Friday, January 25, 2013

An Island Of Life In A Winter Woods, Part Two

When the woods is blanketed with snow a rock shelter can be an island of life in the winter woods... 
rock shelter in the winter
... a place to somewhat escape the jaws of winter.
rock shelter in the winter
The most noticeable thing inside the rock shelter was the greenery.  Now maybe I'm biased because I love greenhouses and ferns, especially Walking Ferns...
walking ferns in a rock shelter in the winter
 ... but, the inside of the rock shelter reminded me of a conservatory with sunlight streaming in the windows and the moss and Walking Ferns hanging from the ceiling.
walking ferns in the winter
Aren't Walking Ferns fantastic? even more so in a winter-bound rock shelter?
For most of the length of the rock shelter the many icicles had coalesced into a sheet of ice - an ice window.
rock shelter in the winter
All along the icicle window we noticed plenty of springtails crawling around on the ice.
springtails on ice in the winter
I have seen springtails on the snow before, but it is possible that we caused these springtails to land on the icicles when we disturbed their habitat by crawling around on the leaf litter on the floor of the rock shelter. 
springtails on ice in winter

Another thing crawling on the ice was this fly. 
fly on ice in winter
Just think!  There we were, in mid-winter, out in the snowy woods... in a rock shelter... and of all things, a fly was walking around on the window.
There were also midges here and there on the ice window.
midge on ice

Now, something that bordered on spectacular was the many ray spider egg sacs that hung from the ceiling of the rock shelter.
ray spider egg sac
The small, papery, globular egg sacs were suspended from short silk threads.  The spider egg sacs decorated much of the rock shelter's ceiling.
ray spider egg sacs
With all those egg sacs, this rock shelter seemed like a spider den.
I'll bet you guessed that we found a spider crawling around on this mid-January day. 
spider in winter in rock shelter
This spider was very tiny... almost small enough to miss.
We found many kinds of spider webs... I'm sure they weren't active this time of year... but notice that the spider in the photo above is on a web.

We also found animal sign.  The boys were sure this was weasel scat.
We found a blood trail leading up to the rock shelter.
The tracks along the blood trail weren't plain enough to be sure of what made them.  Our thought was that they looked like perhaps a fox was running along and carrying some bleeding prey.

We found this variety of living things in this small rock shelter.  I'm sure we could have found much more if we would have had more time.
 We could have looked for hibernating insects under the moss, leaves, and rocks.  We could have looked into the many crevices.  Anywhere in the rock shelter there could have been tiny living critters that we just missed seeing... the ones we saw on the ice were much easier to see than small critters on the other surfaces.
But, all too soon we had to leave this island of life and head back out into the jaws of winter.