By Angus Inksetter
February 16th was a close to ideal winter’s day: temperature between -5°C. and -10°C., light winds, and a mix of sun and cloud. Saugeen Nature members and friends used that fortunate weather for a winter nature walk by snow shoe through the Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve. The dramatic shape of the landscape, large stony hills mixed with extensive wetlands, is more easily seen and appreciated in winter when the leaves are gone from the trees. That lack of leaves also makes tree identification more subtle, but we learned to use other clues such as bark texture and tone, and twig arrangement, to name the different species. Animal tracks were often blurred with the soft snow but the depth and spacing of the tracks gave an indication of the creatures unseen around us, and sometimes the print could be more clearly seen in the bottom of the hole in the snow, particularly with deer hoof prints. It was apparent that deer are having a difficult time moving through the snow because they lack any kind of flotation (like our snow shoes) to help them navigate. Their hoof prints were at the bottom of holes punched 40cm into the snow.
The route the group followed took them through a pine plantation, over open fields, through mature hardwood forest, and across frozen wetlands. In one of the wetland areas stunted tamarack trees and remnant pitcher plant flowers poked up through the snow, demonstrating that the environment below the snow was a harsh one, wet and low in nutrients.
After a little longer than two hours we were back at the parked vehicles, feeling warm from exertion and happy with the pleasure of a beautiful day out in Grey County’s winter.