WS7 Oko 45 2011

Oko Wikcemna Topa ake Zaptan

Monday, Dec 27, 2010 to Sunday, Jan 2, 2011: high 52, low -3

New Year’s day arrived with sunshine and a light breeze, nice contrasts to the howling winds, below zero temperatures, and blowing blizzard snows of the previous two days. Last year went out like a lion; this year came in like a lamb.

The grouse, or prairie chicken, tracks above were atop the new snow just west of the wicoti. Their pattern is quite fascinating: three radiating lines of dots in an arrow shape that appear to be the result of short strings of small balls pressed into the snow. The grouse apparently nestled into the grass during the blizzard, letting the blowing snow drift over them. When they heard my nearby footsteps, they jumped through the thin crust of new snow and flapping their wings furiously, flew away startling me. Of the four “roosting holes” in the picture below, it is clear that the occupants of three of them flew away, whereas the grouse that roosted in the hole in the lower right of the picture walked away sometime before the snow was crusted enough to support its weight.

Friend Jerry said that when he was a kid, he would catch alive these roosting grouse by spotting the small air holes in the snow and then sneaking up near to them and throwing his coat over the hole. As the startled grouse tried to take flight, the coat would impede them just long enough for him to quickly wrap the coat around them.

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