Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘wildlife

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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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

Following Up

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Picking up right where I left off yesterday, the story is rain and more rain, and a raccoon that needed to be dealt with once and for all.

Tuesday was a crazy day for Cyndie at home. First, she had to move the horses into the barn for an appointment with Marcus to trim their hooves early in the morning. After cleaning up from that project, she started calling around to see what interest our local authorities might have in our ailing masked bandit.

Since no humans had come in contact with the raccoon, Public Health referred Cyndie to the DNR. They said they didn’t have anyone who could come out, but gave out the number for their biologist. They also suggested she could call the Sheriff.

The Sheriff’s office suggested she call the DNR. Figures.

Eventually, the dispatcher offered to pass on the issue to a Deputy who would call Cyndie back.

Cyndie said she was finally trying to have some breakfast around 10:30 when Delilah started a barking fit at the front door. It was a Deputy Sheriff.

The officer asked if we had any firearms. Nope. Then she offered to shoot it for us.

In her estimation, there was a good chance the coon was suffering from distemper. Regardless the affliction, ailing wildlife is not something you want around for other predators to eat, so she assured Cyndie that it was the right decision to call.

The Deputy elected to use a shotgun, so she could keep a distance. Cyndie said the weapon was almost as long as the petite officer was tall. After several warnings that the shot would be loud, the results possibly messy, that it would startle our horses, that it would be very loud, and that Cyndie didn’t have to look if she didn’t want to, the deed was done.

By the way, this was all accomplished in the rain.

The very kind and helpful officer stayed around to give Cyndie a hand triple-bagging the body and putting it into a closed garbage can for storage until our trash gets picked up.

One good thing about the rain is that it washes away any residual mess that might appeal to our dog on her many walks past that spot in the days ahead.

Delilah is more interested in the sound running water makes as the mini-waterfalls pour over the edges of washouts in the drainage ditch cutting across our fields.

Seems like that water is going to be flowing for days, so she’ll have plenty of distraction.

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Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

Surprising Find

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Fresh lobster is the last thing we ever expected to harvest from our property. Tuesday night’s flash flood of rain must have washed more than just water through our drainage ditches.

Okay, it’s not a lobster. Research suggests it is likely a Red Swamp Crayfish.

Cyndie and Delilah happened upon this large surprise while walking along our pasture fence line. When Delilah challenged the strange creature, it snapped its claws at her. This critter was big enough that it looked a lot more like what we normally see as lobster than it did the small crayfish we are familiar with in local lakes.

Cyndie watched it climb along in the grass, wondering where it could have come from, and where it might be trying to go next. There aren’t really any water bodies nearby that we associate with crayfish habitat.

The ditch it was closest to certainly moves the most water around here after a storm, but for the majority of time throughout the year, it remains a dry bed.

I wonder if it would have found favor in our landscape pond.

Cyndie wasn’t interested in picking it up, so I guess we’ll likely never know.

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Written by johnwhays

September 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

Aim High

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She who rules the roost achieves the highest perch. It appears the Golden Laced Wyandottes are vying for the title. Well, three of them last night, anyway.

When I headed down to button up the coop for the night, all twelve birds were already on the roosts or squeezed onto the window ledge above.

That is such a nice moment of the day, having them all safely secured in the coop for the night. When that little door slides shut, we can release the small tension that builds up during their day-long free-range at-risk time.

This morning, the pheasant that has been a frequent roadside sight around here lately was being very vocal in the field just south of us. I’m hoping that bodes well for our birds, implying a temporary serenity and safety from threats for a while.

That thought is supported by the sighting of the two spotted fawns hopping around the Labyrinth on Friday.

Just as we suffer and struggle with loss during tough times, we can and should embrace and revel the periods like now when our animals are healthy and the energy of spring is bursting forth with an inspiring zest.

Maybe it’s a manifestation of aiming high!

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Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2018 at 10:03 am