Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

With all the normal spring returnees I observed for the first time a new species, this the 109th on the list of avian species: observed on the farm – Ruddy Ducks, welcome guys! What was interesting about this first sighting was how they arrived, gliding into a small pond, two drakes and a hen, almost synchronous with my car on the road adjacent. I slowed down to stop and watched them paddle about in apparent harmony, with their long up-tilted tails and white cheeks aglow. This harmony did not last long, as upon my return trip from Margaretville, one of the drakes had decided that he was the top dude and it was now his duty to expel the other drake from anywhere near his chosen mate, which meant anywhere in the small pond. These ducks can move, and they did; the chase was almost continuous, very fast with rapid wing beats and a seemingly unending pursuit around the surface of the pond. The show they put on had not ended when I left after about 20 minutes of keen observation. The following day all three had departed, apparently to continue their flight to places further north. As a harmonious threesome? I have my doubts. What I found interesting was that two days later there were four drakes paddling about sans hens and in apparent contented harmonious brotherhood. Is it the presence of a female that causes us guys, no matter the species, to not get along?

Most of the usual suspects have all returned from their southerly sojourns: robins, blackbirds, even a brown creeper. Bluebirds are inspecting the boxes for cleanliness. Yes, guys, I have cleaned them all out and ejected many mice and red squirrels that had squatted in your winter-abandoned homes. Bluebirds, if by chance you are able to read this, I suggest that you choose a home forthwith, since when the tree swallows return they will aggressively keep you out of your favorite domicile.

In late March, Nancy spotted a mink traversing the free-flowing stream in search of what must be rare creatures of sustenance at this time of year.  Readers, when you are reading this it will be the beginning of May and there will be much to eat: mating toads, frogs, etc. The early morning honking which announces the return of the notorious Canada geese, which annually nest on a small island on the upper pond, is now an everyday, dawn ritual. They have never been successful in raising a brood due to nest predation by whatever predator has the temerity to swim to the island. Although I don’t know which, my guess is a mink.

PHOTO Canada Geese visit Ollie's Log (1)

Canada Geese visit Ollie’l log

Speaking of predators, it seems that timing and luck have great impact on the success of the predator and hence the demise or non-demise of the prey. In seven, two of which have twins. Five have single fawns, giving us nine fawns. Two of these are then taken by coyotes or bear which is not unusual, thus leaving seven to be added to the original nine, making sixteen. Then subtract two that wind up as venison, thus leaving a herd of fourteen entering next winter season.  Now, mind you, this does not include those secretive, unseen and wary bucks and the others that are now returning from lowland and hemlock shelter. The deer population is in fine shape although the DEC would consider it possibly too fine.

This hypothetical deer talk reminds me of my very early days hunting for deer with bow and arrow and witnessing the continuing loss of favorite woodlands to ever-increasing development. Because of this personal history I realize that I am in ideological conflict with my many friends in the local real estate and construction businesses in that I do relish the protection of forests and fields within the watershed that is occurring presently. This may seem somewhat hypocritical as I sit on my wonderful Andes farm with no further need for more income. Many of my friends and neighbors do not have this luxury. I believe that with ingenuity this ongoing land protection can be used for economic benefit through tourism and support for outdoor related activities.

A bumper sticker which states something I have witnessed a number of times:

“URBAN SPRAWL: Cut down all the trees and name the streets after them.”

P.S.  There has been no sign yet of the return of Ollie the Otter.  ~