Before daylight this morning I was awake. Not that I am an early riser. I hadn’t been asleep. It was just one of those nights. I’m not sure what drew my attention to the window, but out by the pond was a large black shape that I was sure hadn’t been there the night before. Family members often go up to the pond just to sit and look out at the water. It was probably just a lawn chair, I decided. Then the lawn chair began to move. I watched for a few moments, then raced upstairs to shake my sleeping husband.
“Wake up!” I commanded, “There’s a bear cub in the back yard!”
Of course, by the time I drug the poor groggy man downstairs and to the window there was nothing to see in the darkness but darkness, but dawn brought another sight.
This little lady was perched on the lilac bush with her beak almost against the window. As she peered into the human world inside, her loud “Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!” announced that all was not well, and she wanted her people to know about it! The feeding shelf had been licked completely clean and was hanging precariously by a mere corner. It looks like it’s time to change the location of the feeding station for the summer.
(I’m not sure if I have the birds and squirrels trained, or if they have trained me. If that feeder is empty they always find a way to tell me about it. )
Well, the kids are back early, and they are regretting it. Usually the Red-winged Blackbirds return to our area in great flocks sometime in April, but yesterday as I was attempting to capture bird photos through the snowflakes, I caught sight of two pairs. (You never realize how irritating snowflakes are until you try taking photos in a snowstorm.) These gung-ho youngsters obviously decided their fuddy-duddy elders were being too cautious and struck out on their own. One bird still had his baby tufts.
Sorry, kids. We’re having a second winter up here.
Punxy Phil found himself in lockup this weekend when a sting operation caught him in the very act of raiding a garden. Local authorities suspect that Phil is responsible for a crime spree that included digging a hole under a woodworker’s shop, ravaging local gardens and flower beds, and the destruction of a dozen cabbage plants while they were still in the greenhouse packaging.
Though Phil adamantly pleaded his innocence (and threatened to bite anyone who got near his cell), he was found guilty of predicting bad weather and garden raiding in the first degree. He was sentenced to a life of exile without the possibility of parole.
Locals hope that Phil’s arrest will serve as a warning to other groundhogs who might consider a life of crime.
This very, very angry groundhog (not actually Punxy Phil) was released unharmed at a nearby animal sanctuary where he will safely live out the rest of his life far away from the temptation to return to his thieving ways.
Mother Nature is a talented artist. With vibrant colors and peaceful landscapes she lures us to the window to admire her artistry, but the pictures she paints are often camouflage for the savagery of her world. She holds no regard for strength, youth, age, or beauty. She gives life to whomever she chooses, and she takes life without prejudice. As my father, an avid birdwatcher, often says, “It’s a war zone out there.”
With the Arctic winds sweeping around the world with the help of the polar vortex, the Northeastern United States has again become a major battle ground between life and death for local wildlife, and amongst the latest casualties in this war, is a creature I have often heard yet never seen.
She lives in the misty realms between reality and irrational fear. Her spine chilling screams bring back memories of October nights, jack-o-lanterns, and Ichabod Crane. When she raises her voice in the night, we imagine the rush of feathered wings, talons descending in the darkness, and death. We think of her as frightening, powerful, ghostly, and wise, but seldom do we think of the eastern screech owl as being extremely vulnerable.
Beautiful even in death
Measuring in at less than a foot, the eastern screech owl is a surprisingly small bird when compared to the volume of sound her tiny lungs can produce. Her meager wingspan stretches 18 to 24 inches from wingtip to lacy wingtip. Those beautiful wing feathers are so uniquely constructed that she can drop silently upon her prey of insects and small mammals. So acute is her hearing that she can locate a mouse beneath dense foliage or snow, but the plunging temperatures have been keeping the creatures of the night safely tucked in their dens, making food scarce and survival difficult for our late night aerial predators. This exquisite screech owl was found by the bird feeder. Overtaken by hypothermia and starvation this beautiful predator joined the multitude of nature’s victims. Somedays, my love affair with Mother Nature leaves me overwhelmed with awe and admiration, and yet others, I despise her for her unbiased cruelty. Today, I hate her, but tomorrow starts another day.
Meet Shorty. No, he’s not one of my cats. He’s the little guy whose butt is sticking up in the center of my photo. Shorty is a two-year old American gray squirrel.
First Trip to the Feeder
Bold as a cougar, and almost as mean, this little guy has been frequenting my bird feeder since his Mama Squirrel first brought him to the windowsill as a tiny ball of fluff.
Just stopping by to say hello!
I’ve watched him grow from a frightened baby on his first excursion from the nest, to a clumsy teenager, to an active adult, and now I am watching him grow old. Dubbed “Shorty” because he lost a substantial portion of his once long tail, presumably in one of his many brawls, this battle-scarred, old squirrel rules the feeder now that his mama is gone. The other squirrels stay away until Shorty is finished eating if they know what is good for them. Even the quickest of birds keep their distance rather than dart in behind him, as is their habit with the other squirrels. My old cats sleep on the windowsill. Shorty doesn’t care. The young cat lunges forward in attack and slams her face against the glass (I never said she was smart.) Shorty doesn’t even drop his sunflower seed, and this photographer can call his name, knock on the window, and stamp on the floor, and Shorty will not turn around! This shot probably would have ended up framed and on my wall had I actually managed to get something other than a squirrel’s butt nestled in between my cats. Maybe next time.
- He finally turned around, but the cats had gone.