Throughout March, despite the snow remaining, the river-ice shrank, melted, broke off, floated downstream. The sun is intense at THIS time of year, so when it shone, snow avalanched off roofs, and disappeared off sidewalks, melting into gutters. THIS time of year, pot holes are busy in a process of self creation.
In April, it did not take very many days of sunshine for the snow to completely disappear. And then … we had snow again! This is indeed miyoskamin.
Now the snow is gone again, and with the absence of snow, it is possible to search for new plants, but at the same time, to see signs of mammals that have been around and active all winter. Since leaves have not yet appeared, it is possible to see migrating birds much more easily than it will be in late May. We can also see last year’s birds’ nests as well. (Most species of birds build brand new nests each year.)
What signs should you be looking for, to learn more about who we share our city with?
Look for tracks in the mud (or snow as the case may be). A Nature City Adventure from the fall of 2022 featured the work of Katie Harris, as she carries out a census of the species of wild mammals found within Saskatoon’s city limits. Included in that adventure were links to brochures about some of the wild mammal species, and a link to a site that describes the different tracks. Check out the adventure here.
Another sign to look for is bare twigs and branches, where an animal has browsed the bark off a bush or tree. I have never seen a porcupine in the city, but see much evidence of them on a route I walk regularly on Meewasin Valley Trail east. Porcupines have dens, but again, I have never seen one. (I will now be on the lookout for a porcupine den!) Apparently, although most porcupines live solitary lives for the most part, they will share dens, and will browse in communal groups during the winter. Porcupines, despite their appearance of being large, are actually very slim under their quill coats. This means they can climb out onto fairly thin branches in trees and bushes, to chew the bark. Look for a tree that has been fairly thoroughly stripped of bark, some on its trunk and more on its limbs, but higher up than a beaver could chew it. You might be lucky and see the porcupine, way out on a limb! If the porcupine is not there, you can move closer to see the tooth tracks on the exposed tree trunk. Porcupines have smaller teeth than either beaver or deer. Porcupines, although mostly vegetarian, will eat bugs and amphibians in the summer, if these are available.