Sunday, 1 February 2015

More tracks and trails in the snow - in a quieter part of Cumbria

It was a beautiful day today and whilst I would have loved to be out on my skis, I decided it was likely to be pretty busy on Helvellyn and it was also forecast to be quite windy. So I decided to stay low and go exploring in one of the quieter parts of Cumbria - and what a great day I had. After only a few minutes walking I came across the tracks of a rabbit, Lepus curpaeums. They are pretty common in the UK as I am sure you all know! I am pretty confident they are that of rabbits as I would expect hare prints to be bigger and the two rear prints (which are the fore feet) would be further apart.

Rabbit tracks in the snow - Lepus curpaeums - Cumbria

The other thing that convinced me that they were rabbit prints was the fact there was a highway with a crossroads. This looked like a pretty busy spot with the tracks going through a hole in the wall. It was pretty cool to see. A bit further on my walk I then found a rabbit hole with some tell tale droppings outside!
A rabbit highway!
Rabbit burrow with droppings!

As I continued walking something caught my eye and I turned around there was a herd of red deer, Cervus elaphus heading down the hill. It was great to see them in such big numbers in Cumbria. I am used to seeing one or two in the forest and they usually are very timid and run off. I have to admit I felt for a moment as if I was in Scotland!

red deer, Cervus elaphus - Cumbria
On my way back I also saw the tracks of the red deer in the snow, where they had run off the hillside.

Red deer tracks -  Cervus elaphus - Cumbria
Red deer tracks -  Cervus elaphus - Cumbria
Next is the highlight of my day. I am pretty confident that below are pictured fox tracks. I studied them for a while and had a good look around as to where they were heading. They were away from the main track and they had the shape and the track pattern of a fox. They have long nails, small rear pad and the 4 pads are arranged with the first front 2 close together and the next 2 lower and not overlapping. With a dog the lower 2 'toes' are positioned differently. Not the best explanation but having looked at some images in my book (see below) I am pretty sure they are that of a fox.

Red fox tracks in the snow - Vulpes vulpes - Cumbria
Red fox tracks - Vulpes vulpes - Cumbria

Trotting tracks in the snow - likely to be a fox
Domestic dog track for comparison - scientific name labradorus elephanus (only kidding!)
Above I have put some tracks of my labrador Roxy for comparison. She is not the lightest footed of dogs - more like a bounding elephant! But what I definitely noticed was that her rear pads in particular were much bigger and more prominent than those of the fox prints.

Tracks up and down the riverbank
The other tracks I found were quite distorted but what I loved was the fact they went up one bank of the river across the footbridge and down the other bank. There was no human tracks to be seen and they went directly next to the side of the water - brilliant - I would love to know what it was! 

The other tracks I have put on this blog are some I found yesterday in Whinlatter forest yesterday. They were tiny and I can only guess that they were made by a small mammal such as a vole....

Possible vole tracks - Cumbria
The other bonus to today was of course the stunning views. The snow makes Cumbria a different place. It really was a winter wonderland today.

Fab snow drifts
Snow capped Pennines in the distance
Evening sun on the trees
.....and seeing as Roxy's paw print featured earlier it would be a shame not to have the leaping labrador in the picture - not bad for an old gal!

Roxy having fun in the snow
So there's not much more to say on this blog apart from what a stunning and fun day. Cumbria and the UK really does have a lot to offer and I did feel at times as if I could have been in Scotland. It is great to explore new places and you don't have to venture too far from home to find them.

'Animal Tracks and Signs' Preben Bang and Preben Dahlstrom. Oxford University Press 

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