Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

Having a great interest in, and being an amateur writer of just about all wild things both finned, feathered and furred, I was dismayed to read in the local press the following: a farmer in Willowemoc, Sullivan County had been arrested boarding a train with two heavy suitcases containing 46 partridges, many of them showing evidence of being snared. The gentleman admitted to authorities that he had been buying them for some time and making two trips a week to N.Y.C. to sell them. Wow! Also noted in the same press, there have been six bears, three of them were cubs, shot in the vicinity of Dry Brook and also three foxes within three days by one individual. Shocking! More on this later.

The twenty turkeys that had been visiting the bird feeder for overflow and other scatterings apparently overheard my conversation with a DEC biologist discussing a plan to have the DEC net the whole flock, tag and release them for a study on their population dynamics. They were gone the next day and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of them since. The question lies: did they leave without rancor or resentment? I don’t really know.

Speaking of birds, there are two species, although both are corn and seed eaters, who refuse to come near the feeder. They are the local crows and partridges. The crows, high in the bare canopy, loudly alert us every morning that the sun has risen and it is time to get up even though we might on occasion like to get a little extra snooze. Keep it up and that extra piece of dry toast will not be heaved on to the front lawn.  At least the partridges remain silent under the refuge of the low branched Norway spruce without crowing like their black feathered brethren.  That individual mourning dove, soloing under the feeder with his lonely, plaintive and incessant cooing, apparently was successful in this endeavor as there are now a half dozen or more out there, one of which may be an acceptable mate, which just might get him to cease and desist his amorous pleadings. This has been a description of the easily observable day shift around here.

The unobserved night shift, padding around in the snow (this is being written early March) and leaving a myriad of track patterns to be deciphered by day, show that at least one cottontail rabbit has so far eluded the foxes, the two bobcats and the occasional pair of coyotes, all of which have been caught on trail cams. If the rabbit survives this onslaught of prowling predators, I will call him  “Survivor” and hope that he or she will pass on this very important genetic skill. Of course this will be much to the dismay of the predator prowlers who prefer dumb bunnies; let them eat mice. There is also a quilled beast that makes a nightly marauding trip to a carefully planted hemlock tree, which is thoughtfully protected by plastic tubes. No matter, this porcupine somehow manages to scale the plastic and enter the crown and gorge on all that is green. Go diurnal, you little bugger, and I might just “pop” you although I probably wouldn’t.

Photo Squirrel  by Rose Wadsworth (1)

Red squirrel with hairless face

A friend of mine residing just north of Delhi sent me a picture she took of a red squirrel that had a hairless face. I forwarded it to my biologist friends at the DEC and received a report that stated it could be a number of ailments including scabies, mange or even rabies, but more likely a virus that eventually will heal. If so, his biggest problem will be embarrassment and heckling by his buddies.

Today is an early day in March with a new coating of snow as I write this and in the morning there was a set of extremely large coyote tracks that circled around the house, so large in fact that I thought at first they were of a very large dog, something like one of my friends’ massive Leonburger dogs. Even taking into consideration that in melting snow, tracks do get larger, these were for sure the largest coyote tracks I have ever seen and they were quite fresh. On his patrol, of course, he checked just about every potential rabbit lair. No sign of a kill, thank you, let him eat mice. Back on February 28th,, I saw my most favored harbinger of spring and I could hardly believe it: two male Redwing Blackbirds! The usual timing for the arrival of these dudes is March 10th. Global warming, or an easy winter, no matter, a very delightful sighting and a favored sign that Spring is on the way.  By the way, I do realize you will be reading this in the April 1st issue of the Gazette and all this will be old news, so just try to bear with me on this old stuff that I find interesting.

On the Ollie the Otter front I have received two reports from trusted friends of sightings of slides on the Rail Trail and tracks and a possible den in the Firment Road area. Nothing here on the farm as all the ponds are locked up tight with ice.

  1. What about that news report about the suitcases full of partridges and all those bears being shot on Drybrook? Well this was all reported in the Walton Reporter on October 31, 1912, yes 1912. The paper has a section called “Looking Back 100 years ago from the pages of the Walton Reporter”. Fascinating, as there must have been a heck of a lot of partridge back then. It is now illegal to shoot bear cubs, much less snare 46 partridges! ~