Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

From the last week in July until the last week in August our farm and forest is relatively devoid of songbirds and their song. The ducks and geese left in the beginning of July and the barn, cliff and tree swallows were gone a couple of weeks later. The last week in August the population explodes but not the song. What is occurring are the stopovers of myriad species as they migrate to southern climes. Although the bluebirds are checking the boxes for possible future use they are not setting up shop, are not getting territorial, nor are they actively seeking mates, furious activities of the early spring. Many appear to be family groups with some of the late-born still begging for handouts by the adults. The Canada and snow geese will soon be honking their way south in their V formations. The warblers in their fall plumage are hard to identify, and they are many. It is a joy to see our feathered friends again although they will almost all be gone soon, ‘til next spring guys.

If you have ever mowed or brush-hogged hay and brush fields you can’t but notice the havoc that this human activity wreaks on the resident rodent population. Voles and mice scamper as the roaring tractor with its trailing, spinning blades of death and destruction trammel their habitat. Some make it and some do not, and as they flee I have the habit of cheering them on to safety, as this huge machine cannot in all practicality be stopped or turned to avoid the ongoing calamity for the unfortunate who go the wrong way or stay in the wrong place. There are some in nature who benefit from this chaotic dance caused by the upheaval. They are the hawks, ravens, crows and turkey vultures that are lured to this unexpected and unnatural smorgasbord. I should not say unexpected as this year I had a red tail hawk and two ravens track me from field to field as they obviously knew that there would be a buffet of delicacies to follow. What is ironic is that I was rooting for the little critters as they fled from under me but that all changed as I watched close-up the red tail swoop and miss and swoop and miss, and finally when making a successful attack I found myself rooting for him. I had lost my rodent empathy.

On to my observations of the deer population in Bussey Hollow, at least on our farm. There were two does which had twins this year, called the lower field family and the upper field family, each of which lost one fawn in the past few weeks. There are two other does neither of which have fawns. They may have had fawns but lost them to predation or something else. There is a very small and nervous spike buck that may be wondering what the future holds although he will be safe if he does not stray from my farm. In my estimation the deer population is way down compared to five years ago, this most likely caused by a couple of deep snow years and a higher population of coyotes and black bears. As to the bears, they are starting to work the cornfield as the bumper crop of blackberries is now gone.

I read an interesting article about our ubiquitous porcupines in a scientific journal. Did you ever wonder why our dogs that encounter a porky and get a face full of quills never get an infection from them? Well it turns out that the quills have a coating of antibiotic grease. It is conjectured that this is to protect the porky from himself as they often take spills from the trees they inhabit and get quilled themselves. Apparently there is no need for the expensive antibiotics administered by the veterinarian. ~