It is at times like this that the farmer really gets to know exactly what has been round his farm and where. Of course we know roughly what animals visit us, but once there is snow on the ground then they leave tell-tale prints behind.
There has been a deer in the bottom field. It has jumped over from the marshy field of our neighbour (this field is very neglected and occasionally deer have had their young in the long grass) and has scratched away the snow to get at the grass. There is a rack of silage in the field and also a long trough which the farmer keeps full of sheep nuts - it has visited these too, so will have gone away with a full belly.
Rabbit tracks criss-cross the fields from hedge to hedge. The poor rabbits will have been having a tough time lately. In the floods of September many of their burrows were flooded and their young drowned. Now the grass is covered with snow and living will be hard. There is just a smattering of myxamatosis around too. But, as with all things in Nature - it is the survival of the fittest, and the hardiest will get through this cold spell while the weak will go under and thus provide food for another of our visitors - the fox.
His tracks cross diagonally across the paddock and end up in the yard, where he has gone up on his hind legs to look in the chicken house windows. A chicken died (of old age?) last week and the farmer put the body out for the fox. It went by the next morning, although as there were no telltale feathers left anywhere the farmer thought it was more likely to have been taken by a badger. Then the fox has criss crossed the yard, leaving his mark -a tell tale patch of yellow snow - here and there. It must have driven the farm dog into a frenzy as it went up to the big shed door. But we heard nothing.
A hare has been across one of the fields. I have not seen my favourite animal on the farm for a long time, so it is good to know there is one around.
And then, of course, there are that scourge of all farmers, the rats. One rat has scavenged around the straw barn, leaving his long tail track in the snow. We do keep a trap set permanently under the chicken hut and we catch about one rat a month in it. But every farm has its share of rats and it will always be so - we shall never catch them all; they are far too clever for that.
Pheasant tracks are everywhere - telltale three pronged feet, there is no mistaking them. And then there are all the garden birds who walk or hop around. However much food I put out birds like the little wren never visit the bird feeders, they prefer to scratch about in the bottom of the hedge. I can see them from my kitchen window and occasionally I scatter seed under the hedge for them.
Being able to sustain so many wild things in such harsh weather as we have here this week (minus 6 this morning) is one of the good aspects of farming. And finding all these footprints in the snow is just confirmation that they are taking advantage of it.
##The latest photograph of Tess, taken at lunch time, sitting astride rabbit tracks in the bottom pasture, is there on my side bar.