Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

On a beautiful spring morning, having been lulled to sleep the night before by coyote calls that sounded like an attempt at mimicking a great horned owl and melodious spring peepers, I awoke to the usual honking of the nesting Canada geese, croaking of frogs and toads, cooing of mourning doves and the cawing of a grumpy crow searching for nonexistent bread scraps. A multiple of birds of many species were at the bird feeder and also a notorious red squirrel that helped spread the cracked corn for the usual bottom feeders: black eyed juncos, the doves and various sparrow species. The following morning was very different, strangely quiet and missing bird feeder. A black bear had risen from its winter den having survived the onslaught of the guns of autumn, and was now on a hunger-driven path of bird feeder downing, destruction and birdseed devouring. The black devil even tore down an adjacent uninhabited bluebird box. All has now been recovered and repaired, but the feeder not re-hung; the remaining bird seed will be distributed by hand on a daily basis, one coffee can full at a time, labor-intensive but much less bear attractive (I hope).


Ollie makes an appearance

Some spring sightings on the farm include a killdeer, bluebirds, cardinal (one male), wood ducks, yellow-shafted flickers, a single kingfisher and a female common merganser on the upper pond which just might have laid a clutch of eggs in one of the wood duck boxes. The merganser is a fish-eating duck and nests in tree cavities as does the wood duck. A small barred owl was on the edge of an upper field and landed, not too far, in an open maple posing briefly for a quick photo-op. On a bright and warm sunny day the favored log in the lower pond of Ollie the Otter was decorated by no less than nine painted turtles. By the way, Ollie the Otter has not been observed and this does not mean he has not passed through; high hopes for a sighting remain. Another favorite that has failed to show this year for the first time in five is Prince Charming, the drake mallard cross with the bright white chest, another potential victim of last year’s guns of autumn but probably more likely the victim of a bald eagle. A beautiful mature red fox raced across the Tremperskill Road, which was a rare sighting for me. A friend, one of the editors of this Gazette and I won’t say who, has complained of three raccoons domiciling in her barn that refuse to enter a well-baited live trap. They may have to be removed by more forceful means. Woodchucks and a few rabbits have been noted during car trips, but none of late on the farm. It appears that the Bald Eagle nest on the Dingle Hill outcropping on Route 30 is active with a potential successful nesting this year. They failed last year. These observations indicate to me the Andes environs are not lacking in numbers or diversity of species.

OK, like Wolf Blitzer on CNN Breaking News, Happening Now: my wife has just reported that she saw a woodchuck in her garden. Oh dear. Also, I had a report from a good friend that she heard and observed a female yellow breasted woodpecker lightly tapping on the metal flange of her chimney, which is unusual in that this is the normal habit of the male with very strong and loud tapping in order to attract a mate. Even stranger was the fact that, although the tapping was weak, a male flew to the site and the two flew off together as an apparently happy couple. And now I will use this to segue into another wildlife event. I was awakened one early morning by a sound that reminded me of the light woodpecker tapping just mentioned. After intent auditory scrutiny, it was determined by my wife and me that it was a porcupine chewing on our wicker chairs right outside the bedroom window. Not the first time for such an occurrence, but sadly the last for this dude. A trail cam covering the disposed carcass shows, so far, two different turkey vultures partaking of the prickly and fetid feast. Oh for the lure of carrion. Turkey vultures are one of a very few species of birds that locate their food through their olfactory senses.

The DEC has released the deer take report for the Fall season 2012. Andes Township: 206 bucks, 209 antlerless, total 415. The report includes all legal instruments: gun, muzzleloader and bow; no slingshots allowed. Back when, as a not too bright 10 year old, I was so excited seeing a deer by myself in the woods of Bear Mountain State Park that I took a shot with my slingshot and missed. A very good thing as I would have had to drag it back to the Hudson River Dayliner. Some friends reported seeing a small bobcat wandering about which reminded me that now is when the yearlings of many species are on their own and are out trying to find their place in a confusing world of forests, fields, predators and, of course roads, houses and humans. Let them be; especially the fawns born in May and June, as they have not been abandoned. These wildlife wanderings remind me of the words in a traditional Shaker hymn called ‘Gift to be Free’ – “to come to where you want to be” – let them, except of course furniture gnawing porcupines.

P.S. May 11 checked the SD card from the cam trained on Ollie’s log and there he was on 4/27 at 11pm going stealthy and nocturnal with a captured sunfish. Hoorah! ~