Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Three nights ago I had seen our two cats hanging around and didn’t worry too much about bringing them in because I still needed to be working in my office (also known as their bedroom) and they aren’t terribly helpful when I’m typing.  I walked past the back porch door, where my big male cat was seemingly relaxing.  He caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of his eye and jumped up, running over to put his paws on the door.  That’s not like him, so I opened the door quickly.  As he dashed in, I heard what he was fleeing.  From the woods, just beyond the cleared area of the property came a howl, then another, then another, then a cascade of answering howls and yips.  Coyotes.

My breath caught.  Where was Tucker’s sister?  She had been here a little while ago–had she strayed too close to where the coyotes were hiding?  Had they caught her, and I was hearing their frenzy over their excitement at a meal?  They do that: signal when they’ve caught something.

I grabbed the flashlight and tore around the exterior of the house, looking all around for her and calling, with the coyotes yipping every time I called and whistled.  I said a quick prayer that my girl was okay and paused under the big oak next to our back porch.  As I stood there, trying to figure out what I should do next, I felt bark bits falling on me and then heard scrambling claws.  My girl was up the tree, waiting until I was directly below it to scoop her up before she would come down.  Was it one of the fawns that the pack captured and would devour?  I hoped not, but they certainly were onto something.

As you probably know, I like most of the wildlife around here, but I can do without the ‘coons and coyotes.  I’m not the kind of person who wants every coyote dead, but I sure as heck don’t like it when they’re on my doorstep.  My girl is usually too much of a homebody to get caught out by the coyotes unless they get really close, but on several occasions my big boy has gotten caught behind enemy lines.  He’ll come home in the wee hours of the morning, a hunted look in his eyes, bark and twigs all over his belly, as if he spent a lot of time in trees.  Typically too on those nights he’ll come from what I think of as the “wrong” direction, as if he had to circumvent what we call around here “the mean dogs” and the “evil yippers.”

I’ve listened each of the past nights since the pack was so close and heard nothing, not even an answering cry to my attempt at a howl.  This morning, though, a gray canine that looked too big to be a fox but too small to be a full-grown coyote stood at the back of the cleared area of the property.  If it’s a fox, no big deal; my cats chase those.  If it’s a coyote pup, it’s a a big problem, because the pack can’t be far away.

I often read about how people should never let their pets outside, how they are happier and healthier inside.  I also read about how neutering a male cat will stop him from wandering.  Tucker is “fixed,” but he still has an amazing sense of adventure.  A couple of years ago we put a pet camera on Tucker’s collar.  He’s big enough that he can wear the device, which was basically designed for a good-sized dog.  Seeing the pictures he took–every 15 minutes for more than 8 hours–was fascinating.  We’re surrounded by about 400 acres of undeveloped space, and I’m betting that Tucker knows a good portion of that acreage.  On the average day wearing the pet cam, Tucker ranged about two miles, climbing hills with an increase of 800 feet in elevation, crossing creeks, and visiting at least one cat about a mile from here, who peered into the camera as it flashed below Tucker’s neck.  We can’t protect him when he roams, but I can imagine how unhappy he would be without his range.  And he turns himself in every night–except for those when he gets trapped behind enemy lines.  All I can do those nights is pray that he’s found himself a safe spot and that he’ll hang tight until the pack loses interest. I don’t sleep well until both of my babies are inside.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Regular readers may recall my surprise when a spring peeper (frog) jumped out of my pepper seedlings and landed on my kitchen floor.  

Then last night not one tabby but two showed up, and one was quite, quite pregnant.

That’s why when I heard a familiar cry in the woods earlier today, my second impulse was to wonder if it were a hurt child and then to wonder if the cat had gone into labor and was in distress.  Therefore I didn’t grab my camera.  After all, it couldn’t be what I first thought it was, could it?  Oh, but it was!Can you see it?

Yes, dear readers, that is a peacock, wandering through our woods, calling like a baby cries.  Don’t ask me where it came from.  I don’t know.  But it’s definitely a peacock.  What will be next?  A platypus?   a pachyderm?

What the weirdest or more interesting animal that’s ever shown up in your neighborhood?  Do tell!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URLs are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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I was shifting around pepper seed-starting trays on my heat mat today, knowing that one end of the mat gets a bit warmer than the other.  I reached in and EEEEEEEKKKKKK!  What was that?!?  It was slimy, and it jumped!  I got over my initial surprise and then looked down and sawOkay, I knew I planted pepper seeds, but I do not remember planting peeper seeds.  And they grow from eggs not seed anyway.  But I was definitely looking at a peeper that had just sprung from my pepper seedlings, in my kitchen.  Thank goodness I’m not too squeamish.  Here is the unexpected tree frog being repatriated to the yard.Don’t worry; his color will lighten and he’ll blend in better as he adjusts from his former home of starter soil.

Um, this is a peeper, isn’t it?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Tweets and short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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About twenty years ago, a bevy of swans made their winter home on the edge of the Arkansas Ozarks, after a storm blew them off course.  They are impressive

Matisse Swans, copyright Roger Head

as they gather on a local pond every winter, beautiful in their elegance and powerful as they trumpet.  Today, however, I admit that I was happy to see a pair on the wing, aimed north.  Swans do fly in a V formation (called “wings”), but they also mate for life, and I assume the pair I saw this morning was on

Swan Pair, copyright Roger Head

a practice run and therefore without the rest of their wing.  (My husband said it was date morning and that they just needed some couple time.) Perhaps spring is coming after all.  Safe travels, swans, and I hope we’ll see you next year.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Photographs copyright Roger Head.  Please contact Ozarkhomesteader for permission to reproduce photographs.

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Late this morning I was wandering through the kitchen when I saw the twin yearling deer wandering into the yard, no doubt looking for our green grass.  I’m accustomed to seeing them early in the morning and as dusk comes, so their appearance close to midday caught me by surprise.  I reached for my camera and slowly opened the back door, speaking to them softly to let them know I was there. I sat cross legged on the porch and snapped photographs, first of one and then of the other.  I can’t help but notice that they no longer appear to be joined at the hip.  Look above; one is grazing behind the grapevine (upper left of the photograph), while the other is close to me.  Of course, they still stand together often, but not nose to nose like I’ve seem them so often before.Are they getting more alert about me?  I don’t think so.  I know soon I should start driving them away, teach them to fear people, but it’s so nice when they come to visit that I have a hard time doing it.  For now, I justify speaking softly to them by telling myself I’ll share a little of their world with you.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  Short excerpts with full URLs and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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We’ve got more snow on the way here in the Ozarks.  The forecast reminded me that I have more photographs of deer neighbors to share.  Enjoy!A fawn (almost yearling) entering the yard.

In the background is the huge stone wall that my husband built from stones he found in the cleared area of the property.  I really do think we grow better rocks here than we do anything else.

The fawns (almost yearling) twins.

They always seem to know where the good grass is under the snow–or is that where I spilled some bird seed?

For more wildlife photography, see here, here,  here, and here.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including all photographs.  Please contact me about permission to use photographs.

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Having traveled through four states tonight on the way to a family member, I’m reminded of the ties that bind.  No matter where we go, no matter who we become in our lives, we are bound by certain ties of consanguinity, just as these deer brothers will always know each other.

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A few weeks ago the Dot Earth  blog on the New York Times included a fascinating photograph of animal tracks in the snow.  The tracks indicated a conflict between predator and prey, a raptor attacking a rodent.  Since we had a relatively big snow fall over about 36 hours here from Thursday through Saturday, I was reminded of the Dot Earth blog when I trudged out in the snow.  Following along the creek behind my husband, I almost lost his tracks when I headed uphill following another set of tracks.  We crossed them again on the bluff line, where the hoofprints were better preserved on the flatter terrain.The perpetrators were deer, who used a cut in the bluff line to get down to the creek from a nearby field.

Of course, our cats’ tracks are all over the place, including near these hundreds of bird tracks and more deer tracks.

and near these mouse or rat tracks (coming in a bit fuzzy from the left and then ending in two streaks near the feline paw print).  The good news for the mouse is that the cat tracks look older, although it does look like the mouse tracks end abruptly.  Any thoughts from readers?

These mouse (or rat) tracks fascinated me for how far that they ran across the wide expanse of snow.  The mouse ran from an old, downed pine tree to a holly bush. Then I found more tracks from the holly bush to the front porch, for a total distance of at least a hundred feet.  Was this mouse meeting up with the mouse that disappeared on the other side of the porch?

My husband also ran into Spit, the possum that hangs out around our place, last night in the alley between the house and garage.  (Actually, they both caught each other by surprise and both nearly scared each other to death, according to my husband.)  I looked this morning to see if I could see where Spit went–and where he’s been hanging out, because until last night we hadn’t seen him since the cold snap in early January.  These must be his prints, venturing out briefly and then turning around and, apparently, following a ledge around the house, to crawl under the back porch.  Spit’s prints appear raised in these photos because of oddities of photography and melting snow.And here are the possum tracks turned around on each other:

By the way, I found more mouse tracks near Spit’s tracks.  The cats better get back to work, instead of constantly begging to come into the warmth.

You may also be interested in Tracks in the Snow, Revisited, where I captured the perpetrator of a bizarrely backwards set of isolated tracks.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full links to this site are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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One of the things I love about the southern Ozarks is that most Januaries we get a few days that feel like late spring in other parts of the country.  Today is one of those days.  Although moisture is pouring into the region from the Gulf of Mexico, it brought with it a temperature that is approaching 70 degrees F.  Had I not had family issues to deal with off our little croft, today would have been an excellent day for planting.  As it is, I still took a few moments to listen to the peepers.  These beautiful little cheeping frogs came back to life after the frigid days of a little over a week ago, reborn in the storms we got overnight and the warm winds blowing up from the south.  Do you celebrate weather surprises, those unexpected changes in season?

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Deer do not show their sex easily when they are young, and often by the time they are old enough for us to see clearly (as in if they have developed antlers), we no longer connect them to the fawns we saw so often.  Take a look at this fawn.Do you see what I see?  Are those bumps the beginnings of antlers?

Yep!  I’d say those are the start of buttons–and that soon this little guy will be a button buck!

Now look more closely on this one.  Are those going to be antlers too?  I think so.You may wonder what had him in this strange pose.  One of my cats was pretending to stalk him.

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2010

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