Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘animal tracks

Overnight Snow

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It’s so much more gorgeous to have snow brightening up the landscape this time of year. We awoke today to a nice coating of white covering everything, which pleasantly provided a precise visual for the travels of our resident wildlife on Delilah’s and my walk this morning. The timing of snow and our walk meant that we came upon individual, single tracks from the fox, raccoons, deer, and a cat who visits almost daily.

The chickens showed a reasonable bit of hesitation upon exiting the coop, but quickly got over it and skittered their way through the trees toward the barn for breakfast. They didn’t linger long there. Before Delilah and I had even completed our full circumnavigation of the property, the chickens had scrambled across the driveway to one of their favorite spots beside the shop garage.

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Rocky was his bold self despite his aversion to putting both feet down into the white stuff. There is a lot of single-foot balancing that goes on during the snow season for our birds. They’re such chickens.

Yesterday, while traveling the trail on the southern border of our property, I caught sight of a bald eagle circling the precise location where the chickens hang out, flying just above the trees. Before I could react, I found the birds were all under the barn overhang and the eagle was already moving on to the neighboring fields.

It was an immediate relief but obviously only a temporary reprieve. Our birds free range in a cruel rural world where predators prowl.

Every day they come through unscathed is a victory we celebrate.

Tomorrow through Tuesday we are expecting sunshine and daytime temperatures above freezing, so the white-flocked Christmas card views out our windows won’t likely last.

Nothing lasts forever so we practice appreciating the sacred in each precious moment. A fresh coating of pristine white snow helps to make that exercise a breeze.

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Written by johnwhays

December 19, 2020 at 11:22 am

New Identifier

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One of the most common initial checks being made to assess someone’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic is the measuring of their temperature. I rarely take my temperature, partly because I rarely have a fever. When I do develop a fever, I tend to notice it right away, without needed to measure it. Only after it feels a little extreme do I tend to dig out the thermometer for an actual measurement.

A week ago I had no idea what my normal healthy temperature usually ran. I do now, at least my morning temperature, anyway. Since the primary symptom being checked in the current coronavirus outbreak is body temperature, I decided to self-monitor my temp to determine a baseline reference for comparison, in case I do get sick.

Isn’t the normal body temperature always just 98.6°(F)? Not exactly.

I’m finding my normal morning temp is around 97.4 degrees. I think our current daily temperature should become attached to our names as a new identifier. Use it in the same vein as academic suffixes.

John W. Hays, 97.4.

We will all begin to sound like our own FM radio station frequencies.

Think about it, though. You would know right away if someone was coming down with something by the number in their greeting.

“Hi, I’m 101.2.”

Whoa! Back off there, fella.

I think my temperature probably went up a little bit yesterday afternoon on my walk through the woods with Delilah. Apparently, there might be an ostrich loose in the area. If those were turkey footprints in the snow, that beast must be bigger than Ms. D.

Those brown circles are Delilah’s paw print and that giant boot in the bottom corner is mine. The bird that walked along our trail must be half my height.

I should probably take up wild turkey hunting. Get it before it gets me.

97.4, …signing off for now.

Stay a safe distance out there.

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Written by johnwhays

March 24, 2020 at 6:00 am

Other Tracks

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Now that snow covers the land again we have returned to the winter phase of visibility for wild animal travel around our property. Cyndie contributed today’s image of tracks in the snow:

It’s always interesting to see the travels of a solitary wanderer making its way across our fields or down one of our trails. Apparently, these visitors have smelly feet, based on the intensity of interest Delilah shows to each indentation that we allow her to reach. She will bury her nose in every single footprint.

I wonder if she gathers any new information from each additional whiff.

While searching my old photo files for a different project last night, I was surprised to happen upon a strikingly similar image to the one above.

Two years ago, this same scene caught my eye.

Do you think maybe it was the same animal?

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Written by johnwhays

December 4, 2019 at 7:00 am

April Fooling

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We get the joke. Today starts the fourth month of 2018, and despite the general trend of average warmth climbing around the globe, we woke to teeth-chattering cold. The clear sky overnight was wonderful for viewing the blue moon, but it also contributed to the drop in temperature.

We had a reading of 10°(F) before the sun came up. With the fresh coating of snow on the ground from Friday night’s storm, there is cold in the air, as well as radiating from the ground.

We’re not laughing.

It seems like the forest animals weren’t much interested in facing the cold, either. In a search for tracks around the full perimeter of our property, there were surprisingly few foot prints revealing activity. Based on the evidence we collected, a rabbit was the only critter moving around.

At least we know that it didn’t have any problems with dodging predators.

The cougar that growled near Cyndie and Delilah last week is likely long gone after its journey past our home. We did a search in the neighboring woods where the eery sounds came from last week, but did not find any hint of a foot print or disturbed snow where the drama played out.

In a long shot reaction, I mounted our trail camera to observe the trail closest to the area, but it only provided added evidence that nothing was moving around after the snow, except Delilah and me.

Yesterday, Cyndie unleashed a great weapon against cold and snow. She filled the house with the smells of fresh-baked buns and whipped together a couple of egg bakes for a family brunch today.

No foolin’.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2018 at 9:27 am

Getting Started

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Preparations are underway for our trip with Cyndie’s family to the Dominican Republic. I’ve been enjoying creating the early posts in the series I have planned to explore events that led up to this latest adventure, starting way back with the first time I met Cyndie.

To give myself more time for planning and packing, I have decided to begin the series tomorrow. I hope you enjoy my trips down memory lane.

I will take advantage of the early break from daily posting to finish making lists and actually start packing.

Sounds like we will be getting away at a good time, as temperatures are expected to drop precipitously in the days ahead. I’m hoping that it won’t snow enough to require plowing until after we return, but it’s okay with me if the cold snap happens while I’m gone.

There was a little extra excitement around the ranch yesterday as the neighbor on our southwest corner reported he was going to be hunting coyotes and might cross our property.

Early in the morning, Cyndie came upon some lone tracks in the snow that just might have been those of a coyote scout venturing out on its own overnight.

If our neighbor is worried about his cows, I wonder if we should be concerned for our surviving three chickens.

We are really hoping the young woman who has agreed to take care of our animals while we are away won’t have any difficult problems to manage.

It’s just seven days. One week. Is that too much to wish for? An entire week at Christmastime of calm and quiet?

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I need to go find my battery charger for the camera. When we get back, I’m going to want to post lots of pictures of the tropical beach, palm trees, sun, and surf.

I hope you’ll be entertained by the stories I have scheduled to post while we are gone.

I intend to return to live, daily posting by the end of the month.

Bon voyage!

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Written by johnwhays

December 20, 2017 at 7:00 am

Not Chickens

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It appears our great survivors, the three chickens, are not interested in what winter has to offer. Since Monday night when the weather made that snap decision to swing from balmy to frigid, covering the land with an ice-crust topped with a layer of wind-whipped snow, our chickens have not left the confines of their coop.

Cyndie opens the small door for them, but they don’t venture out.

These little footsteps Cyndie photographed in a framing that looks very “John-like,” are not from our once-brave venturers.

These cute prints are those of a turkey. The wild turkeys haven’t let a little snow and frozen ground stop them from strolling around the property.

Have you ever wondered where wild turkeys are laying their eggs? Maybe we should invite the wild birds to stop by our coop to convince the chickens that winter isn’t so bad, and while they are there, they can lay an egg for us.

Cyndie also captured the shot below of a loner on its way off our property, into the underbrush of the neighbor’s woods.

They certainly don’t have that same friendly demeanor as our domesticated chickens. The excited wobbling sprint toward us that our chickens do when they find us outside is really something to behold.

I’m hoping we don’t have to wait for spring before they come out of the coop and run around again.

The weekend forecast is hinting of a possible above-freezing high temperature on Sunday, so maybe that will inspire a chicken outing.

I’m home today and on my own for the weekend, because Cyndie is traveling out-of-town for a conference. The chickens won’t have momma home to look after them. I expect it will be no shock to them that I do things differently than Cyndie.

I’ve witnessed the horses adjusting their behavior to our different styles of processing the steps to feed and clean up after them. I think the chickens probably respond similarly.

I suppose the same thing is happening with Delilah, but my perception of the change in her is a little different. It seems less like she is reacting differently to me and more like she is moping at the door for hours on end in desperate anticipation that momma might be returning soon.

Hopefully, I won’t be bothering the dog with all my ‘bachelor-weekend’ wild behavior. I’m gonna drink milk out of the bottle and leave my stuff on whichever surface it lands. I may walk in the house with my boots on and leave drawers open in the bathroom.

By Sunday night, it’ll be back to the disciplined life of being a well-fed married man and the chickens can get back to their pleasure of in-coop full-service hospitality.

Huzzah!

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Written by johnwhays

December 8, 2017 at 7:00 am

Critter Tracks

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Monday night we received barely a half-inch of sticky snow, after which the temperature dropped steadily throughout the day yesterday. When I got home from work and took Delilah out for a walk before feeding the horses, there was a very clear display of fresh tracks in the snow that obviously had been created within the roughly 16 hours prior.

The vast majority happened to be easily identifiable as rabbits. I was actually surprised by the significant volume of activity attributable to the little rascals. What do they eat in the winter? Whatever it is, we must have a lot of it and they must be thriving this year.

I was about to declare rabbits as the only animals moving around yesterday until we reached about three-quarters of our travel to the barn and came upon some tracks from much smaller feet. I’m thinking they were probably squirrels or chipmunks.

Then we came upon some wonderful artistry from a little mouse or mole that was splitting time between treading lightly on top of the crust and burrowing some vivid designs through the snow.

I wonder what he was trying to spell out.

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dscn5675eAs we turned the corner around the back pasture on our route to the barn, I noticed how the sky revealed the departing weather system that had delivered the small amount of precipitation we received. Behind it are the clear skies that make way for our descent into very cold temperatures.

The next few days will involve single-digit highs and below zero lows.

It’s a little bit like what January is supposed to feel like around these parts.

I may have to start wearing a coat again.

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Written by johnwhays

January 4, 2017 at 7:00 am

Intriguing Finds

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Imagine this: Delilah and I were on another walk around our property. How many times have we done that before? Regardless the frequency of our travel on the variety of paths available, there is always something new to discover. Yesterday in the quickly fading light of day, it was snow and marks in the snow that caught our attention.

Well, my attention, anyway.

In both cases, I had almost entirely passed by the beauties when something caused me to stop and fish the camera out of my pocket. Despite the bitterly cold temperature and the low light, I came up with images that work for me.

The first subject was a couple of balanced mossy rocks that the snow had frosted with a flair. It flowed down from the top of the upper rock and circled perfectly around it as it settled over the rock below.

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The second find was even more fascinating to me. At first glance I assumed the marks in the snow were probably from George and Anneliese’s dogs, but one mark didn’t make any sense. My brain processed it as if a bear had swung a clawed paw.

Probably not.

Then it occurred to me. That was the shadow of a passing wing! These were the tracks from a predator snatching up prey. Wow.

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I had to halt Delilah’s progress so I could get out the camera again and position myself to capture the shot. I couldn’t reach because she was pulling against me toward something more interesting to her.

I called her to come back toward me and then quickly pleaded with her to stop and stay, in fear she would come barreling all the way back to me and stomp through the scene. Luckily, she stopped.

Just another walk around the property. Yeah.

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Written by johnwhays

December 14, 2016 at 7:00 am

Regal Eats

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My, oh my, are we ever living the high life this weekend. Maximum leisure, luxurious surroundings, and food delights so regal, it seems like there should be servants delivering them to us. There are no servants. Cyndie and Barb are the ones creating the spectacular culinary delights. It’s a challenge to find ways to burn as many calories as we are taking in.

Despite some recently posted “no trespassing” signs on the edge of my favorite woods to the north or our property, we conjured up a route to skirt around toward the large tracts owned by a forest products corporation. As the temperature climbed to uncomfortably warm for our winter clothing, we snowshoed through the increasingly heavy white stuff on a great adventure of discovery.

There are a great variety of animal tracks, one of which I suspect looked like it may have been a big cat. I haven’t heard if there is a likelihood of any around here. We found graphic evidence of a porcupine at work. They gnaw the bark off of trees, doing permanent damage. It’s a bit jarring to see an entire tree skinned alive.

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We trekked through the woods to old service roads and junk piles with old appliances and the smashed shell of a vintage car. The hood ornament looked like a 1940s Oldsmobile, based on a quick search. The engine had been removed. (Update: Further searching brought us to a 1937 Ford Coupe as the most likely match.)DSCN4489e

After slogging through the heavy snow, we took our rest on the deck, literally on the deck, because there was no furniture. While languishing in the early season sun bath, we decided to have lunch out there, too.

The coffee table and a few chairs from the porch were put to use for our impromptu picnic. More delectable food!

More food meant more exercise was in order. This time we dressed down a bit, better prepared for the summer-like temperatures, and headed out without snowshoes, down our driveway and out on the lake.

After all that walking, more food was in order. Cyndie wanted to christen her brand new pasta maker, so pasta it was. Many hands and several iterations, one teetering on failure, produced an ultimate result that was stellar. Seriously, a meal fit for a King. And his Queen. Two Kings and Queens, in fact.

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Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2016 at 9:45 am

Mysterious Shriek

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I was already on edge Wednesday night, after the close encounter with the traffic fatality earlier in the day, so the blood-curdling wail that arose in the darkness beyond the bedroom door to the deck easily startled me out of bed. It was around 10:30 p.m. and the mysterious cry that began surprisingly similar to the sound of our teapot on the stove actually had me questioning how the water could possibly be boiling at that hour.

The distressing shriek just kept going like a siren, causing both Cyndie and me to climb out of bed to investigate. I grabbed a powerful spotlight that I keep next to the bed for just such occasions, and scanned as far and wide as limitations of view allowed.

There was no sign of any activity, even as the suffering victim continued to scream. It was chilling. There was no pause for a breath. I was wishing the predator would just finish the job and end the misery. It lasted somewhere between one to two minutes long.

I strained to get a sense of the distance, or any other identifying impressions. The sound seemed to move away and then come closer. I wondered if it was airborne. Did an owl grab something? What would react to attack by emitting such a piercing cry?

I didn’t trust my senses enough to feel confident about the apparent movement. Maybe it was just resonating in a way that made it sound like it was flying around. Since it was carrying on for so long, I had time to step outside for a better vantage point.

Are you kidding!? I wasn’t about to expose myself to whatever savage beast was out there in conflict mode. Well, actually that’s exactly what would have happened, since I was “dressed” for bed at that hour. But what I mean is, I wasn’t going to put myself at increased risk by stepping outside into the darkness, not having a clue what was out there.

When the sound finally ceased, we climbed back under the covers and I pretended I could fall asleep, despite the rambling thoughts of what the heck just happened outside. Soon we were both wondering out loud about what animals, both the predator and the prey, were most likely responsible.IMG_iP3036eCH

I asked Cyndie to give the area out back an extra search in the morning to look for tracks or signs of a fight. She found no evidence whatsoever. George was over for dinner and cribbage last night and he suggested that the screaming was probably a rabbit, and the attacker could have been a coyote or fox. That I believe as easily possible, but if they were under our deck, I don’t know how they got there without leaving tracks somewhere.

The rabbits are plentiful around here and Cyndie did find a super-highway of their tracks in our woods. She took this picture for me to use.

We’ll have to watch that spot and see if there are one less sets of footprints showing up from now on.

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Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2016 at 7:00 am