Salmon Hole looks very different from the last time I saw it! There are many changes at the site that have appeared since early December, the most noticeable of which is that large parts of the Winooski have frozen over and the ice has rifted multiple times. The shape of the river looks different because of the snow sitting on the ice wherever the current is not strong enough.
At my site, there a few smaller more specific changes, some natural and some man-made. For one, some of the trees right next the shoreline are surrounded by chicken wire, probably put there to keep beavers from chewing on these younger trees during the winter—however, I am not sure.
On the note of beavers, there is also what I believe to be potential animal activity, but may just be driftwood. There is a large debarked tree laying by the group of cottonwoods that is filled with smaller sticks, branches, and pieces of bark. As far as I know, the waterline has not risen to that height before, and I think it is unlikely that the branches would arrange themselves in this way. However, I also know that beaver impoundments have their entrances underwater, and this shelter could not have that based on where it is on the ground. It may be the shelter of another animal, but I not sure which one.
While I was at my site, it was snowing and has been snowing since yesterday. As a result, the snow is very light and fluffy and not good for keeping tracks. Tracks that were already present had been mostly filled in, and fresh tracks would not be impressed in the snow very well. Because of this I had a hard time finding tracks to follow, however, I did observe some tracks out on the ice in my site’s little bay.
Since the tracks were out on the ice and I knew there was still water flowing beneath, I did not feel safe going out to look at them up close and made observations and estimates about measurements from afar. The track I observed went from left to right (in the picture) at first, then came up close to a rift in the ice, turned sharply almost 180 degrees, and quickly moved in the other direction.
It is possible the animal realized the ice was unsafe, or heard whatever it was following move in the other direction. The animal can be identified as a diagonal walker, the initial tracks actually appearing in almost a straight line. I estimated measurements from where I was as well, ball-parking the width of one track to be about 3 inches, the straddle around 4 inches (or relatively narrow), and a stride of about 18 inches (1.5 ft). Upon returning to my computer and consulting my tracking guide, I believe this animal may be a fox. My estimates align with the measurements listed for a fox, which is a diagonal walker known to track almost in a straight line.
Finally, I attempted to do some winter twig identification. Here are the drawings I did and their corresponding photos, I was able to identify what I believe to be eastern cottonwood (populus deltoides), red maple (acer rubrum), and glossy buckthorn (frangula alnus). While I am confident about the two formerly mentioned trees, I am not as sure about the latter.