We had a grouse in the crabapple tree again today. Arlene spotted it walking out from next to our kayak. It crossed the driveway, walked over to the crabapple tree, looked around the ground to see if there were any fallen crabapples worth eating, decided there weren’t, and flew up onto a branch to eat fruit right off the tree. It stayed there until Matt walked out to the car, forgetting that the bird was there.

We drove out to Poland Spring Preservation Park to walk. A woman (who must have belonged to the only other car in the parking lot) coming out of the woods with her cocker spaniel said yes, there was no hunting there, it was the only place in the area where it was safe to walk around this time of year.

We must have walked two and a half or three miles, out the Stone Trail, most of the way around Oscar’s trail, back Griffin’s trail, out to the end of Montague’s trail to Range Pond (and the woman with the cocker spaniel had said, “They allow snowmobiling and hunting in Rang Pond Park,” so that confirms the pronunciation with a hard G). There was a goldeneye out on the pond, and other water birds way over on the far side that we couldn’t really identify. We walked most of the trail system there, two and a half or three miles. We peeked through the windows of the spring house and admired the coleus they were growing in it, checked out the hours (closed the day after Thanksgiving, open limited days and hours after that through the winter), and turned back to the parking lot.

There was a black animal the size of a Maine coon cat on the grass next to the parking lot. Arlene immediately called, “porcupine.” It was. It went about its business, looking for food in the grass, without paying much attention to it. We got as close to it as we cared to. Matt got several good pictures. The quills seemed to be concentrated in the back and tail, a fair number towards the front, fewer in the middle, where the fur was more brownish than black. The tail was rather flat and wide. The animal finally decided that we really were closer than it liked and waddled away, its feet wide apart, almost out to the side.

That’s the longest by far I’ve watched a porcupine in the wild. I saw one when I was a kid, one evening when my father and I and a couple of other people had been fishing at Brese’s Pond in Vermont, near a farm where we spent our vacations.

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