Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘wildlife

In Charge

with 4 comments

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.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 31, 2018 at 6:00 am

New Prowler

with 2 comments

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.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 16, 2018 at 6:00 am

Following Up

leave a comment »

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.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

Surprising Find

with 2 comments

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.

.

.

 

 

Written by johnwhays

September 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

Aim High

leave a comment »

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!

.

.

Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2018 at 10:03 am

Wild Life

with 2 comments

Lately, the night views at the coop have been dominated by the masked bandits. Luckily, despite their regular visits, there isn’t anything left out overnight to reward them.

Doesn’t prevent them from checking, just in case.

The only other (not-so) wild life we captured shots of recently was a neighbor’s cat. It sat for over ten minutes with its body facing the camera, but the head was always twisted side to side or around backwards. I don’t know why it didn’t just turn around.

I think maybe it was trying to see where that rabbit went that had been filling our memory card with pictures the previous week. That critter was pouncing back and forth across the view all night long.

The other wildness we have been enjoying was in the sky. Cyndie snapped this panorama as a thundering shower loomed large over the ranch.

I had just finished mowing and was putting the tractor in the garage when the first giant drops started slapping the ground.

It was a wild day of chores yesterday, after I squeaked in a short bike ride to start my exhausting day. Our grove of trees by the road was expanding to obscure the view of traffic coming down the hill, so I hauled out the pole chainsaw and did some highway crew style pruning.

No mercy.

Being clever, I put the battery charger on the truck before heading out on my bike ride earlier, thinking I might want to load the cuttings into the pickup so I wouldn’t have to work on chipping them near traffic.

There is a phantom load draining the battery that we haven’t been able to identify. I have finally heeded advice from a smart thinking friend and purchased a switch to protect the battery. After all the branches were loaded in the back, I parked the truck at the shop to install the device while the battery had some life to it.

I bought a unit that will automatically switch out the battery when it senses the voltage drop to a certain point. To reconnect, we simply press the brake pedal or toggle the headlights and the switch re-engages the battery to start the truck. This way, we don’t have to pop the hood and open or close the switch every time we use the truck.

We never know how long an interval it will be between uses, and both Cyndie and I are prone to forgetting just this kind of occasional detail.

With the installation complete, I moved on to the lawn tractor to finish the yard that I started Thursday afternoon, before that round of all-night thunderstorms. On my bike ride in the morning, I saw a lot of farm fields with brand new lakes in them. Our rain gauge indicated over 4-inches had fallen overnight.

Low on gas, and running out of time before the next thunderstorm, I wildly hustled to the arena to mow that, too.

By the time Cyndie and I called it a day, the clock had reached 7:30 p.m.

Another wild day in our wild life.

.

.

Autumn Ambiance

leave a comment »

dscn5204eI stepped outside to search for some fall scenery to photograph after I got home from work yesterday and was rewarded well beyond my expectations. It helps to never grow too accustomed to the beautiful surroundings we enjoy here.

It would be a shame to ever take this gorgeous place for granted.

The key factor yesterday was that it wasn’t raining. There was actually some blue sky visible. With a high pressure system moving in, we are hoping to for several dry days in a row. It is likely to deliver a dose of our best of autumn weather.

dscn5208eMany of our trails are developing a carpet of fallen leaves that provide a crunch when you walk. More importantly, they are filling the air with the unmistakable scent of the season. When I walk toward the pastures and pop out of the trees, the horses show signs of wondering what huge creature is making all that racket.

Just this huge creature, is all.

When I got down to our Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth, the sunlight was getting low. Cyndie had recently mowed and weeded the labyrinth, which gave it a well-tended glow anyway.

I walked to the far side and paused to stare at the beauty all around me. I was looking away from the entrance for the shortest of moments, and when I turned back around I was startled by the sudden silent presence of a lone young deer happily standing nearby.

It was as if it had magically materialized in the spot. I realized right away that it was totally unaware of me standing there. When it stepped through our fence and walked into the pasture to graze, I stealthily moved to a rock nearby and lifted my camera to capture the scene in video…

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

September 27, 2016 at 6:00 am