Twin Cities Snow Shoeing

I have accepted the snow and have taken to snowshoeing.  Partly because my park got a whole bunch of snowshoes this winter and I'm doing some programs one on January 21 and the other on February 19.  I need to practice because I have a tendency to walk with my toes out, which inevitably leads to me stepping my shoes and tumbling ass over tea kettle into the snow.  I was out with a bunch of rangers at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge last week and it was so cool.  We found just about every textbook thing you could find on a snowshoe hike: coyote tracks, otter tracks, rodent tracks that end with feather prints and...

...even a fresh antler shed!  That's a couple of my fellow rangers in the photo.  The antler had six points on it.  That's pretty incredible when you consider how deeply this refuge is embedded in the urban Twin Cities.  This shed was so fresh, it hadn't been chewed by any mice yet and it still had a bit of blood on the spot where the antler was attached.  Too cool!  I think it wasn't even an hour old.

After the snowshoe, I hung out at the feeders at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.  Check out all the spots of red, the cardinal activity was off the charts.  There were even more in the above photo, but at least three were cropped out.

I find comfort in watching the steady stream of activity at bird feeders.  Little things like blue jays filling their crops so full with peanuts that you can see the overflow in their open beaks.

I was surprised to see a white-throated sparrow hanging out at the feeders, but for whatever reason, this bird didn't go further south.  It's got a good food supply and cover at the refuge.  If it can dodge the local sharp-shinned hawk, it just might make it.  Here are some other birds visible in the falling snow around the refuge:

Female cardinal (with a female house finch down at the bottom).

Male house finch.