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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Out of the Fog

The dry autumn weather has been broken by a light rain lasting all night and even now continues as a drizzle surrounded by fog. The fog and oncoming cold do not entice me to stay out long. The mourning doves are still hunkered down in the spruce tree waiting for hunger to draw them out.  I stepped outside just long enough to catch one before it ventured out.  I also couldn't resist a photo of the trees behind the barn, almost hidden within the fog.  The rest of the day will be spent inside catching up on work that needs to be done and checking out the bird feeders.

It has been a good fall for watching the feeders.  Evidently the forest mast is low this year, meaning that there are not enough nuts, seeds and fruits for the wildlife.  In Wood County we have noticed how much the squirrels are traveling.  Many have ended up as road kill while searching farther afield for storage food.  At our home the squirrels are somewhat segretated.  The red or fox squirrels live in the woods in front of the house and the gray ones live behind the house.  This year I have seen both running across the large grassy expanse in search of food.  Our two feeders contain sunflower seeds. One feeder is somewhat squirrel proof while the other is more like a squirrel fast-food restaurant.  The red and gray squirrels eat together, side by side, returning to their own territory each time I venture out to "shoo" them away. While they are enjoyable to watch, it is too expensive to feed them.  At one point I have had five at once accompanied by four chipmunks.  The squirrels empty the feeder in about an hour - the same feeder that will feed the birds for several days. 

At night there are even more visitors to the feeder.  The neighborhood skunk arives about dark blatently ignoring our lights and noise. By bedtime the possom has come and gone, followed later by a local raccoon. Late in the night the deer stand on hind feet and add the seeds to their diet. The raccoon and skunk are a bit of a rabies concern.  I once read that you should assume that all skunks have rabies.  I don't know how true that is, but it probably isn't a good idea to encourage them to hang out so close to the house.  I do like that skunk though.  Early last summer we saw her heading across the field in the early evenings accompanied by several babies. I admire her brazen confidence. And she is beautiful.  Really she is and without a bit of stink so far.  I have to remind myself to be cautious and not mistake confidence for tameness.

In the daylight chipmonks are, by far, the cutest visitors.  They are wound so tightly that that bursting seems to be a means of transportation.  One pair comes from near our compost pile behind the house.  I've watched it run under the back spruce trees across the back yard, under the porch then out the front of the porch to the feeder. Their vacuume cleaning action serves to fill their cheek pockets until I am sure they will explode.  Just before exploding, the chipmonk bursts back under the porch then out the back and to wherever the sunflower seed storage facility is.

The most exciting visitor this year has been a dangerous one. One Sunday morning Jeff and I observed a perigrine falcon in the maple tree watching while a house finch huddled very still under the eave of the feeder. After about 15 minutes, the finch tried to escape, drawing the falcon and becoming its breakfast. The falcon has returned a few times causing the yard to become very quiet and still.

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