Mosher Marsh

Posted by on Mar 30, 2018 in Unmowed Blog, wildlife, winter | 0 comments

When you first get out of the car, you can see a wide field, with a fringe of trees at the edge. Some open lawn, some bushes, that’s about it. There’s no clue that this is a place packed with life. But the tracks in the snow tell the story. Mosher Marsh, a Mohawk/Hudson Land Conservancy preserve in Amsterdam NY, is a rich habitat for many species of wildlife.

No sign of any animal activity at first glance. On a cold March afternoon, most animals are laying low, napping, keeping warm. But as I wade through the ankle-deep snow, I can see that it’s filled with the news of what went on in the Marsh last night—the tracks of the animals going about their usual business once darkness shades the world.

I can see the sharp-pointed hoof-prints left by hungry deer plowing through the snow, looking for twigs to browse on. The Morse code-like dot-dash-dash of rabbit tracks are everywhere. The tiny feet of squirrels leave narrow marks in their sprints from tree to tree. Here and there, the dainty tracks of white-footed mice are stitched over the snow.

In the woods, more signs of life—a perfectly round hole the size of a softball chiseled into a dead tree–it must have been a woodpecker’s summer nesting spot, and now it might host chickadees or bluebirds on a cold night. Old trees have cracks and crevices perfect for hibernating caterpillars. Fallen logs are hiding places for mice, while the little rodents called meadow voles tunnel under the snow.

Then, close to the woods’ edge, I notice a three-toed track. Big. It’s a large bird, each toe as long and thick as my finger. Then I spot another line of tracks, and more and more. A whole flock of turkeys was stomping through the snow.

Wild turkeys are quite possibly the most underestimated birds in the world. If you call someone a turkey it’s not a compliment—but maybe it should be. Domestic turkeys may not be rocket scientists, but wild turkeys are a different story altogether–wily, wary, hard to catch. They’re fast runners and strong flyers.

It’s so quiet and peaceful as I walk along the snowy woods…until, suddenly, BOOM! The flock of turkeys erupts out of the trees in front of me. The noise of their clapping, clattering wings fills the air. They flap away through the trees, clucking and gobbling in annoyance.

I head back to my car, toes numb and fingers stiff with cold. I’m happy to crank up the heater full blast. I can go to my nice warm house and fire up the wood stove tonight. But the deer, and the turkeys, the squirrels and the chickadees—they’ll be out there in the cold. I’m glad they have a habitat like the Mosher Marsh to hang out in, a place to find food and shelter through the bitter winter nights.

For info on visiting the Marsh, check out the Mohawk/Hudson Land Conservancy website

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