I've been busy with school programs lately and haven't had much chance to get out on the paths, but I managed to get out for a short stroll on the Dr George Trail today. It's certainly looking a lot closer to winter than it was the last time I was out: last week's windstorm took care of most of the leaves that were still on the trees, and there was even a thin layer of ice on the West Gaetz Lake (which a family of muskrats seemed to be having a great time playing on. Sorry that I don't have a picture. I found out the hard way that I need to recharge my camera's batteries).
There are still things to be seen and heard in the Sanctuary this time of year, though. The chickadees were out in full force chattering away, and the wind rustling through the dried grass makes some interesting sounds that you really have to stand still and close your eyes to appreciate. And of course there's the cross paths.
We sometimes forget that there are plenty of animals living just out of our sight in the Sanctuary (and in Red Deer's entire park system), but when fall comes the beaten-down trails through the grass and the trees that the animals use on a regular basis become more and more obvious. A lot of those trails intersect with our man-made walking trails, and once the snow comes they become great places to look for tracks and scat to find out just who we're sharing the space with. Moose, deer, coyotes, foxes, squirrels, snowshoe hares, and even the occasional weasel all leave behind their calling cards on the cross paths. You may even find bird footprints from magpies or grouse if you're lucky.
Lucky or no, I think it's fun to keep an eye on what's going on in the cross paths. It's nice to be reminded that we're not the only ones who enjoy Waskasoo Park.
One slightly more serious note about using the trail system this time of year: please remember that our moose and deer population shouldn't be approached at any time, but especially during the fall rut (mating season). The moose are probably finished rutting by now, but we're only just now heading into deer rut (mid to late November). It's not a bad idea to make a bit of noise when you're out on the trail just to make sure that you don't accidentally surprise a deer or moose.