I managed to wander quite far afield in this week's Nature Notes article in The Lakeville Journal, which is readable on-line with free subscription. Only the bookends of the piece are rooted in the local enviroment, since I found it difficult in the dead of winter to find something new and fresh to say about life outdoors. As for the rest, I went back to my days in Africa and what I learned about tracking from a sleeping elephant.
Here are the bookends:
"‘I track humans,” said the stranger sitting next to me, by way of introduction. As a conversation starter it made quite an impression. He was the sort of character who could fairly be described as crusty, and I suspected I might end up as captive audience to his Ancient Mariner. He went on to volunteer that he was an expert tracker whose services had been of particular value to law enforcement, and who now was responsible for preventing poaching on a large piece of private land in the Berkshires.
“You know how I catch ’em?” he asked, raising a craggy eyebrow with the confidence of one in possession of secret knowledge. “I find their tracks in deer season and then I go to the nearest bar. Anyone sitting on a stool is showing me his boots. I just compare what I see to what I saw...”
"...The last elephants to roam the valleys of the Litchfield Hills passed away at the end of the Pleistocene age. But one of the old family names of our region, the Spurrs, comes from the Dutch 'spoor', meaning the trail left by a person or animal. As a follower of spoor, I limit myself to following the tracks of small animals in the snow, the one time when our poor blinkered senses discern what other creatures know in every season."
For the part in the middle, go here.