Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman – January 2024


‘Track Story’ by Marian Harman

This winter has been very mild in general, but we have had a few snowstorms. When there is snow on the ground, I love to go out looking for animal tracks. Around here, the most numerous are squirrel tracks and rabbit tracks. White-tailed deer are quite often seen, and its always a surprise to see that the deer have come right up into the front yard at night. Also fairly common are fisher and coyote tracks. The most fun is when you come upon a “track story” in which two animals have encountered each other. Recently I saw a track story in our front yard. It seems that a squirrel was hopping along into the yard from the woods, and then was swooped down on by a bird. The bird must have been successful in catching the squirrel because the squirrel track ended right where the birds’ wings hit the ground. I took a photo of this “story” in which one can see the squirrel tracks in the fairly deep snow, and the imprint of wings at the end of the track. It doesn’t look like it was a very big bird, perhaps a small owl, but it fed its hungry stomach that night.

My favorite animal track book is Animal Tracks and Signs by Paul Rezendez. Rezendez gives you a look at what different animals’ tracks look like on different substrates such as mud, new snow, or older snow that has melted somewhat. Rezendez’s excellent photos also show an animal’s typical track patterns. Of course, you can also use your phone and an app such as iNaturalist to try to id. a track. When bird life is scarce and plants are dormant, tracking is the perfect way to become totally involved in the winter landscape.

Many thanks to residents who have sent reports and photos this month. Please send reports by Feb. 28th to appear in next month’s article. Please send reports to mariancharman@gmail.com.


Late December Reports:

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. At the feeder: juncos, goldfinches, house finch, cardinals, blue jays, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, cottontail rabbit, squirrels, busy and hungry. I gave them and the blue jays some peanuts.


January Reports:

Marian/Bill Harman, January 1, 2024. Happy New Year! 36 degrees, partly sunny. A blue sky, sunny and crisp—my favorite walking weather. To the meadow: two Carolina wrens, on each side of the trail, competing with identical songs –“to whit, to whit to, to whit”. Pileated woodpecker in the wet woods, brown creeper, titmice, blue jay imitating a red-tailed hawk call. January 2, 26 degrees, frost this morning. January 7, 26 degrees, snowing. About 5 inches snow at 9 a.m. A busy time at the feeder: 3 starlings, a pair of house finches, two male cardinals, and five female cardinals (an all-time high for us). One hairy woodpecker, two downy woodpeckers, 7 juncos, two titmice, two mourning doves, one red-bellied woodpecker, one chickadee, two blue jays, one goldfinch, two American tree sparrows. January 8, sunny, 12 inches of snow on the ground. At the feeders: one cardinal, one red-bellied woodpecker, two chickadees, one downy woodpecker, one junco. A walk on the beaver dam trail: chickadees, blue jays, Carolina wren, red-tailed hawk.  January 12, six hooded mergansers seen on Mill Pond, Graniteville.

A Free Verse:


I trudge slowly through the foot-deep snow. My old muscles and joints don’t allow more sprightly movement.

The pace enables me to notice the heavy snow-covered branches, glistening against the blue, blue sky.

Occasional gusts of wind send white clouds scudding south; send mists of snow from the tops of the pines, to envelope me in a miniature snowstorm.

A red-tailed hawk flies to the top of a tall pine to warm itself in the sun.


January 14, rainy, 50 degrees! Three chickadees, three titmice, one downy woodpecker, one cardinal. January 15, 22 degrees, sunny, a dusting of new snow. At the feeder: five mourning doves, one chickadee, two titmice, four juncos, two blue jays two female downy woodpeckers, a pair of cardinals, one red-bellied woodpecker, three goldfinches, one bluebird (Yay!) January 16, 24 degrees, snowing. One American tree sparrow, one cardinal, three juncos, one titmouse. A walk to the beaver dam: quiet, lightly snowing, lovely. A fisher’s tracks led all the way down the trail from the pond to Snake Meadow Brook. January 17, about four inches of snow. A snowy walk along Keyes Pond, bright sun, cold westerly wind, tracks: fisher, deer, squirrel, fox, rabbit.

A poem:  A Snowy Walk

I follow the fisher tracks around the pond. A cold westerly wind blows light snow across the trail.

I brush the snow off a sunny log and sit to rest and listen: dry leaves, still hanging on, rustle. Pine boughs sigh in the wind.

I hear the high tinkling of my neighbor’s wind chime, call notes of white-breasted nuthatch, chickadee, titmouse, hairy woodpecker and blue jay. A Carolina wren is singing.

January 21, fifteen degrees- coldest day yet. January 24, 32 degrees, an inch of new snow, cloudy. At the feeder: four blue jays, one cardinal four juncos, one titmouse, one red-bellied woodpecker, Carolina wren heard. Two juvenile deer are eating seed on the ground at neighbor’s house. January 28, 35 degrees, raining then snow (it has been in the 50’s the last few days). Two male turkeys flew down from our pines in the morning. January 29, 32 degrees snowing lightly. A walk on the beaver dam trail: Some fog over Keyes Pond.

Free Verse

When the wind blows in the tops of the pines, snow plops on my head and back. But no mind, I am cozy in my hooded jacket. A nuthatch is headed down a tree trunk, giving its nasal call. A Carolina wren sings loudly in the forest: “Ju-dy, Ju-dy”. A fisher has preceded me up the trail. I take a deep breath of the cold, humid air.

January 30, breezy 20’s, grey and cloudy. At the feeders: three chickadees, one titmouse, six juncos, two American tree sparrows, three cardinals, two downy woodpeckers, one red-bellied woodpecker.

Nancy Eberiel at East Boston Camps. January 17th, saw six hooded mergansers on Stony Brook. They are often there.

Gerry DiBello, January 17,

Four bluebirds at our feeder.

Rosemarie Koester, a juvenile (?) red-winged blackbird at our feeder. Neighbors have had bluebirds, how exciting!  Pileated woodpecker lives in back woods. Large holes in back of our house—woodpecker? Lots of juncos at the feeder, also blue jays, cardinals, finches, goldfinch, chickadees. “This will be my last report, as we are moving out of town”. [This is sad news indeed, as Rosemarie has been Westford Wildlife Watch’s most loyal and frequent reporter- I wish you all the best in your new situation Rosemarie and Hajo, and lots of birds at your new feeders-MH]


Marian Harman is a member of the Westford Conservation Trust, a non-profit conservation organization. The trust’s purpose is the preservation of Westford’s open spaces and trails. The Trust welcomes new members and volunteers. Check out the Trust’s website at westfordconservationtrust.org and visit us on Facebook.