Robin’s Journal – A Dirt Road, a Mole and Moose

The sun was out yesterday morning. I swear I could hear the dirt roads calling. “Come out for a ride. You know you want to.” I filled the CamelBak with cold water and lime slices, got the bag of almonds to munch on and grabbed the camera.

I went to Democrat Ridge first, discovered wet road and not wanting to get stuck again, turned around. I like to think I learn when my escapades don’t turn out well. The first few miles of West Lake Road were so uneventful that I was happy to find a pond with pollywogs.

Pollywogs nibble at the empty egg mass.

I watched them for a few minutes, scanning the edge of the pool for frogs so to find out what kind of pollywogs these are. No luck though. The one frog I did see didn’t catch my eye until it splashed into the water and hid under leaves. The pool was made by heavy equipment working on a logging operation. Pollywogs aren’t incredibly exciting and didn’t hold my attention for long. I drove further out, passing the turn off to West Musquash Lake. It warmed up enough to open the sunroof and put the windows down. Hearing is an important tool when you’re outdoors. Listen to the activity around you: rustling in the brush and trees, hoots, howls and splashes. If you only look you’ll miss a lot.

I glanced into a small stream as I crossed a wooden bridge just in time to see a star nosed mole swimming up stream under water. I think of moles as underground creatures, not underwater. It was amazing. It darted upstream, bouncing off rocks. I watched for five or six seconds until it found the stream bank and disappeared. I learned something yesterday. Moles can swim.

My next stop was a tiny bog where I’ve been meaning to take pictures of a beaver feed bed. Feeding beds are piles of saplings cut down and stacked up for a food source.

A beaver food plot

I knelt down to take the picture and heard a sharp crack in the woods. I stayed still and watched while chastising myself for wearing a bright coral shirt that made me easy to see. A moose walked from the back of the little bog toward me and another move across the back of the bog. I noticed a set of fresh moose tracks crossing the road, into the soft sand and gravel and disturbed bushes into the woods but didn’t think too much of it at the time.

A fresh moose track on the road.
A track in the soft sand and gravel of the edge of the road.

It should have occurred to me when I spied this track that there was a moose behind me. Should have, but didn’t.

Can you see the disturbed brush where the moose walked?

I walked back to the Jeep parked 15′ away, and continued to listen. That’s where I was when I heard the moose behind me. hmmm… these are very large, very wild, unpredictable creatures. I had one forward and slightly to the right, one forward and now to the left, and one behind me to the right. One or two might be calves though it seemed unlikely that a cow would cross the road and leave her calf or calves behind. The track going into the woods was from an adult moose.

Staying in that spot wasn’t an option. As much as I wanted to see and photograph the moose, I know better than to keep myself in a potentially dangerous situation. I drove 150′ ahead, parked and listened. Nothing. I could safely be there and watch for a moose crossing the road, and get a few photos. I got out, took the cap off the lens and heard another crack to my left, the same side of the road as the bog. I closed the door quietly and looked through the trees.

I’d parked at the edge of a clearing. A cow moose walked out of the woods, into the tall raspberry bushes. At first she didn’t seem too concerned with me. We watched each other, barely moving.

A cow moose watches me through the bushes.

The moose

She stepped out from behind the bushes. It went well at first. I was respectful of her and she didn’t seem too concerned about me. Isn’t she beautiful? They’re often thought of as ugly but really, look at that cute tail and face. I think this is a two year old. She looks very big from this angle but from behind she’s clearly still young and gangly.

But then the moose on the opposite side of the road walked through the trees, snapping a branch and catching her attention. She laid her ears back and started to leave. Moose press their ears back the same way horses do. Body language is very important when observing wildlife. I stepped back to the Jeep and stood between the seat and door.

The moose on the opposite side of the road stayed in the trees behind the clearing. This moose crossed the road and I assume that she joined the other moose when she walked back into the woods. The third moose, on the same side of the road, came to the clearing but didn’t step out where I could see it.I left, feeling sure I was the reason it wasn’t crossing. I want to observe as much as possible but I don’t want to cause a lot of stress.

Moose will always be one of my favorite animals, second to black bears. Moose are moving a lot right now because of the heavy black fly activity. They move into clearings to allow the wind to blow the black flies away. Be careful on the road. Moose don’t look both ways before crossing, especially when the flies are driving them crazy.