Me, I'm in a hurried rush to leave the busy town behind.
Walking along Grant Steet, across East Avenue, continuing along McInroy Street, right on Purple Street.
Hopefully there will be no talkative people to greet along the way.
I seek community, to be sure; in the company of those who dwell in streamside thicket and woods along the railroad tracks.
Where the railroad tracks cross Charleston Street at the east end of town my saunter begins.
In the first hundred feet, I've found footprints in the snow left by crow, house cat, eastern cottontail, squirrel, and dog. I'm in good company.
No sightings of actual wild neighbors to speak of yet, but a quarter mile along the bark of many ash snags is flaked off, in many cases the better part of the surface area of the tree. Surely the work of multiple woodpecker species.
The first wild neighbor of this railroad saunter, a hairy woodpecker on an ash snag...
It is ecology in a moment.
One of the things that I often feel jealous of when it comes to trees is that even in death they continue to serve the forest in life-giving ways. Housing and food for insects which in turn benefits birds like the hairy woodpecker.
Emerald ash borers have decimated the population of ash trees in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and beyond. This is a sadness.
Ash snags stand erect in the forest still. Bark flaked off of most as woodpeckers forage for wood boring beetle larva.
Can we expect an increase in the population of downy, hairy, red bellied, and pileated woodpeckers?
We can at least expect to see woodpeckers, like the one I watch as I pen this field note, continue to forage heavily on the readily available food source of dying and dead yet life-giving beetle infested ash snags.
Continuing northward along the tracks, gray squirrel, cardinal, and junco greet me at the first trestle.
Near the ice wall, the delightful chatter of a kingfisher over riffled waters!
A thought as I cross the second trestle; I've no good reason or it, but I find walking across trestles a little unnerving, eventhough I know those wooden beams were constructed to hold something far heavier than I and I'm not small enough to fit between the slats.
A pileated woodpecker announces his presence with bold and boisterous notes. Nothing like resting in the company of a pileated woodpecker while he forages, flying from one ash snag to the next, announcing his territory with monotonous clucking all the while.
Just north of the pileated a red fox's territory, clearly marked, yellow snow at the base of a mullen plant at the third trestle (marked L108).
Tracks left at the outside edge of the bridge beams prove that the fox is bolder than I.
Beyond the trestle the tracks show that the fox has walked on the rail for fifty paces. Just for fun, or an effort at a higher (by three inches) vantage?
At the end of my walk, where the tracks meet Hilboldt Road, the mouse leaves a tail-print between two tiny footprints in the snow.
Community is what I sought out and community is what I found with my wild neighbors at the railroad tracks today.