Saturday, December 30, 2006


Finding interesting things to look at while snowshoeing isn't too hard. Snow makes a great slate for stories - from tracks and scat, to dens, and mysterious impressions.

Winter is not dead. There is a lot of life and activity in the winter. True, many animals migrate or hibernate, and plants go dormant, but there are a surprising number of living things that stay active all winter long. Deer, moose, elk, and rabbits and small rodents are the most common herbevores, with coyotes, foxes and weasels being the most common carnivores. Of course skunks and raccoons are out and about looking for anything they can find.

What we don't generally think about seeing in winter are insects. However, one of the most amazing sights I've seen in the winter, that has caused me the most wonder, is a snowcovered area full of tiny little black insects.

Snow fleas. Only they aren't really fleas. They are tiny little springtail insects, black, and usually seen by the droves! They are around all year, but because of their size and color, we don't see them until the contrasting color of white covers the ground.

They eat decomposing matter, so they are really important to have around. They fill crevices, nooks, holes, impressions. They come out when the weather is a bit more mild, and truly, they are everywhere. And it's fascinating to see them alive and active in the winter, on the snow.

So, next time you are out on snow and see some shadows, stop and get a closer look. You may just be looking at little black springtails surving in this cold, "dead", season.

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