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Ramblings 1-8-11

No significant snow is bad news for so many of us, but it's great for swamp-tromping.

Last week we had the two grandkids for a few days, one being a 7-year-old, non-stop boy. He was kind enough to agree to explore the white cedar swamp across the road with me. Being short and tough he was ideal for winding his way through, under and over the winterberry and alder shrubs, the stems of which go every which way but straight up. He tended to follow the snowshoe hare tracks when they took the easiest ways, from frozen pool to pool and around the sphagnum hummocks. I followed as best I could.

The swamp was laced with hare tracks, not because there are many hares but because there has not been snow enough to cover up the earlier tracks. The fox, fisher, and coyote tracks following the hare tracks don't bode well for the hares.

Snowshoe hares turn a brilliant white in the winter and are different in other ways from cottontail rabbits, which are rare in the Adirondacks. Hares are the bread and butter of many of our native mammals and predatory birds. These include, formerly, the lynx, and now the bobcat, coyote, fisher, American marten, red and gray foxes, weasels, great horned owl and goshawk. If the other predator, man, does not need them for food, it would be generous of him to leave the hares for the ones who can't go to the supermarket for their survival. Here we do not have the extreme population dips and peaks of the Canadian north, as ours have the lowest reproduction rates for their species anywhere. The sparse population does not need the help of hunters to "control" them.

After almost an hour of tromping we'd had enough track studying, ice chopping, scratches and pokings, and we headed for the road. He could not believe that we were just five minutes from the house. I could, because I have explored cedar swamps before!

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