doubly fictional Sherlock Holmes vignette above, and with a nod to the great naturalist Lawrence Peter Berra, sometimes you can observe a lot just by watching. In this case, right out the living room window under which these tracks were made, on a path trodden daily by one (or more) of these

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that knows where to look for spilled bird-seed and can’t clearly see or just isn’t much bothered about people and cameras.

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For a wonderful in-the-field experience with a skilled local tracker, devoted naturalist and passionate teacher, contact

trackertrainer@fpond.org

All ages welcome!