Last Thursday my wife and I went for a walk through Lazienki Park. It may not seem the most exciting of places but as the paths are quite strictly marked and there are lots of undisturbed snow areas around them then you can still track quite well.
Sometimes it doesn't take a lot of expertise to find what animal made a track. The only animal whose tracks tend to look like a one legged moose but goes from the bottom of one tree to another is a squirrel. In deeper snow their fore and rear paw prints tend to come together to produce one print, quite like that one a moose. They seem to do this whether running or leaping. It is a bit disconcerting to find tracks starting just in the middle of nowhere though, I guess the squirrel had dropped off a branch.
The Corvid Family
A lot of walkers through the park are keen on the birds there. Aside from the ornamental peacocks, mallard ducks and pigeons there is quite a selection of other birds. Most of the corvid family were present and noisy. Carrion crows, jackdaws, magpies, possibly rooks and a rather magnificent Jay. The Jay was very impressive, sporting multi-coloured feathers and a punkish tuft on his head. It seems all the effort goes into the colour though as he made no nicer sound than any of the other birds in his family. His Latin name is Garrulus glandarius which makes reference to the noisy habits. The snow also allows you to compare the tracks of crows to pigeons, quite useful as the 2 birds are very common yet have utterly different modes of locomotion. The crows leave tracks which run almost as if on rails with each foot leaving a parallel line of tracks like so ====== pigeons on the other hand put one foot in front of the other although it does leave a drunken weave to the track.
The Tit Family
Lower down the trees and bushes there were a variety of small tits. There were blue tits and great tits side by side and very busily looking for food. They were bold birds and would fly to people, seem to hover for a second, then dart away again. Some walkers were trying to coax the little birds to take seed from the palms of their hands. I wonder if the birds are seasonal visitors to the area, due to the presence of feeders, or simply more noticeable without the leaves and puffed up to keep warm
Wing Tips and Tracking Tips
A first for me was being able to see wing tip tracks in the snow. It revealed that not all birds land gracefully, one leaving a body shaped "splat" where it misjudged the landing slightly! I wasn't able to discern the species although one set of wing tip prints were in line with squirrel tracks and possibly associated with them in some way. I first saw pictures of wing tip tracks on Ray Mears' Bushcraft episode set in Sweden. Most of the information I need and use for snow tracking comes from Animal Tracks and Signs, an excellent book for tracking in wintry conditions and which deals with a real variety of European wildlife. It is the only serious tracking book I have and due to its ready availability is probably one of the more popular bushcraft tracking books. For those of you who'd like to get a more in depth or locally relevant book then the Woodlife network has a tracker's bibliography on the Information and Guides section of the resources page.