Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘wildlife

Rare Interaction

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We interacted in a social way with other humans yesterday! Late February 2021. A milestone. Duly masked for appropriate social behavior in a pandemic, we hosted our friends, Barb and Mike Wilkus to share an appetizer, visit the chickens, and then travel to Pepin for a snowshoe hiking event at YMCA’s Camp Pepin. Afterward, we returned to our house for a light dinner, dessert by the fire, a little banter, and …blink, blink… the night was over.

There will never be enough time to catch up on the year of social interaction we have lost since the pandemic swept the world.

Hanging with friends will never feel fully satisfying until masking is no longer standard procedure.

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Despite the limitations, we happily absorbed every second of the gift of friends who love the outdoors and are up for adventures. Camp Pepin was decked out with ice lanterns along a groomed trail and campfires aglow in the woods for an open house event intended to rejuvenate interest in camp activities that the virus outbreak has squelched.

As the dusk of the hour consumed us, we came upon a familiar scene of a deer carcass that had certainly fed a variety of wildlife.

 Looked strikingly similar to the one we found in our woods, antlers, and all.

The weather was perfectly comfortable for winter activity and the treasure of enjoying it with precious friends was a wonderful treat.

It sparks a glimmer of hope for visions of increased opportunities on the horizon in the months ahead. Do we dare begin to make plans again for renewing our old level of interactions with other people as vaccinations reach a greater majority?

That will be one step toward making it happen. Let’s all start making plans now for as normal a summer as possible to help galvanize the future reality we want to happen.

I am emphatically hoping it can play out sans masks.

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Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2021 at 11:29 am

Regal Visitors

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It isn’t at all surprising that Delilah gets alerted to something and starts barking at the doors and windows. Happens multiple times a day. Yesterday afternoon, seconds after one such flourish, Cyndie commented about all the birds making a racket. She joined Delilah at the door to the deck and quickly exclaimed there were eagles perched in our trees. Four of them.

She stepped out to take a picture and one of the four took flight, no sound but the whoosh of wings.

I joined her at the door in time to see another one fly off.

After several minutes, a third one launched into a gorgeous glide. We fully expected the last one to fly and that would be that, but suddenly two of the flyers zoomed back on the scene. One appeared to consider a landing but the big branch it picked snapped off and fell toward the ground.

With that, all three spread their wings and flew away into the distance.

Other than worrying a little about the health and well-being of our chickens, we are thrilled whenever the majestic bald eagles pay us a visit. More often it’s one or two coasting overhead in the sky making a brief appearance. Finding them perched is a bit of a rarity and offers extended viewing, but four at a time was a first.

I liked that they showed little concern about Delilah’s barking.

Sometimes I wonder what they must think about us and our activities down below them.

I suspect they find us a lot less fascinating than we do them.

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Written by johnwhays

February 19, 2021 at 7:00 am

Contemplative Shuffling

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It appears that even deer recognize the benefits of walking the labyrinth path. Before we entered, Cyndie took a picture of the footprints on the path.

It looked impressive to see them so perfectly following the trail but after the first turn the deer tracks veered off across the paths and disappeared into the woods. I picked up from there and plodded along on snowshoes to lay down the proper series of turns and pass-throughs to reach the center.

By the time I finished, the overcast daylight was beginning to wane and the color of the image took on a different hue.

There were multiple turns where my double-stack of stones had toppled and were frozen to the ground in the middle of the pathway, but the primary route is now fully established in the base layer of snow. May it remain visible for the duration of snowfall through the end of the season.

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Written by johnwhays

December 27, 2020 at 11:00 am

Off Trail

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Given the relatively long span of time with no snowfall, getting off the trails to explore our woods has proved revealing of late. Delilah and I came upon at least three hazardous waste sites. Me suspects the local raccoons have a luxurious condominium in the trees above this spot.

That’s more scat than I care to encounter in any one place. Wish they’d learn to bury their messes.

Farther along, it was hard to miss the calling card of one large antler-bearing white-tail deer. This buck also did a fair amount of pawing the ground in the vicinity of this scraping.

As we made our way down a slope where Delilah raced ahead while I scrambled to navigate the leash, and my body, around and under the tree debris she wove through, I thought I saw a big squirrel on the ground ahead. When Delilah ignored it and passed by in pursuit of a fresher scent, I saw that it was simply a long ago dried out scrap of furry hide from what I guessed to be a deer.

Later, after Delilah’s chase instinct had calmed down, I turned us back to look for that fur so I could take a picture. As so often happens in the woods, I couldn’t find it a second time. Unfortunately, we had no problem coming back to unsightly piles of scat, but nothing that stood out like a body of a dead squirrel that was obvious the first time we passed it.

Unless something smells freshly of death or walked by in the last few hours, Delilah’s nose seems to hold little interest. She walked past this bone with nothing more than a glance.

The white color made it stand out distinctly.

Actually, fresh presence doesn’t always guarantee Delilah will notice. Last night in the final walk before she retires to her crate (her “den”) for the night, my high-beam flashlight caught two little eyes reflecting about 50 meters ahead. I kept my eyes and the beam on the two reflecting spots as we closed the distance, while Delilah focused on whatever scent her nose to the ground was picking up.

Eventually, the creature decided to move off the trail and I could see it was a domestic-looking cat. My flashlight beam picked up the reflecting eyes again in the brush just off the trail, so I knew it hadn’t run off entirely. As we came abreast, I stared at the cat in my light beam and it stared back at me, while Delilah just passed right on by with her nose still to the ground, oblivious.

Never a dull moment on our thrice-daily (minimum) jaunts around the property for Delilah’s benefit.

Even more so when I decide we get to venture off-trail.

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Written by johnwhays

December 13, 2020 at 10:56 am

Stinky Year

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Look at it this way, today it is the fifteenth day of July, so we are halfway through the month that comes after the midpoint of the year 2020. All this whining about 2020 being so problematic will be over before you know it. We can stop wondering about what the next calamity could possibly be and start marveling over how we got this far without throwing in the towel.

Unless you happen to have school-age children, that is, and have no idea how to cope with more distance learning in the fall. Or if you got sick with the coronavirus. Or you are out of work due to the pandemic. Or lost your medical insurance because you no longer have a job. Or you can’t pay your bills because you didn’t qualify for financial assistance.

In the wee hours before waking yesterday, I experienced the most vivid dream where I found myself in the midst of my high school classmates in something of a reunion gathering. I am curious about what threw my mind into that reconnection with my school days. In classic dream fashion, by daylight, I lost the gist of what I was thinking and feeling about the situation while the dream was underway, but was left with the vague pleasure of having been among peers I haven’t seen lately.

Maybe it’s a mental defense mechanism for escaping the shelter-in-place mindset of the pandemic.

Cyndie has been up at the lake for the last two days and she took Delilah with her. It has been refreshingly calm at home on my own after the day-job. The cat and the chickens don’t ask for much from me, so it has felt like a little vacation.

Of course, the pesky wildlife hasn’t taken any time off. For two nights in a row, I found our kitchen compost bin had been abused and separate access panels forced open so they could ravage the rotting goods. Last night, I wrapped it with a ratcheted tie-down strap to secure the doors from opening.

Let’s see the little raccoon claws loosen a ratchet mechanism.

Yesterday morning on the drive to work, a young-looking fox trotted across the road just around the corner from our property. Luckily for us, that enemy-of-hens was headed in the direction of a neighboring property where egg-layers roam freely.

Later, as my car approached a fresh road-kill, I centered my tires to miss the mess and held my breath. Before I even started to resume breathing, I felt the acrid fumes in my nostrils. I was afraid to inhale, but I had to.

Fresh skunk. Reeeally fresh. Ow.

At least 2020 is over halfway to the history books. The whole year seems to have a general stink to it.

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Written by johnwhays

July 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Paddocks Reclaimed

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Mission accomplished on Sunday in my effort to reclaim the paddocks from the unchecked growth of grasses and weeds, some of which had risen to over a meter tall since the beginning of this year’s growing season.

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I got in there with the big diesel tractor pulling the brush cutter and successfully avoided destroying any fences while maneuvering in the confined spaces.

Before the cutting started in earnest, Cyndie and I made a pass through, digging up “sour dock” weeds (that’s the local name for Rumex Crispus or some variation thereof) in hope of reducing their propagation.

We used to get sour dock mixed in bales of hay we bought for our horses and they were not fond of it. Ever since, we’ve framed it as an undesirable weed, despite evidence there are some medicinal and edible features to it.

Then it was off to the mowing races.

It’s always a little unnerving to be mowing blindly over such thick and tall growth, not knowing if I might run over a misplaced tool or any variety of wild critters that may have made themselves a home there. As it was, while walking through the higher-than-my-waist jungle of growth I figured I was wandering in a snake pit, much to my discomfort.

Luckily, no snakes were encountered over the entire duration of this project. A lot of toads and a couple of field mice were about the extent of sightings.

At one point in my hunt for stalks of sour dock hiding among the tall grasses, I came upon a bird’s nest with a lone egg in it. With a total absence of any upset flyers winging their way overhead, I concluded this poor egg had been abandoned.

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Now there is a blanket of cuttings covering the ground in the paddocks. That’s enough for hundreds of nests.

I noticed the three hens wandering around in there right after I finished mowing, picking at the wealth of opportunity, but I don’t think they will make a dent in cleaning up all the deadfall.

We’ll simply leave it to dry up and break down where it lays.

Maybe that covering will slow new growth so I won’t have to mow it more than one more time by the end of the summer. I don’t enjoy operating the diesel tractor so close to fences, especially inside the corners.

The paddocks almost look like we have horses again!

That’s so much better an impression than the neglect all that wild growth has been emanating.

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Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Big Little

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Amid all the big issues swirling around the pandemic, like federal government response, different state government responses, economic doom and gloom, employment insecurities, and uncertain futures, there are still a lot of typical everyday little things that continue to play out.

I find that I keep putting off making a call to address a need to replace the windshield on my Crosstrek. For months I have ignored a chip from a rock impact that only showed up in my view when the light was hitting it just right. More recently, a second stone strike, low on the passenger side, began to form a crack. Now that crack is slowly growing evermore toward the midpoint.

Last night, we enjoyed lo mein and sesame chicken take-out from King House restaurant in Ellsworth. It tasted divine. It was almost a religious experience to open the classic white box of lo mein and dish out a generous portion of noodles and goodies onto my plate, then spoon the dangling noodles back into the box to discover it was still filled to the top. If I hadn’t just served it myself, I would have argued that it couldn’t be true.

I’m already looking forward to enjoying the leftovers in the next few days. There looks to be enough remaining to feed an army.

While we were up in the loft eating, there was a very loud bang on one of our windows. We get a lot of bird strikes against our glass portals to the forest views, but this one was loud enough that I struggled to imagine what could have made that impact. A small deer? When the dog and I finally reached the front of the sunroom, a very large bird leaped up into the air and flew to the closest giant oak tree. It was a pileated woodpecker!

Cyndie noted the feathers and a panic-induced s-shape of excrement stuck to one of the crank-out windows beside me.

Little distractions from the historical pandemic drama playing out in the agonizingly slow motion of months threatening to drag into years are a welcome diversion.

Even if they have to do with two grossly decaying mice that were discovered in the long-stored chicken waterer that Cyndie pulled out for use now that freezing temperatures appear to be behind us for another year. Apparently, they figured out a way to squeeze inside the egg-shaped plastic dome, but not how to get out again.

I’m told it didn’t smell pleasant.

I have no new news to report on the friendly feathered visiting grouse that was keeping Cyndie company on Wednesday as she worked around her garden plots. Maybe it was just passing through. Just like the woodpecker and so many of the other wild travelers who traverse our terrain.

The two worlds of big things and small things coexist, but rarely seem to show any particular concern for one another.

Gladly, we have free choice to decide which of the two will have the focus of our attention at any given moment in time.

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Wild Visitor

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The first message I received from Cyndie yesterday was a celebration of the recently broody Wyandotte choosing to exit the coop of her own volition.

Cyndie had first attempted the cold bath method, which simply rendered the hen incapable of standing but didn’t break that drive to brood. Then she resorted to the broody cage for a required two different sets of multiple days.

The second message I received announced a different bird had showed up to chill near Cyndie while she was working on her new garden plots.

This beautiful little grouse let Cyndie get very close without showing any nervousness, but didn’t react with any interest to offered seeds or water.

I figure the bird sensed Cyndie’s chicken-momma skills and was naturally drawn to her nurturing spirit. Or, it was seeking protection from marauding turkey flocks that roam our area.

We frequently hear pheasant calls and occasionally see them, but this is the first time I have seen a grouse. Funny that it gave such an appearance of being domesticated. Maybe it wants to get in with the cool kids and join up with our chickens. With the flock of hens drastically reduced in number, now might be a good time to try.

The three chickens seem a little lonesome for their absent sisters.

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Written by johnwhays

May 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Wild Turkeys

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Something tells me the local flock of turkeys has expanded in size since I last saw them. It’s been a while. I’m guessing there is an added generation running with them at this point. Yesterday, while mowing the lawn, I spotted over 15 of them strolling through the labyrinth. I couldn’t count them all.

I was a bit surprised they didn’t startle over the loud roar of the mower when I approached. They simply walked, pretty much in single file, into the shadows of the trees.

We frequently find dropped feathers and plenty of footprints, but more often than not, they keep themselves out of sight.

It’s exciting to be able to see them looking so comfortable on our property. Thinking about it, maybe the good fortune we’ve had with our 8 chickens surviving all summer is reflected in the large number of wild turkeys also surviving. The predators must be finding other sources of sustenance.

I don’t know what the coyotes in the area have been eating, but they’ve been rather vocal in the wee hours of darkness recently. Apparently, it’s not turkeys sleeping up in the trees at night.

Maybe the coyotes will help me out and eliminate that nuisance woodchuck that has been burrowing around here lately.

It’s wild out there!

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Written by johnwhays

September 24, 2019 at 6:00 am

Several Adventures

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The Gulf of Mexico

We walked the beach

and trails of Lovers Key State Park, where we also paused for a picnic lunch

While walking, we came upon an osprey dining on a fresh catch

Barb & Mike got a crash course on piloting a Segway (no crashing involved)

We toured the multi-million dollar neighborhoods of Naples

and I barely eked out a vague capture of the sunset for Steve R.

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