Monday, March 5, 2012

Late Winter Walk-Ranger's Marsh

March 4th, 2012, I went for a short hike at Ranger's Marsh. A brisk west wind was blowing,  temp at about 32 F, overcast skies and snow flurries. Maybe an hour before sunset, the low sun and overcast clouds produced back lighting that was low light and low contrast. Difficult conditions for the best photographer but I'm not a photographer, I'm a naturalist. I'll take what ever snapshot that nature gives me.

In an area of tall grass that was cris-crossed with animal trails. I found the skeletal remains of a large canine. Large dog or coyote, I could not tell. The photo shows the skull, lower jaw and lower leg.
Canine Skull and lower jaw

In the waters of this beaver pond, the first of the emergent aquatic plants can be seen.
Aquatic plants reaching for the surface of a beaver pond

Local Giant Canada Geese swimming thru the skim ice of the marsh. Many pair of geese use the marsh to nest and raise their young. These birds are locals and remain in the area thru out the year.
Giant Canada Geese

After a few minutes of following a deer trail along the edge of the marsh, I was able sneak into shooting range of a small herd of deer. This deer is in the shallow marsh waters, feeding on the new plant growth. Three or four more deer are in the tall phagramites grass in the background. There are also ducks and geese in front of the deer.  Can you see them?
White-tail Deer feeding on aquatic plants

Below the deer and to the left are two migratory Mallard Ducks , but are there more ducks.
White-tail Deer and Mallard Ducks

The deer gets a little to close to a pair of  Canada Geese that were in the cattails. The geese take flight and in turn scare the deer. The white hair that cover the underside of the deer's tail and rump is used as a warning flag when the deer perceives danger. It also helps them locate each other in heavy brush. 
Deer and Geese spook each other

Now everybody is spooked.  The marsh explodes with flushing waterfowl. I had no idea there were this many birds in this small corner of the marsh. Black Ducks, Mallards and Shovelers all take to the sky in unison, while the deer bucks for cover.
Black Ducks, Mallards and Shovelers flushing

On the return leg of the walk, I find an antler shed by a buck. I wonder if this antler belonged to the deer I was watching earlier. This antler is from a nice eight point buck,

Buck White-tail Deer Antler

A true sign of Spring, budding Pussy Willows. When I was a kid, I would bring home arm fulls of these twigs, place them in jars of water and watch them flower, sprout leaves and root.
Budding Pussy Willow

As the sun sets in the west, time has come to call it quits. I got a little exercise, saw a little wildlife, and capture a few snap shots. It's been a good day, hope you enjoyed it too.
Sunset at Ranger's Marsh