Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘critters

In Charge

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So, I’m in charge of night-time chores for the next ten days. Well, nine days, because I completed last night’s tasks successfully already. I remembered to shut the chicken door at sunset! Actually, I showed up a little early. The hens were just thinking about heading in for the night.

It’s quite a process that they go through every night. I haven’t noticed if there is a lead decision maker or not, but as a general rule, the group shows little hesitation about gladly following somebody’s example.

As dusk begins, the flock subtly meanders to and fro in the near vicinity of the coop, pecking away at the ground. The first one or two that climb the ramp don’t cause the rest to suddenly stampede inside, but once the process starts, the last one to commit is probably less than a minute behind the first.

Then the fun starts on the roost, and the poop-board platform beneath it. They don’t appear to have a specific order, but something seems to matter to them because there is a lot of thumping and squawking as they jostle for position. I’ve noticed it can take multiple tries to successfully move from the board up to the roost for some of the hens. Their early attempts to squeeze in tight between two other birds are often rejected.

Eventually, calm settles in and the only sounds audible are some quiet contented coo-ings.

When I later took Delilah for her last walk before bedtime, I brought along a powerful flashlight to check out the woods in the total darkness. Right away I spotted at least two sets of eyes reflecting the light beam back to me. I’m guessing it was deer, but they were too far away for the light to illuminate their outlines.

It was just the little dots of my flashlight, reflecting  back toward me. The animals stayed in place while their gaze followed us as we rounded a corner and continued on away from them. Delilah gave no indication that she noticed they were there.

Her nose was frantically tracking something that must have recently wandered the path just ahead of us.

There are plenty of critters roaming about lately. There are a ton of hoof-prints, and some signs a buck has been rubbing trees and scratching the ground in our woods. My morning commute in the recent darkness has produced multiple skunk sightings, a raccoon, deer, and yesterday, an opossum.

I fully expect they are all including at least some of our trails on their regular nightly rounds.

I just hope there are no daytime incursions into chicken territory by any of these intruders while I’m in charge.

My goal is: everybody healthy and happy when Cyndie gets back in over a week.

Stay tuned to find out how my luck holds out.

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Written by johnwhays

October 31, 2018 at 6:00 am

New Prowler

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Cyndie and I understand that we are rarely alone on our evening outings to walk the dog, even though most nocturnal visitors go undetected. It’s usually apparent when Delilah recognizes we have company, if she picks up a fresh scent and strains against the leash with startling urgency, but even she fails to notice sometimes.

I always wonder what might be just out of the reach of my headlamp. Occasionally, the sudden rustling of branches startles me when it is a deer that finally decides it’s time to bolt away from the too interested dog making lunges in their general direction.

Last night, Cyndie didn’t get out to shut the chicken coop until it was pretty dark outside. As she and Delilah arrived near the coop, Cyndie heard a rustling that alerted her to make a hasty approach. She hooked Delilah’s leash to the paddock fence and rushed to close the chicken door.

The scuffling sound moved from the leaves on the ground to the branches of a small tree just two steps from the coop.

Hello there, opossum. What brings you to our free-range chicken’s neighborhood?

We’re thinking we might not want to wait so long to get the coop secured for the night any more.

I wonder if the raccoons, skunks, barn cats, fox, neighbor dogs, and now, opossums around here are all friendly with each other, or if they actually avoid interacting somehow in their frequent evening forays through our territory.

It’s been like Grand Central Station lately with the visiting critters. Maybe they have booked tickets on different successive days.

At bedtime Sunday night, there were two beady masked eyes peering in our bedroom door from 4-inches off the deck. I think the snoop was hoping to get another glimpse of Pequenita. The cat was ferociously trying to scare off a curious raccoon a while back, but instead of fear, that evening the visitor looked rather smitten.

Cyndie said she decided to avoid further interaction with last night’s opossum. With the horses all bunched nearby in the corner of the paddock to see what all the fuss was about, and Delilah tied nearby, Cyndie didn’t know how the tree rat would react if she challenged it.

Might have just “played possum,” but she decided not to tempt a more chaotic result.

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Written by johnwhays

October 16, 2018 at 6:00 am

Woods Changing

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Fall has arrived and it sure feels like it outside this morning. There is a distinct chill in the air, despite the ongoing global warmup occurring.

Well before the fall landscape color palette changes from green to red/orange/yellow, an inside view reveals the impending change.

There aren’t a lot of leaves on the ground yet, but there is a definite thinning of foliage going on. Delilah and I were traipsing along the soggy trail yesterday when I took the above picture. Times like this bring great appreciation for the “boardwalk” we envisioned in one of the swampy spots of our trails. It is an ongoing installation of blocks I remove from shipping pallets I salvage from the day-job.

Once again, it is getting easier to leave the trail and bushwhack through our woods to explore rarely visited spaces. I think this may subtly contribute to a universal attraction people share for fall, along with the obvious colorization and comfortable dew point temperatures. The woods open up and provide easy accessibility.

Friday night the easy access seemed to invite a noisy visitor to the grove of trees just beyond our house. Delilah spends many precious minutes every day barking in response to the sound of neighboring dogs miles away. Friday, that neighboring bark came from darkness just beyond the reach of our flood light.

Oddly, Delilah felt no need to respond, although she took great interest in our sudden fascination with the mysterious trespasser outside the back door. My guess was the stray visitor had treed a raccoon, or squirrel, or turkey and was “shouting” at it.

Last evening, during our last big walk of the day, I let Delilah’s nose direct us off-trail through the woods along the many odd paths frequently traveled by a variety of resident critters.

I also put fresh batteries in the trail camera to resume monitoring the night life visiting the chicken coop.

It was a very quiet night there last night. No motion until almost 6:00 this morning, when a cat wandered past.

We took down the netting around the coop yesterday, making it easy again to clean the poop board, so maybe traffic will pick up with time. Not that we wish for that. I just see it as inevitable.

Inevitable like the end of summer growing season, which is marked by the first real overnight freeze. I’m in no particular rush for that, other than a desire to be done mowing the grass for another year.

With the woods changing noticeably, and the noted chill greeting us this morning, we sense the big freeze isn’t far off.

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Written by johnwhays

September 23, 2018 at 9:38 am

Not Silent

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When Delilah suddenly barked at the door to the deck, Cyndie asked me if I had heard what set her off. I missed it completely. She said it was howling of some dogs or coyotes.

Nope. Didn’t hear that.

It’s not rare for Delilah to jump up and bark at some distant sound. Honestly, more often than not, I don’t hear what initially sets her off. When thunderstorms are on their way toward us, Delilah provides an alert well before I perceive the first rumbles. When it’s not thunder, it’s usually gun shots or barking dogs.

She is always quick to add her statement to the chorus. It is a general robust report of a bark, or sometimes several. When we don’t react to her concern, she often loses interest in short order.

Later, Delilah suddenly erupted with a distinctly different explosion of barking. It was pretty obvious that this time she had actually seen something that was setting her off. Cyndie went to the door to have a look for herself and Delilah almost pushed her over in frenzy of reaction over whatever was out there.

The last time I saw something similar from her, I discovered several deer standing right outside the front windows, almost as if they were teasing her by not panicking over her outburst.

Whatever she saw last night must have vanished immediately. Cyndie couldn’t get Delilah to settle down, so she walked her out of the bedroom. I decided to step out onto the deck. With no critters in sight, I wanted to listen for something that might explain the doggie dramatics.

I spoke loudly to be heard through the closed-door, telling Cyndie I’d seen nothing and it was silent out.

Except it wasn’t.

As I paused with hope of detecting some sign of an animal invader, it struck me how not silent it actually was.

Off by the barn, or maybe around toward the front yard, there was some repeating shrill chirp or tweet at a steady rate loudly making itself known. The silence I was interpreting was with regard to barking, howling, rifle reports, or grumbling thunder. There was none of that.

However, once I recalibrated my listening threshold, I became aware of a multitude of additional sounds. By this time, I was well past finding anything to explain Delilah’s flip-out, but I was wonderfully entertained by the growing number of sounds I was beginning to notice.

There was an obvious large truck taking up more bandwidth than was pleasant. Several other small bird calls were suddenly adding warbles to the audio track. Somewhere in the vicinity of where I was standing, a small critter sounded to be picking at some tree bark, but my eyes failed to locate it.

I suddenly stomped on the deck, hoping to startle a potential stowaway. Tuesday night/Wednesday morning there was a raccoon on the deck that had Pequenita smashing into the glass door somewhere around oh-dark-thirty. Our kitty was showing some territorial concern, but the ‘coon almost looked as if it had amorous intentions.

Nothing reacted to my stomp.

The night went back to being silent, except for all the ways that it was not.

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Written by johnwhays

April 12, 2018 at 6:00 am

Part Way

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I made it part way through doing a thorough job of re-leveling the gazebo frame when my patience for the project ran out and I resorted to doing a less-than-perfect, but good enough wrap up to call it done. Funny how the perspective changes when the limited hours in a day are slipping away and the cost/benefit assessment provides a justification for aborting a plan.

Only time will tell whether or not it was a worthy choice. In the short-term, we are well satisfied with our progress. The shaded platform is ready for use.

With that done, we did turn our attention to using the loader bucket to remove a significant portion of the oldest composting manure. These were piles that had gone cold due to no longer actively composting. Interestingly, of the three piles we tended to, two of them retained a lot of moisture and one was surprisingly dry.

The dry one proved to be suitable for rodent housing and it appeared we disturbed a momma mouse in the process of giving birth. While Cyndie was at the pile discovering that, I had driven off with a full bucket and spotted a large mouse scrambling to and fro on the mechanisms of the loader arms.

It was a little like trying to drive a car with a bee flying around you. It was pure luck that I didn’t bash into the side of the barn while backing up as I focused on trying to get the dang critter to jump off the bucket and not run up toward my position.

He skittered over to an opening at the end of one of the loader arms, so I lifted the bucket high to slide the mouse out, but I don’t know if it is actually open all the way through. I never saw where he came out, or maybe he’s still in there.

It’s the kind of mini-drama that we are growing accustomed to, and as a result, we tend to just shrug these encounters off and carry on with the task at hand.

All manner of creatures can be found taking advantage of the spaces we create. They probably see our occasional intrusions on their luxurious accommodations in a similar way we look at hazardous weather. It happens. You clean up after it and get on with life.

Mowing the fields dislodges a lot of crawling and slithering things. Last time out, the prevalent sighting was a leaping creature. Several large, long-legged frogs were disturbed by the big wheels and high RPM roar of the tractor. I’m pleased to be able to say I didn’t witness any unfortunate encounters with the whirring blades of the brush cutter.

There are still plenty of other compost piles for the rodents to take up residence. Better there than in our house. Inside, they have to deal with a storm called Pequenita. When that happens, we have to deal with watching where we place our feet in the morning.

It’s such a glamorous life we lead.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2017 at 9:39 am

Home Invasion

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I am now thrust from the bliss of the bike trip into the harsh reality of home ownership and maintenance. I came home to this scene Wednesday:

DSCN4892eSome pesky critter is building a cathedral in my home and he/she/it is removing a LOT of insulating material in the process. I shudder to think what the space looks like in there.

DSCN4893eWe didn’t bother looking any further than the gaping hole located above the pile of pieces, which we immediately filled with a combination of some of the stuffing from the pile below, a couple of wads of steel wool, a section of screen mesh, and plenty of caulk.

I hope the residents were not at home when we sealed the entrance.

This kind of thing helps me to miss being on the bike trip even more than I already was.

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Written by johnwhays

July 1, 2016 at 6:00 am

Unidentified Visitor

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While we were away over the weekend, our trail cam captured evidence of a more domestic critter visiting our trail than the wild bunnies and squirrels that have been repeatedly triggering the motion sensor.

Neither of us recognize him from any of our immediate bordering neighbors. I wonder if Delilah has been calling for company or if these canine visitors that seem to keep showing up are just random wanderers who have stumbled upon our property without any agenda.

Since Delilah has been spayed, I assume they are checking out her great personality, and not any other attractions.

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Written by johnwhays

March 1, 2016 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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