Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

It is time to give Wiley Coyote a break from writing his résumé and opinions and get back to what, in my view, is happening in our wild forest lands. Wiley will return next month if our editors are willing to accept over a thousand words more of canine stories, lament and quote.

Here in Bussey Hollow I have not seen a single cottontail rabbit, wild turkey or woodchuck and to extend that dearth of sightings even further, very few deer in the past three months. Two friends have noted that they have seen far fewer songbirds; one even saying that he had discovered a small number of dead birds in the woods, their bodies intact. A call to a friend who is an official with the Delaware Otsego chapter of the Audubon Society felt that the lack of sightings could be accounted for by seasonal changes as a number of species leave quite early on their sojourn to southern climes, or by the fact that midday activity diminishes for many because of the heat. I support this view as most of the activity that I see is in the early morning hours and after 6 pm. No explanations have been given for the deceased bird, other than the possibility of West Nile virus which generally afflicts crows but also has been known to affect other species.

The trail cams have recorded a few mature hen turkeys, but no poults, the occasional deer, but not much else. An interesting couple of photos showed a bobcat taking a leisurely stroll through a trail intersection at about 10 am and in another picture, at about noon, two of my neighbors and their two dogs with the latter quite intent on sniffing the cat’s prior location. Had they been a little earlier they might have had a rare sighting of a very reclusive beast. A cam is also now focused on a sweet crabapple tree decimated by a bear that has climbed it and broken many branches in his effort to secure the sweet succor. So far no photo capture. Just prior to the Gazette deadline I got him! One evening, as Nancy and I were returning from an Andes Roundtable session we entered the post office parking lot to mail a letter, and there to our surprise was a great blue heron strolling very tentatively about. It was dark and this bird should have been ensconced in a tree, roosting safely from predators. My thoughts are that it was a recent fledgling (this was in August), fishing in the stream in Ballantine Park and somehow got disoriented. He eventually sauntered up towards the cemetery (seeking safety amongst the ghosts of the dead?) We wished him luck.


Young bear with a “v” on his chest

Now that the fields have been mowed, tedded and the hay is resting in a multitude of round bales, activities not previously seen of our avian friends are now in full exposure. The havoc wreaked upon the critters residing there as the mowing proceeded did not go unnoticed by the turkey- and black vultures. They made many landings to enjoy what had to be a buffet of the carnage. Also now on sentry, and with occasional swoops, were a red-tail and a cooper’s hawk. Also “happening now” as Wolf Blitzer is famous for exclaiming; there are two little brown bats roosting under the beams in our breezeway. I am delighted, as there is no sign of the devastating “white nose populations throughout the U.S. Of course Nancy is not happy to be cleaning up the droppings in the morning. Not happening now is any sign of young painted turtles emerging from the nest site that I blocked off from auto traffic. A bad sign is the couple of empty shells, signaling eggs pilfered by a predator. And again, as last year there are 4 and sometimes 5 wood ducks in the small pond alongside the road. I always wonder where they go when they spook and depart with a flurry.

Three fawns succumbed to road kill this past spring and summer on Route 30. That is 3 that I have taken note of; for sure there were more. One had been hit by a friend. I helped remove the still breathing little guy to a distance from the roadside. One of the others was struck and killed by an 18-wheeler, the driver of which had pulled to the side. When I had stopped to let him know that, yes, the fawn was dead and that I would take care of it, I noted that he was on the verge of tears. The truck had Georgia license plates and as I attempted to console him his puppy dog emerged from the rear of the cabin. In strong southern accent he drawled, “A’m so sorry. Ah neva saw the lil fella.” I felt as if I were back in my role as police officer again giving solace to the bereaved, part of my duties many years ago. “You just move along now and make sure you take care of that lil fella,” pointing at his puppy dog. And he did.


Caught feasting on crabapples

There was an article in the New York Outdoor News saying that this past winter two of our local game wardens arrested two snowmobilers who had chased and run down and over a coyote, killing it. They boasted of their deed and placed pictures on Facebook. This led to their arrest, and they then faced multiple charges including “taking wildlife with the aid of a motor vehicle.” It was not Wiley, but he has taken note and continues to write of such human barbarity.


Bobcat strolls past the trailcam

Wiley Coyote perseveres trotting along, and no matter how arduous his nightly journeys, how challenging the terrain, he will hunt for survival and a mate. Next month he will proceed with his grouse against the life bequeathed to him by humankind. Be sure to pay attention to his farewell and well-chosen quote.~