FIELD NOTES – August 2012

Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

Here is a very tough call for Grandma: I received a call from a friend who in turn had received a call from a woman friend who had watch over her two grandkids for the day. She happened to see a doe meandering down one of her fields with a fawn frolicking behind and called the kids to come over and watch the show. Things went wrong, at least for the fawn, as a bear leapt from the cover of the field edge,  snatched the fawn and made off with its bawling prey, leaving a snorting, foot stamping and very unhappy doe. Also unhappy and dumbfounded as to what to say in explanation to the kids was Grandma. There is of course a dilemma here and the explanation should be founded at least in part on the age and sophistication of the kids. If beyond the age of the belief in Santa Claus it is a rare teaching moment when they can be introduced to the real world of nature and a breaking point from the myths of ‘Bambi Land’. If after taking a deep breath and explaining properly the way the natural world works, that being for life there must be death etc. and that bear must eat to survive and although doubtful, even feed her cubs that may have been hidden in the forest. If the kids are still young and in Santa land it can be tough, either way good luck Grandma.

These headlines were just too intriguing to not pass on: “Wildcat Scares Camp”, “Hideous Yowls Cause Closing of Lumber Camp”, “Belleayre in a State of Excitement-Residents Say Woods Full of Fierce Cats”. Hideous noises, unearthly screams piercing the air, the cry of a big cat caused men to get lanterns and guns and go in search of a monster wild cat but to no avail. The woods seemingly teeming with wild cats caused the closing of the mill and the boarding house keeper to move his family to a place of safety. All this from the ‘Looking Back’ section of the Walton Reporter, something I love to read. So here was an example of the fear people had of the then Wild cats of the day. Now was it all emanating from a bobcat which was most likely the source, but of course back then this is 100 years ago it could have been a mountain lion. DEC does state that the last mountain lion of record was killed in 1912 but who knows. Bobcats are known for letting loose with some pretty frightening screams during the night the purpose of which is not really known, territorial announcement or just normal communication with a buddy, we don’t really know. I say go out into the night and enjoy the calls and sounds of nature.

Another fearsome scream heard at night that can raise goose bumps is emanating from fledgling great horned owls letting mom and pop know where exactly they are so that they can still get a free hand out.Picture2 When I first encountered this camping out on my own down in Hancock, I will admit that it scared the bejesus out of me. Even now, as I am fully aware of what those sounds are, where they are coming from and their purpose, the hair on the back of my head still automatically rises.

A good day defined: a slow ride on the quad which entailed observing a doe enjoying a dip in a pond and some underwater browsing just like a moose, a barred owl taking a short flight to a point where we could inspect each other in full view for a few moments, some chickadees using an otherwise unused bluebird box and finally jumping a small buck still in velvet that would eventually be at least a six pointer. The icing on the cake being a wonderful piano recital by one Justin Kolb that evening at his home. Now how can you beat that?

I am happy to report that the Bobolinks appear to be thriving although much of their field nesting territory has been invaded by many red winged blackbirds. My son and his girlfriend spent a long and arduous day  working on habitat improvement which included pulling logs into the ponds for turtle and duck basking the end of which and much to my delight they reported seeing that doe with small antlers again having given birth to a healthy fawn now two years in a row. Picture1And finally there is a small cottontail rabbit that I call a ‘survivor rabbit’ this for his habit of sitting up on his hind legs surveying for potential predators, he does this more than spending time with his head down. Will this mean he will spot that hawk or coyote in time? Time will tell.

“Never forget our lives are meshed with the rest of the creatures on earth”.   ~