The Natural Zoo

May 20 – Got a note from our friend Clyde recently after he and Nan had read one of our blog posts. He was pleased to know that we were out far enough from town to “do farm work,” and see a number of animals and birds that usually don’t make their homes near the cities. He mentioned that when his kids were small, he made a live trap, hoping to catch a rabbit. Instead, he had to take care of a skunk that built itself a home under their walk and possums he caught in the trap. He also mentioned that some deer had ruined the bark on the trees; we can sympathize with that, as we have had deer do that sort of thing all over the place.

Hummingbirds at the feeder

Hummingbirds at the feeder

Our two hummingbirds are flitting from the feeder at one end of the porch to that on the other side. They have such a great amount of energy and have to continue drinking nectar most of the day. When Dale first put up the feeders this spring, one bird was drinking even before he set up the second. As I sat out on the porch reading, I could easily keep track of both feeders and both birds. I still chuckle as I think of the time one was on the feeder, and the other flew over and sat down beside the first, happily drinking up the nectar. Today, when we saw the two together, I suggested to Dale that they were becoming “love birds, with some courting going on.” His answer? “Not on the feeder!” Well, maybe not, but it’s the first time in years that we have seen two of those hummers peacefully sitting close together without dive-bombing each other!

Squirrels checkin' out the territory

Squirrels checkin’ out the territory

The bluebird pair are still enjoying the summertime temperatures with the female in the nesting box, and the male sitting up high enough in the nearby tree to make sure he can keep her safe. In the beginning a couple of sparrows, who once called that box home, tried to reclaim their territory, but they couldn’t. Those bluebirds are truly beautiful, but they can be dangerous to rivals too. Down the path there’s another pair. And always at the bird feeder are the squirrels, including a couple of grays this year. The reddish-brown group must have been bragging about the handout they receive, and now they have some competition.

The dozen-or-so male mourning doves on the cement below the feeder have been doing a lot of courting of the females, with the male chasing quickly after the lady he hopes to catch. Sometimes, just before he catches her, the dove flies off, but then takes time to coax him back to her side again. And the cowbirds come by the dozens, not just to eat, but to choose a mate.

Cuteness overload

Cuteness overload

The other day as we looked across the road to the Reynolds’ pasture, we saw a lovely fox making its way across the field and then on down till it felt safe enough to cross over to our side of the road. Those animals are really beautiful, and we have seen very few of them as they travel in the daytime. I’m sure he would have enjoyed feasting on the baby bunnies Dale found down by the barn the other day.

Yesterday we had an interesting time with a turkey family. As Dale was looking out the back door checking the scenery, he called “Come on, Chris. Hurry up! There’s a couple turkeys out by the pond, and the male is strutting around like a peacock!” Of course, I stopped what I was doing, grabbed my camera, and quickly walked down the little hill, and across the creek to see those turkeys.

In the next fifteen minutes, the turkey and his multiple wives slowly meandered down the mowed path and into the field. I went right along with them, hoping for some good shots, but no such luck. I was surprised that the male kept right on strutting, hardly taking time to do more than that. After the females had disappeared into the woods, the male stayed behind to give me one last look at him before he followed them, at about 75 feet from me. Not sure of the distance, but I did step it off and felt that I was that close at least. Several hours later after we had worked hard hoeing and tilling the garden, we sat on the tailgate of the truck, resting for a bit. About 15 minutes later, we looked down to the area along the creek to see that same puffed out turkey and part of his family! They stayed there giving us another good sight of those creatures.

Turtle in the garden

Turtle in the garden

Earlier as I was hoeing the strawberries, I noticed a box turtle moving slowly along beside the row. Hurrying up to get my camera, I hoped that the turtle would still be in the area. He was, but when he saw me, in went his head and feet. Patiently I waited until he put his head out a bit. But seeing me, he dragged it back in. After about ten times of this behavior, I guess he gave up and moved toward the back of the strawberries and neared the fence to escape. “A few more photos, Mr. Turtle,” I said, and when he agreed, I took some and then watched him disappear under the fence and into the blackberry patch, all nicely covered with mulch in which he could hide. – CHRIS

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