Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

The other day, a bright sunny day at 12 noon, standing at the kitchen window I observed a good-sized black bear wander over the bridge entrance and down behind our pole barn. I immediately retrieved the camera at the other side of the room and returned for the potential photo op. It never happened, as Blackie decided to make a sharp right turn and crossed at the far lower end of the adjacent field. Ah well. I mulled in my mind as to why this normally nocturnal and reticent dude was out and about at such an unusual time and decided that quite possibly he or she was out checking to see how the recently planted corn field was coming. A problem, it is sprouting poorly and there will not be plenty to gorge on and ruin in the fall much to the chagrin of Marty whose investment it is. Of course, Blackie, be aware the houndsmen will be out and about, simultaneously looking to run you off or far worse and that is when  your end might “grow nigh”. Bears were at one time thought of as vicious, scary animals that required extirpation, but when Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a wounded bear tied up for his sporting pleasure, people seized on this moment of mercy and the beloved Teddy bear was born.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has expanded the length of the hunting and trapping seasons for bobcats in our region citing their expanding population numbers and increased habitat occupied. Personally, I disagree with this edict as bobcat sightings are very rare for the average person, and when they occur are usually considered a great experience for the lucky few who see them. Bobcats pose no threat to us; they compete with our ubiquitous coyotes both preying on rabbits, woodchucks and other small critters. I would have preferred further protection of this mostly silent, rarely seen, natural predator. Another season expansion is for the snow goose which I have never seen on the ground, although I have noticed numerous skeins  flying overhead during the fall migration. The reason for this season expansion given by the DEC is that the population estimate in the 60s was 50,000 and now there are one million. They are overabundant and taking over the northern nesting habitat needed by other rare species. I also read that the polar bears, unable to forage adequate seals because of the melting sea ice, are supplementing their diets with snow geese. Nature’s balance?

Last month I spoke about how lucky it is to have such a wonderful commute with roads weaving between bucolic woodlands and a gorgeous pristine reservoir with all its opportunities to observe (and avoid hitting) diverse wildlife. Along this line on July 1, I observed a mature bald eagle, our national bird, swoop across the stream that parallels Route 28 at the junction with Route 30. He seemed to be diving low so I backed up to observe further. You can do this here as there is rarely a car behind you, but I did look first just in case. He hit the water and struggled with an apparent catch. Swimming with his wings which was quite a sight, he reached the bank, continued the struggle and finally lofted quite a large piscatorial catch, species unknown. For an ardent nature lover it can’t get much better than that!


Porcupines try to dine on Doris’s pear tree

My friend Doris, one Hollow over, had a continuing problem even after various attempts at protection. An unknown critter was decimating an ornamental pear tree that so frustrated her that she labeled it the “dinner tree”. Neither aluminum flashing nor stove pipe worked. Finally a plastic container, bottom removed, cut length-wise for placement and strapped snug with electrical tape. Voila! See the picture on page 5, caught on a trail cam, of a very frustrated prickly culprit along with her young one making a final and unsuccessful attempt.

On the fourth of July, I had my first sighting of a fawn this spring. He was trailing along behind mom and it appeared that this might be his first journey into this strange world of potential fear, trepidation and occasional rambunctious play which often seems to incite great consternation in mom. As I enjoyed this encounter, I played with putting words in their mouths.

“Hey mom, this stuff you call water is cold and my hooves are sinking” “

“Never mind just keep walking, but look over there at that upright and immobile thing watching us through binoculars. Be wary of him and his kind.”

I had just installed a beautiful bench built by a friend below an apple tree that was dropping small apples prematurely. A minute after I left I looked back to see this doe who I will call “Bench Checker,” very, very carefully approaching, sniffing apparently not a happy camper upon seeing this obtrusive bench astride her apple garden. She bolted before eating one apple.

All this great stuff: mingling with observing and subjecting to my interpretation the actions and inaction of our varied wild critters and finally, writing about it is one great reason for living in Andes. “Where birds and beasts thrive, people prosper”.

PS: To all creatures large and small including Homo Sapiens that abide in or about the environs of Bussey Hollow, let it be known: on the afternoon and on into the night of Saturday August 24th, there will be major disruption of the usual ecosystem and calm that normally exists. A large white tent will have been erected on the pastoral lands of the McShanes and there will be a large group of humans celebrating the marriage of my very lucky son Kris with one beautiful and bright young lady named Nicole. Adjacent Hollows will remain open for the nocturnal meanderings of all other species. ~