FIELD NOTES – January 2012

By Jack McShane

I was reminded by a friend that a word in my lexicon of a previous month was slightly off base. The word was MURDER, as in “a MURDER of crows” which I am now told is used to describe only a very large flock of roosting crows, such as those in Auburn NY that are so much of a nuisance that there are designated “crow patrols” assigned to the task of scaring them off with flares and noisemakers. Well, we do not have such a problem here in Andes, as our crow population is “normal” and the three or four that haunt my surroundings cawing for a handout I will rename an “involuntary manslaughter” of crows, a lowering of the offense in the penal code. Lexicon error corrected. Speaking of lexiconic error, a friend emailed me some pictures of a flock of turkeys that she had taken from her bedroom window, apparently having made it through open turkey season which had closed on the opening day of gun season for deer. She described what she saw as a “rafter” of turkeys. I kind of like this description, and in that our language is forever dynamic I will not only give her a pass but, possibly use it myself in the future and await the fallout. I do plan also to purchase the new American Heritage Dictionary on my next trip into Kingston and see if I can find an apt alternative to “lexicon.” Another friend sent me a beautiful picture of a cedar waxwing, with the comment that he had observed a huge flock working a berry bush in his yard and being aware of the “rafter of turkeys” conversation, said clearly this had to be a “candle of waxwings” – get it?

When you read this, the deer season will be well over and the survivors will be losing their shyness and taking advantage of bird feeder spill. It is really amazing how the few deer that are around seem to disappear when gun season begins. They become nocturnal and feed only after dark, remaining high on the hill in seclusion during daylight. I call it “hunkering down”; a neighbor says “they’re hidin’” [sic]. I will be watching to see if the two eight-point bucks that I caught on my trail cam made it through. We decided not to harvest any deer here this year due to the low numbers and instead recruited my son to take care of the venison supply. Where he lives, Kerhonkson, deer numbers are too high according to the DEC and so it has issued many antlerless (doe) permits which enabled him to legally take four deer, a seven pointer and three does. I did participate by doing a good portion of the butchering and wrapping, and in return received one deer in whole, subsequently butchered and wrapped by yours truly and wife, a full weekend of work.

One character that did make it through big game season at least until November 27th is a bruin of about 250 pounds caught on trail cam at night tussling with deer bones set out just for the likes of him. The cam has picked up little else as of this writing, and I think it is because of a great bounty of foodstuffs for the critters available at this time, including gut piles from harvested deer for the omnivores and carnivores and an abundant apple crop for the deer herd.

The one thing lacking this year here in Andes and in the whole Northeast, according to an article in The New York Times, is acorns, especially those of the red oak, the predominant oak in the Andes region. Many possible implications of this include a field mouse population crash resulting in ticks aggressively pursuing new hosts such as humans which will result in more cases of Lyme disease. I think this hypothesis is a little too much of a reach. It is expected that 2012 will be one of the worst as far as Lyme disease outbreak. A friend who lives in Pennsylvania tells me that after a walk in his woods he returns with multiple ticks on him, and considering this we should be vigilant for an eruption in our forests. Other outcomes mentioned in the Times article: with the drop in the field mouse population small and ground nesting birds will face an increased threat from hawks and owls; and more deer/car collisions as the deer search for alternate foods closer to the brushy edges of roads.

We will see how, and if, these prognostications work out, knowing well that in time nature, if left on its own, will find its proper balance. We all should take heed of the fact that we humans aren’t the only species on the earth, but often act like it. ~


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