By Jack McShaneJack Thumbnail

To this casual observer it appears that the world is becoming a cauldron of very deadly human clashes, seemingly all based upon some kind of sectarian rivalry. According to the overleaf of the book Beasts, authored by Jeffery Moussaiefe Masson, “There are two supreme predators on the planet with the most complex brains in nature: humans and orcas. In the twentieth century alone, one of these animals killed 200 million members of its own species; the other killed none.” The orca, also known as the Killer Whale (a very demonizing name), and whose primary prey is seals and sea lions, is also the much beloved star of Marine World in California. Although I feared encountering a pod of them when shark and marlin fishing off the coast of Montauk Point on Long Island, my understanding is that only one human has been killed by an orca and that was a trainer at Marine World. Let us not forget that apex predators other than humans have no evil intent.Jacks-Fox

Observations in and around Andes: On a Sunday morning trip into Margaretville for my newspaper I was driving rather slowly (47 mph) as it was a beautiful day and I had an instinctual feeling that critters would be crossing. Not uncommon, a car pulled tight to my tail implying “please move along,” and for some reason I decided not to comply. About a mile on I spotted a doe entering the road and immediately hit my blinkers button and slowed. The doe proceeded slowly, crossing with a fawn and yearling in tow. My tailgater now left a larger space between us. About five miles along I spotted a hen turkey enter the road and cross with at least ten newborns in tow. The blinkers again, a major slowdown and now an even larger space between the tailgater and me. Eventually I made the left turn to access Freshtown and as my tailgater passed she gave me an appreciative “thumbs up” as opposed to the “bird”. I thought later how great it would have been to complete the Catskill wildlife tour with a black bear sow with a couple of cubs added to the crossings. Sadly, I also noted a very recent roadkill, a young red fox pup. I thought this little guy probably never had the chance to catch his first mouse.Faun-with-Mom-300x169

My friend Andy reported observing an unusual team effort of harassment by a Baltimore oriole and a redwing blackbird; this coordinated attack on a crow which is often a raider of their nests is not that unusual. Paula of Andes and now in Roscoe called about a ruffed grouse that appeared to have tendencies that mimicked what I reported on two issues ago. It seems that the “Aggressive Grouse Syndrome,” as I will tag it, is somewhat widespread. I am very happy to report seeing a young cottontail scamper into a hole under our pole barn, relieving a fear that the coyotes, bobcats and foxes had devoured them all. If only now a woodchuck would appear. On a recent sojourn up the hill on the other side of the road, I was about to pass the bend in the trail, which I had written about: “The Barred Owl on The Bend,” this having to do with on almost every pass I would have a barred owl sighting. Well I had not seen an owl there for the past two years so I was very delighted to not only have a mature owl loft from the old hemlock tree, but also a fluffy juvenile gain flight from a lower branch. Wildlife comes and goes.

Here now is a “you decide” story. I am driving a return from an out-to-dinner trip with my wife Nancy, daughter-in-law Nicole and an aunt in the back seat and alongside me, David, an uncle. It is dusk, but still with plenty of light, and as we approach the little bridge on the Tremperskill Road under which the Tremperskill flows, an animal lopes across the road for all to see. I exclaim, “Wow a fisher!” delighted that my guests would have such a rare sighting. A voice from the rear: “That was a Gray Fox,” a la Nicole. Now, I do consider myself as someone with a fair amount of Catskill fauna experience and Nicole is a naturalist working for the Catskill Center with quite a bit of time in the natural world, so a rather intense discussion ensued. Arriving home Nicole devised a scheme to end the argument. She got out her cell phone gadget and apped out two perfect pictures of both a fisher and a gray fox and with my full agreement she showed them to Uncle David, who had absolutely no critter or wildlife experience, instructing him to choose which one he had clearly seen, and that would end the argument. The fisher! The intrepid Nicole still refuses to give up; do not argue with an intelligent young woman, especially your daughter-in-law; I will not push the issue.

Someone wrote: “A walk in the forest by yourself reminds one of how trivial our modern lives can become.” I add, “So enjoy life, as it has an expiration date.”~