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After a snow fall is a good time to have a look round and see what has been visiting in your area. There are normally a lot more things living in a region than you ever see. Animal tracks and signs are a good way to find out a bit more about the wildlife in your area, although interpreting the footprints and other signs can be a bit of a challenge. This morning I took some photos in my garden and there was a lot of evidence of animal activity, mostly in the form of footprints in the snow. Footprints17

In places where the snow was quite deep the prints were a bit more difficult to make out but obviously some areas have been used a lot by some quite big animals.Footprints13

In other places where the covering of snow was thin and particularly where the snow was on top of hard paving slabs, then the prints are quite well-defined. These probably from a blackbird or bird of similar size.Footprints2

Having said that I am still not too sure about one set. These are obviously a mammal with little feet and toes. The front feet are smaller than the back feet and the size is in the order of 1.5 to 2cm across.( I laid a ruler next to them to get an idea of the size)Footprints28

Also if you look at the photo below it would appear that this animal proceeds by jumping as there are sets of 4 footprints at intervals of about 30cm apart. Also there is no evidence of a tail trailing along as you might expect from a rat. Footprints26

So We can exclude anything big or bigish like a cat, the jumping would exclude a hedgehog, so it might be a squirrel, or maybe a mouse or vole. I think the prints are too big for a mouse, but looking up squirel prints in my Collins guide shows the back feet to be quite long and considerably bigger than the front feet.

Anyway some other prints are fairly easy, the domestic cat leaves fairly distinctive prints so I am 99% sure that the prints in the photo below are from a local moggy.Footprints9

This next one is also quite easy, it is a large mammal, probably male, and possibly quite mature, ( in age that is, not perhaps in attitude) It could have grey hair and be about 5 foot 11 inches tall and might have recently eaten sausage egg and bacon for breakfast…. but its difficult to tell too much more from just a footprint.Footprints4

These prints are obviously from a smallish bird, possibly a blackbird but I wonder what it was doing to cause this collection of prints all more or less in the same place. Also what causes the  long lines associated with the prints? Is this the tail feathers dragging along or has the bird been scrapping in the snow? Footprints19

Well it is interesting to speculate but what it does tell us for sure is there are a lot of birds and animals out and about in these cold snowy conditions.

The book I referd to is the Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs by Preben Bang and Preben Dahlstrom. It is OK but I believe a newer edition is now available and is somewhat better.

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