Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Prologue: I'm happy to report a cool mellow peaceful evening after a rainy day. The woods feel at ease. Drought is hard on everything. Rain makes everything feel more normal. Everything and everyone is relaxed. The day begats the night, its bats and its starlight.
You know the night is beginning when you hear the deep, modulated tones of a perched hoot owl quickly followed by a departing Great Blue Heron's bellowed primitive squawks. Short-neck bats are swooping and suddenly diving after insects over the cove, and soon bullfrog and treefrog chants begin and fireflies perform their strobe shows and guessing games the last hour before dark.
The whippoorwill, so determined and musical last night, is performing elsewhere, perhaps up the hill by the ancient little two-story beer joint shack, that leaning anachronism managing to stay upright among the much more newly built gated and other exclusive cul-de-sacs held together by prideful esprit and shared disdain for the lessers. You know. The juke joint that the spoils behind the gates complain about like it doesn't belong.
Well into dark, nearby coyotes faithfully answer the call of a distant passing siren once again headed for the highway. They never seem to tire of their work, neither the coyotes nor the ambulances. Much later, a small brown rabbit in an open space hops away but stops, not threatened. It's a confident bunny.
It's a confident and also clever rabbit that doubles back under the working noses of dogs chasing it, such that the dogs retrace their gallop and follow the rabbit in elongated circles, as deer do to coyotes on their scent. It's a serious game with unforgiving consequences that make it more likely they stay alive, thrive, survive.
Today I saw deer strolling a regular neighborhood, grazing lawns and slowly roaming the blocks, and a baby one dart safely across a street to rejoin family. They feel safe there. The grass is greener and delicious and makes a superior bed. The deer natural fear of coyotes is balanced by the coyote natural shyness to people. Nature loves stasis as much as change, and progress stays close to the fence.
After 20 years here, it's still hard to believe we're in the city. What must the birds and other animals think? Why, these people came out of nowhere, and by the time we realized what was going on it was too late to do anything about it. They are somewhat compliant and easily outwitted though, but we still must outwait and outbreed them. We might even become best friends, but only if we remember how wild they are.
Epilogue: Yes, there too are cats, but they are asleep and had asked for the night off from these stories, something about their intergalactic union and a work slow-down. Cats are the real threat - to loneliness.
Photo at top is stock.
at May 27, 2014
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Playing Possum Toddler Comitatus
Robin Cat is part-Russian blue, part gallant and debonair bedtime luxuriant, and part martial artist attack specialist. He also has a penchant for setting down his found treasures in the recycling bin on the porch.
Around this full-moon midnight, Robin Cat set down Playing Possum Toddler, who is new to this serious game, and whose awake ears pivot to track voices and whose eyes briefly dare open to size up the situation. She may not like what she sees, but she goes with her strength anyway, lying still otherwise.
Seen in the bin, one might consider this event to be Playing Possum Toddler's 'blue period'. We were just hoping she wasn't injured.
After consulting with each other about what to do about 'this one', the bin was slowly carried off the porch to the yard, turned gently onto its side facing a nearby fence she could fit through, and a small bowl filled with moist duck food pellets was placed between the bin and the fence. Four or five tiny steps will go a long way toward nourishing her strength and soothing her nervous system. She will find something she had come for after all.
Previously, full-sized Daytime Possum had devoured this type of duck food, returning for seconds to no avail the next two dusks, leaving unrequited. We would like to see Playing Possum Toddler again too, though maybe when older and less at the mercy of the indigenous hunger games. At last sight, she was in the bin standing up with her hopes rising, along with ours.
at May 14, 2014
Monday, May 5, 2014
Tonight's critter encounter is Traveling Skunk. This is a first for us after 20 years in these woods, and I have to admit I'm totally amused. I've waited a long time for this! I don't find Skunk smell that offensive. It smells like a certain strong herb that some people like to smoke, but much more penetrating and sour, and way past most people's abilities to tolerate.
Tsavo is the one who needs tolerance though, because he's the one who got sprayed, not at extremely close range, but close enough to thoroughly coat him such that when he walks by, the air instantly turns from odorless to the full Skunk. He's wearing it well though, pretending that nothing is out of the ordinary.
Tsavo walks with a lot of dignity, so it's funny to see him walk by smelling like that, sort of like if he were wearing a tuxedo and walking by with three feet of toilet paper stuck to his shoe. I think it hurts his pride just a bit. He can't get away from the smell either. Still, I'm totally sure he'd rather keep the Skunk smell than be scrubbed with tomato juice or bathed.
At least Traveling Skunk wasn't inside my cabin like Backdoor Possum was a few nights ago, in the corner of my kitchen. Luckily, she was pretty easy to shoo back outside. Maybe this nature train could slow down a bit for a while, before we get visits from Bobcat, Coyote, and Feral Hog. They can be a whole other level of problem.
I'm keeping my back door closed now, by the way, day and night. The front door is the cats' responsibility, but if a critter gets by them they can always hide in the closet, leaving the problem for me, the bouncer.
Addendum: The Skunk episode has just taken a bit more of a serious turn. Tsavo just went into my clothes closet. I'm still amused, but not quite so totally.
Soon the cove's turtles will be digging difficult holes in hard-packed dirt for their eggs, using only whatever nature's given them. The holes are one to two inches in diameter and two to three inches deep. They dig skillfully, then squat at a heads-up angle over the holes, and, when finished laying, release water which they mix with the dirt to bury the eggs. They're masters at camouflage, because once finished you really can't tell where they've been digging.
Two or three months later, if a critter hadn't sniffed out the nest and raided the eggs, you usually find the hole opened up and soft broken-open eggshells close by around it. Even without finding any trace of their path, you know that the most direct route to the creek or cove is the one these tiny turtles have taken. You'll soon begin to see tiny turtle heads appear above the surface of the water and know the time of the turtle is upon you. A young one will very often swim in tandem with an adult, and you can find the young ones balancing on a stick or branch sticking out of the water so they can sun themselves or just dry out a bit. They'll quickly drop into the water if someone gets too close or loud.
The nest hole pictured above is one abandoned before the eggs were laid, likely because some two- or four-legged had come too close. I've been the cause of that several times. One thing I found interesting is that if you come upon a turtle digging a nest or laying its eggs, it won't move even if you walk right by it. When you come back later, the nest effort has usually been abandoned. Also, as I myself have seen, turtles will walk 50 to 100 yards from the cove or creek to lay eggs, the better to evade the nest-raiding critters. This just makes the baby turtles you see in the water that much more impressive, having instinctively found their way home. Think of the faith that requires.
Once a turtle dug its nest within ten feet of the front of my cabin. It was squatting over it when I walked by and went inside. I watched it through a window for a few hours off and on, keeping my dogs indoors, and after noticing it was gone went outside and saw that the hole was as usual expertly covered over. I assumed it had laid eggs. I watched the spot for three months, maybe longer, and nothing had transpired. I dug it up and the hole was empty; no eggs, shells, or trace of anything but dirt. My theory is that once discovered, turtle decided to make it a decoy nest. I'd be glad to learn one way or another what really might have happened otherwise.
The voice of the turtle may be silent, but I'm sure it's eloquent.
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Daytime Possum showed up in daylight again, though it had lately made an evening foray onto the deck where it had previously clawed its way inside a white garbage bag where it was chewing its way through the contents when discovered. Today it went straight for the source, showing up in the kitchen, and not at all playing possum.
The cats and I were on the deck. Tsavo was taking a nap, Tiger was surveying his nature kingdom, and I went to the garden to read. Fifteen or twenty minutes went by, and I went inside, where it was a bit dark with the lights off, and saw Tiger walking out from behind the kitchen counter. He seemed especially content and cocky, and I thought he'd preemptively eaten Tsavo's dinner, as the bowl was empty. Then I saw an unusual shadow on the floor in the corner by the stove. I turned the light on, and it was Daytime Possum, cornered and not content at all.
I usually leave the front door open so the cats can come in and out, but today I'd opened the back door too, for the free flow of fresh cool air. That door opens directly on the kitchen. That door also is located in what Feng Shui books call the prosperity corner of my home, and that door is how Daytime Possum came to be in the kitchen. Long story short, someone ate Tsavo's food, Tiger finally cornered his nemesis Daytime Possum somewhere and then walked away triumphantly, and amused-concerned me was left to fret upon the opportunity to enact another successful possum encounter outcome.
Upon a previous such opportunity, when a possum was under our bed one night, I'd re-opened the back sliding glass door, where the possum had entered, built a makeshift walled maze out of turned-sideways chairs, boxes, and other furniture that led from the bed to the open door, and then prodded the possum gently out from the bed with a broom. Amazingly, it went all the way through the maze, bouncing off the walls like a pinball, and exited onto the deck. The glass door was closed, possum stared at us through the glass with its big white possum face, and that, my friends, was that.
Today was a similar relief, but it involved me standing on the kitchen counter, a seven-foot sycamore branch walking stick, and a very stubborn possum that was every bit as reluctant to give up a good free food source as any one of us would be. Even after I'd persevered in prodding it into the middle of the kitchen, with possum all the while hissing maniacally and opening its jaws to bare its sharp and gnashing teeth, it still kept heading away from the back door toward the living room. Finally it felt prodded enough to give up and exit the way it had come in. For all the frightening rows of teeth and harrowing hiss, possums are pretty good-natured, ergo playing possum is still their best defense. What better 'good sport' could nature provide?
Later that night, when I told my wife about the newest possum encounter, she laughed with special insight, because shortly after all the poking and prodding and its reluctant exit, she'd seen possum shambling by our other cabin a bit quicker than usual and apparently agitated, perhaps even disgruntled, as compared with its usual lackadaisical amiable amble. Still though, it's likely Daytime Possum had been the beneficiary of Tsavo's tasty canned salmon, duck, and chicken. Even if not, it did escape any real harm and escaped causing any as well. For those reasons, Daytime Possum from henceforth will be known around these parts as Prosperity Possum, and there's a lot to go around, to be honest about it.
at May 03, 2014
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