By Jack McShane
We have all seen the common “deer crossing” signs that forewarn of the high potential that a deer will run across the road and urging traffic to slow down to avoid a collision. What I would love to see and never will are signs like “porky crossing.” I have noted that there are places where many porcupines do cross, especially in the Spring when they come down from their cliff dens to satiate their craving for salt. At this time the roads, having been winter-salted numerous times, become like a baited trap for them. Many other critters are annihilated as they attempt to get from one habitat to another, most often with the driver of the car totally unaware. This is why I consider our highways to be “Toll Roads,” the toll being the large number of animals killed with the toll rarely counted or recognized. Of course any damage to vehicles or homo sapiens is noted highly. There are places in the Hudson Valley where, on wet Spring nights, there are so many salamanders making migrations at places that some people volunteer to evening patrols where they move the critters to the side of the road to which they were headed. These are very caring people working to protect a fellow creature rarely thought of by the general public. Kudos!
My son Kris, a decent birder, rescued a beautiful cedar waxwing that had apparently been hit by or flew into a car ahead of him. The little palpitating lump of feathers lay in the center of the road and was not recognized until he passed over him, between the wheels—safe. Kris pulled over and walked back, risking life and limb to retrieve the little guy. The bird lay stunned on the floor of the car for forty-five minutes and another thirty on the far end of our deck until he recovered and took flight. Now he was in strange new territory, but we knew he was better off, although disoriented. He was alive and free and could thrive. We wished him well.
Wild critter antics that I recently have much enjoyed watching: The three young woodchucks have now housed themselves in the stone wall in front of the house. (Mom has left for some kid-free environs.) They have made what one might call a “woodchuck jungle gym” of the double-stemmed, dead white birch in the front yard. It is a contest between them as to who will win the prized upper branch for a perch, thus becoming Top-Chuck.
The cottontails that have been quite prolific are keen to perform entertaining pre-coitus dances to the delight and or amazement of their now maturing offspring and myself. This activity peaks near dusk as I enjoy (and apparently, they do as well) a little after-dinner Mozart or Franz Liszt over the outside speakers. An observation which I took note of was what appeared to be a friendly kiss, which turned out to be a natural check to see that coitus does not occur amongst relatives. Apparently, there is a gland at the corner of their mouths that emits an odor that signifies a relation or non-relation and prevents inbreeding. Another of Mother Nature’s efforts to maintain biological equilibrium and health.
The local songbirds are thriving, as the bluebirds have had a second successful nesting with four or five hatchlings having fledged. It appeared that some of the young of the first batch actually helped feed the second. A brown thrasher found great joy dusting itself two mornings in a row, literally “thrashing”about in a dusty spot in the center of our gravel road. First sighting of this species in a couple of years. Two pairs of cardinals have taken up residence near the house making up for the loss of the male this past Spring. What is troubling is the apparent lack of wild turkeys with poults, none have been observed. Three mature hens were notedon a trailcam: all three with no poults; None has been observed. The very wet Spring is likely the reason.
My friend Ann has a new buddy, a Canada goose that sidled up to her as she paddled the Pepacton Reservoir with a friend. Was the cause of this the loss of its mate, as Canada geese are known to mate for life? We will never know, as we will never know what drives my emotionally disturbed grouse as I call him, to me. Bird brains!
By the way, what my son did rescuing the injured cedar waxwing was against the law as written. Being from a career in law enforcement I made the tough decision and did what was right but not just, and did not notify our local conservation officer. My decision was right, but not just. Ask our own Stanley Fish to explain that.~