The valley was swathed in low hanging cloud this morning, and we had had a flurry of snow fall during the night. Because the snow is still so crusty underneath however, I wasn’t very hopeful of finding any fresh tracks. I concentrated on the oases around the trunks of the trees, which under the canopy have had little snow and have been bathed in slanted sunlight on the hills so stay generally warmer than the exposed fields.
Hunting around in the wet moss, I found the first signs of spring already pushing through the earth in the form of ground ivy shoots
I walked through an area of pine forest where many trees stand yet are dead. I’m sure that most of them are larches but I cannot be 100% sure. They have been slowly decaying for a long time and they look like they have received many woodpecker visitors. Closer inspection shows the routes that larvae have burrowed under the bark and the visible holes are one of two things: the oval ones are the marks made by beaks of the (more than definitely) greater spotted woodpeckers digging in for larvae into the wood. The round holes are probably made by the beetles themselves emerging from the trunk.
Through the trees there are more than often fresh tracks of red deer and droppings. As we are in a mountainous area, the deer found here are red. This print below is not the length of my hand, but the deer has actually sunken into the snow a long way and skidded making the hoof look elongated. It passed through there when the snow was softer. The actual hoof length is about 6cms long – indicating that is was made by a hind or young deer. The track was almost certainly made over two weeks ago, when there was a huge dump of snow. The droppings have frozen and been preserved for now.