February 09, 2022

I mentioned that after it snowed last week, I had gone outside to check my feeders.  As I opened the back door, I noticed a single line of tracks in the new fallen snow.  They were obviously made by one of the small birds that frequent the feeders.  Several of the birds have a habit of picking through the seed and throwing whatever they do not like out onto the ground.  This is gobbled up by the morning doves (Zenaida macroura) and dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) that prowl beneath the feeders.  While one junco has the habit of scavenging close to the house, most stay closer to the fence.  When I approached the fence (carefully stepping over the first line of tracks) I found a flurry of tracks beneath the feeders.  Since the feeders were filled with ice and snow, the birds were hoping to find seed on the ground.  This had been covered by the same blanket of snow which contained the junco tracks.

When I looked online for animal tracks identification, I found the owner(s) of all the tracks on my patio were indeed the junco.  Plate #5 of the 30 common identifications showed the tracks made by the dark-eyed junco.  I also found it interesting that nearly all the tracks shown were made in snow.  This made sense, as the light snow provided good contrast between the imprint and the snow.  While deeper snow left an imprint, it was easily lost as the tracks collapsed into the impression.  Another medium for the tracks was mud, which needed to be a light layer for the same reason.  Some of the larger animals had pencil drawings of the footprints rather than pictures of the tracks.

The snow also held the attached impression posted on my birder site.  Comments identified this as one of the common bird tracks found after a snowfall.  They belong to a raptor (owl or hawk) that captured its prey (mouse or vole) on top the snow.  As the bird flew up from the snow, it left the feather marks as the wings flapped to gain lift.  The tracks remind me of representations of the mythical Phoenix found throughout the Mediterranean and central Asian countries.  The phoenix was revered as sacred as it was depicted as dying in a bright flame and then being reborn from the ashes.  This was one of the earliest resurrection stories across human culture.  Analogies of this myth exist around the world, including the Indigenous peoples in the Americas.

Thoughts:  The Cherokee Phoenix (Cherokee: ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅᎯ, romanized: Tsalagi Tsulehisanvhi) is the first newspaper published by Native Americans in the US, and the first newspaper published in a Native American language.  Editor Elias Boudinot named the paper Cherokee Phoenix as a symbol of renewal, after the mythical bird that rose to new life from ashes of fire.  The paper was founded to gather support and to help keep members of the Cherokee Nation united and informed.  The first issue was published in English and Cherokee on February 21, 1828, in New Echota, capital of the Cherokee Nation (Georgia).  The paper continued until 1834 (Trail of Tears) and was revived in the 20th century.  Today the Phoenix publishes both print and Internet versions.  The Phoenix has risen and continues to make tracks in the lives of the people.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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