Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘tracks

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Written by johnwhays

March 14, 2019 at 6:00 am

Beautiful Outside

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Sure, it’s cold outside this morning, but in the days after half a foot of fresh powdery snow has fallen, it’s also really beautiful.

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Ahhh, winter.

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Written by johnwhays

March 3, 2019 at 10:13 am

Exceptional Effort

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Last week I wrote about one of our Buff Orpington hens who we suspect scrapped with the possum that had gotten into the coop, and has been behaving oddly ever since. It is not clear whether it is a result of exclusion by the rest of the brood, or an act of her own choosing, but she has become a loner from the rest of the bunch.

In the coop, she has taken to staying in one of the nesting boxes, day and night. There is no obvious sign that she is being picked on (pecked on?) by the others, but she repeatedly sets herself apart.

For the most part, the chickens have remained in the coop for over a week while the winter has raged, first with an epic Arctic chill and then subsequent days upon days of snow. More than once, we have opened the chicken door when the harshest temperatures eased.

They’ve showed little interest in dealing with the snow, …or so we thought.

Yesterday, Cyndie came upon a most unusual trail of animal tracks in the deep snow. She worried that it was evidence of a fox stalking our chickens. She checked the coop and counted hens. There was one missing, but there were no obvious tracks, even though the door was open.

On her way back to the barn, she spotted it.

That loner Buff Orpington was sitting by the paddock fence, almost as if stuck in the snow.

The weird trail was the path that hen had traversed through the deep powder snow. She must have almost been swimming to make forward progress. It had to have taken a monumental effort to get as far as she did. I suspect she stopped out of exhaustion.

Cyndie couldn’t get to the hen without first getting a shovel to make her way through the knee-deep snow. She picked up the loner and held her close to warm her.

It’s hard to imagine what drove that Buff to attempt crossing the deep snow toward the barn overhang, other than this ominous behavior of isolating herself from the rest of the brood.

Cyndie put her back in the coop, setting her up on the roost in hopes of re-training her to not spend the nights in a nest box.

That didn’t last, as, by evening, the Buff was back in a box again.

A bit of research turned up a variety of possible internal maladies that may be the cause of her isolation. We are going to let time dictate an outcome, while doing whatever we can to keep the poor girl comfortable.

None of them are laying eggs of late, due to the shortened hours of winter daylight, so it’s difficult to pinpoint egg related issues, if that is what’s ailing her.

Meanwhile, the last visit of the night last night turned up new tracks in the snow that, this time, looked suspiciously fox-like. It is no surprise that the deep snow cover we now have has challenged predators to seek easier prey.

There is plenty of drama to be interpreted in the fascinating markings vividly appearing in all this new snow blanketing our fields and forest. We would prefer that it not involve the taking of any of our animals, but nature will take its course.

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Written by johnwhays

February 14, 2019 at 7:00 am

Finally, Snow

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So, if you are going to return north from a week in Florida, in January, you might as well dive head first into the coldest and snowiest days all winter, to make sure you will absolutely and thoroughly miss where you’ve just been.

Luckily for us, our animals so completely missed us that the love and attention they have showered over us has gone a long way to offset the angst of the painfully adult dose of winter that has greeted our return. (We still have all 9 chickens! Although, they weren’t all that fired up to show us any love. They may be hardy winter birds, but they don’t seem hardy enough to want to venture out of the coop when it is really cold, or the ground is covered with new snow.)

Instead of driving to the day-job, I stayed home and plowed snow drifts yesterday. It is hard to tell how much snow fell around here, because the depth ranges from about an inch in some places, to two feet in others.

I took a picture with Delilah in it, but I was focused on showing the fine pathway I cleared around the back pasture fence line.

Then I noticed that interesting cloud bank in the sky.

That was some pretty distinct delineation of cloud and clear sky right there. Nature sure makes cool stuff.

As Delilah and I walked the path around the pasture, I noticed the horses had made cute little circle tracks in the fresh snow, leaving little visible spots of where they foraged grass to graze.

It almost looks like they were on cross-country skis, as they moseyed along.

Speaking of tracks in the snow, as Delilah and I started our walk from the house, breaking trail in the new snow, we came to the spot where our trail cam captured a view of the fox last year. Something had just entered our property there within the hours since this overnight snowfall.

I decided to let Delilah follow the trail into the neighbor’s woods, in case we might find where the fox has a den. She was thrilled to have been granted access to this forbidden land and leaped through the snow to explore where the tracks led.

Well, even though it had been less than twelve hours since the majority of the snow fell, there were already a dizzying web of trails crisscrossing the wooded slopes. The snow was fresh and just deep enough that identification was difficult, but there were so many different pathways that I soon realized the chance we were following one fox had become very unlikely.

We reached a spot where tracks were everywhere, and the leaves beneath the snow were turned up in a wide variety of places. For a second, I wondered if it was a pack of coyotes, but then I deduced it was much more likely to be a flock of turkeys.

No wonder Delilah was so excited over that particular location.

I convinced her to reroute our exploration back toward our property and gave up on hunting for a fox den.

At least we finally have a snow cover that offers better footing than the icy glazing we had battled the previous month.

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Written by johnwhays

January 29, 2019 at 7:00 am

Mixed Tracks

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The thing about aging, especially complaining about the less than glamorous aspects associated with it, is that there are always going to be people older than you for whom the whining will appear inconsequential.

“You think that’s bad, just wait until…”

We each have our moments in time. It’s natural to try comparing, but it’s also natural, to discount each other’s comparisons.

I used to be able to write my name in the snow when peeing. Now I just make Pollock style splatter painting designs.

At least I can still pee.

Speaking of tracks in the snow, I captured a cute combination of chicken traffic along with what I’m assuming were prints of a local prowling outdoor cat.

I’m not sure who was there first, but it is unlikely they were actually wandering around together.

If you pay close enough attention, you will see the tracks of the chickens are pointing in opposite directions.

I also think the paw print is a double exposure. It seems like too many toes, but I suspect it is a function of two feet being placed in the same spot.

Watching Delilah on walks, and often wanting to capture pictures of her paw prints, I have come to notice how often her back feet step in the same place as her front feet did. I think the cat was doing the same thing.

I am reminded of a snowy morning during my trek in Nepal when two of my travel mates were pestering the Sherpa guides to find us some tracks from an elusive snow leopard.

Eventually, (we think) they used the old trick of making some rather convincing prints in the snow with their own hands.

Everybody had a good laugh over it, although no admissions were ever offered, and a question over authenticity lingered unresolved. We were happy to imagine the excitement of what such evidence implied, if it had been real.

My mind has returned to my 2009 Himalayan trek because we watched a Netflix DVD last night called, “The Himalayas,” which dramatically told the story of South Korean climber, Um Hong-Gil, leading an expedition in 2005 to attempt recovering the bodies of three friends who died there a year earlier.

I find such expedition movies fun for the brief few minute glimpses they almost always include of the flight to Lukla, the swinging bridges, the rocky trails through rhododendron trees, the shrines, prayer flags, and initial views of Everest that are all the very places I walked.

Even though we weren’t on a mountain climbing expedition, those who were, traveled the same route we did, to get where they were going.

We all made mixed tracks in the snow on the trails.

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Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2019 at 7:00 am

Training Pause

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From the “no good deed goes unpunished” file, my zealous efforts of Friday produced a reward in the form of a strained muscle on the left side of my lower back. It doesn’t take much brilliance to figure out the wielding of a heavy pole saw with an engine on the low end and a spinning chain blade on the top turned out to be too much for my limited strength.

It has forced a pause in my biking and plank exercises that has altered a plan to maximize my conditioning prior to the start of The Tour of Minnesota biking and camping trip in June. Maybe it was fortuitous, because the weather has taken a harsh turn to oppressively HOT!

I am resting my painful muscle in the shade of the house. In a meager effort to be conscientious about the use of energy, I struggled to keep the house comfortable yesterday by managing open windows and closed shades. It was almost successful.

This morning, I have already closed the house up and turned on the AC. If I am going to get anything done outside today, as I slowly try to regain function, being able to return to a comfortable house will be very valuable.

I am home alone for a spell as Cyndie went to the lake place for a couple of days to contribute to the opening work-weekend. Jackie had a trip out-of-town planned before she moved in with us, so I am minding the ranch.

Delilah has been a sweetheart, allowing me to rest without constantly begging for attention. I think maybe she notices how crazy hot it is outside and her fur coat doesn’t like being out in the blazing sunshine on days like this.

Walking does seem to be good therapy for my sore muscle however, so we have made the rounds, staying in the shade of the woods as much as possible. This morning, we were rewarded with deer hoof prints on our trail that revealed the presence of a brand new fawn, based on the teeny-weeny size.

I tried to capture an accurate depiction of how tiny the little prints were, but even that doesn’t do justice to how surprisingly small they really look.

After we looped around on another trail, Delilah almost pulled my arm off when she struggled to chase some deer cutting into the woods by the labyrinth. The only view I could get was of a tail. No babies in sight.

Our next stop was the barn, to feed and clean up after horses. While we were in there, both Delilah and I noticed some shadows moving outside the front door. It was the chickens! They are expanding their territory nicely.

I’m impressed.

I’m also anxiously counting their numbers every time I come upon them. Still twelve.

Here’s hoping baby deer and baby chickens all find a way to achieve a healthy first year, and my strained muscle finds a way to heal fast enough that I can get back to biking, despite the heat.

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Written by johnwhays

May 27, 2018 at 10:40 am

Being Stalked

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She’s all alone, but not alone. Our sole survivor from last year’s brood, this amazing Buff Orpington, has finally ended her non-stop calling for her two most recent missing companions.

She has avoided death on multiple occasions, once even getting bloodied from a too close encounter within Delilah’s jaws. Now, left to fend for herself alone on the roost in single-digit cold overnight temperatures, she seems to be doing her best to tough out her rather dire situation.

The hungry spring predators appear to be stalking with unprecedented boldness. Based on our experience the last five years, the number of roaming tracks in the snow during daylight hours has picked up significantly.

Yesterday, every time we turned around there were fresh tracks showing up in areas we had recently walked, and they weren’t all the same. I would guess a dog or coyote, probably a cat, and definitely that troublesome fox.

I pulled the memory card from the trail camera, only to find the sly critter had completely avoided detection. Based on her travel pattern, I have relocated the camera, pointing it off the trail into the woods where I hope to catch her looking more into the view, as opposed to walking across it. This will also reduce the repeating shots of Delilah and us walking the trail that tends to clutter the results.

If you look at the shot of the fox I posted the other day, she was leaving our property with nothing in her mouth. Following yesterday’s tracks led us to two different spots where a large number of feathers revealed locations where the future meals had been stashed.

Cyndie wondered about putting extra effort to protect the buff against the obvious stalkers, and as a result, we did end up coercing her back into the coop early in the afternoon. One way I look at the possible inevitability of her fate is that it would save us needing to convince the year-old chicken to accept the twelve new chicks (now looking a lot like “tweens”) that will soon be moving to the coop.

By the time the next brood makes it to the free-ranging stage of life, the phase of ravenous spring predation will have calmed to the occasional massacre by some roving set of fangs like we suffered last June. Then we’ll find out which of our new birds are as cunning and lucky as the Barred Plymouth Rocks and our lone Buff Orpington were.

It’s no wonder why free-range birds are so precious.

It’s a jungle out there. So to speak.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2018 at 10:04 am