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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mysterious Tracks In Snow

First I thought these were a small bird, but I quickly realized it was something different. I have seen a lot of different tracks in my career, and can usually surmise the source. This time, I am stumped.


Mole? I don't think so. The scale seems wrong and this creature was very active above the surface.


What makes the radiating pattern?


These were all over the place, in an open field right next to a bit of forest. It this is a small mammal (as I suspect), then it would be a prime target for birds of prey in this environment.


I need to call in the experts.


Camera Trap Codger said...

Hi Michael,

I feel safe saying the tracks were made by a bird, and that the fan-like markings in the snow were made by the wing feathers.

What I don't know is what kind of bird walks around in the snow and flaps it wings. Grouse of course do that sort of thing on drumming logs, but...hmmm.

Let me bring this to the attention of some ornithological friends.

OregonWild said...


Thanks. Bird was my first thought, but upon looking at the sheer volume of markings, and the sharpness of the radial lines, I had trouble picturing a bird making these.

Anonymous said...

I'd bet these are bird tracks as well. The radiant marks would line up with wing beats as the bird fluttered from spot to spot in the field.
Hard to tell without measurements, but these could be from a jay or another bird that was poking around in search of food.

cliff said...

My guess would be a Flicker looking for food. They dig in my yard all the time and if there's snow it's harder to hop, so they help with there wings. Most likely never see this unless in the snow.

OregonWild said...

I'm going with bird. Mystery solved.

Its good to learn from the experts.


Bpaul said...

I concur with bird, but what I'm curious about is what type and what the heck was it doing?

From the hand size comparison I like the Flicker theory as well.

I've been away too long, I got behind. Some great stuff up since I was here last sir.


John W. Wall said...

Glad to see the consensus come down on bird! You can even make out bird feet in some of the shots at the beginning of the toe drags.

OregonWild said...

Yup - bird. Just me being befuddled.

randomtruth said...

Dunno if y'all have concluded on this, but I know the culprit... I saw it happen first hand in fact. It's from a quail as it uses it's wings to do little jumps to help it get across the snow. Here's a pic I took of the marks right after I saw the quail make them.

OregonWild said...

Randomtruth - I think you are right on the money.


Bpaul said...

Great info! Thanks for posting sir (or madame).


randomtruth said...

Happy to help. It was fun to look down at the marks and say "hey - I've seen those before on a nature blog!"

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Anonymous said...

Thought for sure it was one of these

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Portland, Oregon, United States
Husband, Father, Student Of Natural History, Photographer