Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘predator

Totally Busted

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My ruse of relying on snow cover to distract Cyndie from noticing the grass was still carpeted by leaves when she returned home from Guatemala has already been dispelled.

On Saturday, the sun came out for a little while and began to shrink the 3-to-4 inches of snow we received, down to about half that depth. Yesterday, she and Delilah were playing a little leashed version of “fetch the stick” out front and the truth was sadly revealed.

It was interesting. The leaves so thoroughly covered the ground that the grass and soil beneath look unaffected by the snow. I think, if we raked up the leaves today, we’d have an amazing visual of a completely snow-free green lawn, while everywhere else would be snowy.

The chickens would sure appreciate that. This was the first significant snowfall in their lives and they were not at all interested in venturing out from the coop Saturday morning to walk in it.

By yesterday, they were already overcoming their hesitancy to tread on the white stuff and revisiting some of their usual favorite spaces. They do so at their own risk.

While we were out walking Delilah in the afternoon, I spotted an unidentified bird of prey circling the tree tops around the coop. It didn’t have the classic white tail of the previous eagle that swooped through our trees, but it could simply have been a youngster or even a golden, let alone any other variety of larger hawk.

We split up and Cyndie circled back to directly check on the chickens, while I continued around the perimeter with Delilah. The hunting predator glided up and away almost immediately.

I’m so pleased to have remembered to tell Cyndie that I had turned the electric fence back on while she was away. The horses were growing too comfortable with nibbling on parts of the wire insulation and nearby wood. If the fence had still been off, Cyndie would have ducked between wires and been able to walk straight toward the coop.

While I was cleaning up under the overhang a day or two after turning the electricity back on again, Cayenne took a startling snap to the nose. Mission accomplished. The horses were lolling around idly while I worked and she stretched toward one of the very spots I wanted to stop them from biting.

The horses generally notice from a distance that the fence is energized, so they very rarely get shocked. Maybe we left it off for too much of the summer, and they had grown complacent. I’m willing to bet they have already re-learned the necessary respect that will break any habit of chewing on the wires.

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Written by johnwhays

November 12, 2018 at 7:00 am

Quick Fox

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That didn’t take long.

From the looks of the feathers that flew, the Buff put up a fight yesterday morning.

Cyndie found the lifeless body beyond the hay shed, not far from our property border to the north. That is a long way from where the trail camera captured the fox crossing our trail in the woods, but it is in the same general northerly direction. We think we have a pretty good idea about what direction from which the threat originates.

Meanwhile, my relocation of the trail cam did not produce the hoped for results. I’m guessing the motion of moving branches was triggering the captures. I scanned 722 images and found one with a nice face shot of a squirrel and one blur of a smaller squirrel leaping through the air. Nothing else, beyond wiggling branches.

Having read about the superb cunning of fox behavior, and their ability to learn patterns of our movement, I’m even more impressed over the great snapshot we have from the morning last week when the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens were dispatched.

It is not lost on us that the elusiveness of this predator has kept us entirely blind to its presence, beyond the one picture. Even though it has obviously been active during the day when we are out and about, neither of us has ever seen it with our own eyes.

Foxy, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2018 at 6:00 am

Near Miss

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Are you as amazed as I am that our three chickens continue to survive ranging freely around our property, despite our having done nothing different to protect them in the time since some predator decimated the flock of nine birds?

It almost seems counter-intuitive that something would attack the large group of birds, but now no critter has bothered with the three that remain. Maybe with such low numbers, it isn’t worth the trouble of stalking them compared to the easier pickings of attacking a large flock.

None of this factored into Delilah’s thinking yesterday.

While Cyndie and I were unloading bales of hay from the pickup and stacking them in the shed, we let Delilah hang out with us to watch. Cyndie had hooked the leash to the front of the truck.

Meanwhile, the three chickens wandered over to peck at the mess of hay shrapnel that falls from the bales. I’m guessing they were growing used to seeing the leashed dog and didn’t feel particularly threatened.

Everyone seemed to be getting along just fine, until Cyndie decided the charade had gone on long enough. She told me that she meant to shoo the chickens away and was planning to remove Delilah from the captive spot to take her for a walk and get her away from the constant tease of free roaming chickens, which surely was tempting fate.

Except that the moment Cyndie processed that thought, (when I think she may have indeed made some sound toward the chickens to back them off) Delilah exploded against her restraint and ruptured the webbing of the harness that held the ring to which her leash was hooked.

Delilah chased, the birds panicked, and Cyndie and I both screamed at the dog with all our energy. The chickens ducked the fence into the paddock, which slowed Delilah a bit, and by the time I got down off the stacked hay in the shed, the dog had paused her pursuit a short distance beyond that fence.

Was she really listening to us? Cyndie thinks so. She declared it a partial victory, because Delilah did choose to stop the chase and did, hesitatingly, come back to us. We were able to hook the leash to a different ring on her harness and Cyndie walked her to the house to confine her until she calmed down.

Disaster averted, but not for lack of trying.

Those three birds must have some special luck that they escaped unharmed again. Or maybe they have a cat’s nine lives. Yesterday seemed like the kind of ruckus that probably used up a life for a couple of our surviving birds.

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Written by johnwhays

July 28, 2017 at 6:00 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

Got Shade?

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We’ve got shade by the round pen now!

DSCN3693eDSCN3691eYesterday, Cyndie stepped outside with Delilah and the dog made a beeline for a spot where there was another rabbit’s nest. It is pretty obvious that they breed like rabbits, because Delilah keeps finding new nests filled with babies.

In this case, Cyndie tried to rescue a couple of them from becoming Delilah’s next meal, but I don’t think she had much success. She walked back into the house and said, “I guess that’s why they call them ‘dumb bunnies’.”

Apparently none of them were smart enough to evade the resident predator.

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Written by johnwhays

July 19, 2015 at 6:00 am

Wild Game

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What a day that was. I initially chose the title of this post as a reference to Delilah’s diet yesterday, but the US Women’s soccer team decided to play the final match of the 2015 World Cup tournament in such a way as to steal the meaning. What an outburst of effort they put forth in that first half last night! Carli Lloyd getting a hat trick as quick as she did was astounding to witness.

They played the final two games of the tournament as if they were the best team in the world. I’m happy they were able to lift the cup at the end. They earned it.

Earlier in the day, our dog took it upon herself to hunt for her own breakfast. Her usual fare from us is a mixture of dry food and some meat from a can, twice a day, but yesterday she seemed particularly determined to get her protein from live-catches.

With Cyndie gone to the lake, I was on my own to try to keep track of Delilah as she romped off-leash in the manner she has grown accustomed after just one week of being watched by a new master. In just a few days, Cyndie accomplished more control over our dog roaming freely than I was able to achieve during the entire time I was home with her.

Not long after I had become engrossed in my tasks of putting out morning feed for the horses, and cleaning up their manure, I realized Delilah had gotten out of sight. Eventually, I found her on the other side of the barn, excitedly engaged in a “negotiation” with a young rabbit. It was not an exchange that the rabbit was going to win.

Meanwhile, the horses were demonstrating their high sensitivity to the predator-prey drama unfolding, even though it was out of their line of sight. They knew exactly what was going down, and remained on high alert until it was fully concluded. It prompted an increased sensitivity in me for the poor victim whose life was ended for our dog’s meal.

Back in the house, I opted to serve just dry food for the morning feeding. After her early morning excitement, Delilah was confined to her kennel in the yard while I went under ear muffs and used the power trimmer and then the diesel tractor to mow down more rampant growth around the property.

When I had finished, and it was time to feed the horses again, I hooked up Delilah to her leash and brought her with me. When we got to the back pasture, where I had just mowed, I decided to let her run free inside the fence. Before I could even get her unhooked, she reacted to a scent, despite the strong wind, and pulled hard to get after something. When I opened the clip on her leash, she bolted for the spot uphill in the direction from which we had just come.DSCN2675e

It looked like a mouse that had probably been killed by the mower. It appears that the scent of death is something Delilah is exceptional at detecting. I moved on without her and headed toward the barn, to put out the horse’s evening feed. Delilah caught up to me eventually and lingered for a while, briefly annoying the horses with some aggressive barking and threatening gestures. One of these days she is going to get kicked and it will be no surprise.

To her credit, when I finished in the paddock and was ready to wheel manure out to the compost pile, she heard my call and came running from somewhere out of sight. The success thrilled me, until I got the gate open and she sprinted up the trail into our woods without me.

I finished puttering with the compost piles and contemplated how I might get her to come back. Then I heard the tags clanking on her collar. She returned with her 3rd prize of the day: a freshly killed squirrel.

Our intrepid hunter seemed driven to not eat canned dog food this day. She, and the US women’s soccer team, had their hearts set on wild game, for sure.

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Written by johnwhays

July 6, 2015 at 6:00 am