By Jack McShane

Housebound due to 2 feet of snow and unplowed for 3 ½ days, unable to peruse the forest for critters in the wild nor even to refill the bird feeder, time to consider an amusing and hopefully not too boring scripture for my curious and considerate readers of Field Notes. I thought it might be interesting to think about and attempt to recollect and list as many encounters that I have been lucky enough to have over my lifetime with creatures in the wild from the deep Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the fields, forest and waters of my beloved backyard here in Andes. Contemplating all this I realized that they would quickly fill the word limit of multiple editions of the Gazette. So, a few at a time and then back to the here and now in our Andes environs. Here goes, and first a little background:

As a youth who loved the woods and ponds that then still existed on Long Island, and not the ball fields and school yards as did the majority of my friends, I was always comfortable alone or with kindred spirits of which there were a few, exploring and often attempting to conquer the wild things we encountered. Sadly, we had no coach to inform us of the importance to preserve and protect that which we held in awe. Instead, the slingshot, the bow with the arrow and the BB gun held sway; in our early stage machismo everything was to be taken and deemed a trophy. My first encounter with a harmless garter snake at a pond edge resulted in a beheading, its body proudly exhibited as in show-and-tell. As time progressed, skinning and mounting, thanks to a mail-order taxidermy class, my bedroom contained about thirty “trophies” from songbirds to opossums to largemouth bass and a lot in between. There was no Vern Bauer back then (Vern is our very strict local game warden)


This very unusual coyote which has been named the Werewolf of Delaware County actually is in our Town of Andes! The Werewolf of Andes!

Close by in Nassau County was Lake Success, a beautiful crystal clear lake surrounded by Deepdale Golf Course, where we would sneak into two small ponds, snorkel & dive, retrieve errant golf balls for later sale to the golf addicts, and into some large McMansions and a tall but easily scalable cyclone fence. The lake was a long bicycle ride from Queens Village, but well worth the trip, especially if you could grab onto a passing truck on Union Turnpike. Hide the bike, over the fence, strip down to bathing suit, stash your clothes, blow up your old tire inner tube, and paddle out to a secluded corner next to a swampy area, set out fishing line with a single hook embraced by a worm, and catch whatever. On a very early summer morning I noticed a softball floating close by. Eager to retrieve it, I paddled over, when suddenly it blinked. This was not what I thought, but the head of a humongous snapping turtle 75 to a 100 pounds with a shell that looked to be 3 feet in diameter. A rather rapid retreat to shore, never again to enter the waters of Lake Success. A snapping turtle that big was better at keeping a young trespasser at bay than any cyclone fence.

Happening now, “breaking news,” well about two weeks ago a white cloud rose up in front of me as I wheeled around the Pepacton Reservoir on Route 30. It turned out to be a flock of snow buntings, for me a rare species, having identified only one under my feeder many years ago. It stood out sharply amongst a group of black eyed juncos and, initially and mistakenly, I thought it a leucistic junco. Snow buntings, according to Sibley’s Field Guide, are known to flock and sweep close to the ground, which this sighting validated. They are now most likely on their way north, journeying to the high-Arctic rocky tundra, their nesting ground.

Continuing the “breaking news,” Nancy just observed a mink run across the front stone wall, bypassing a deer under the bird feeder, where neither took note of the other, apparently nothing to be feared by each. The mink then disappeared below a small waterfall and bounded on down the water course where it encountered a still semi-iced-over pond. Did it dive in? Will it find sustenance? Maybe hibernating or just awakening frog or crayfish?

The EDG or Emotionally Disturbed Grouse did not show two days prior to the big snow. Today, March 28, the first day out since being housebound, he responded and was apparently quite hungry as he was up on my knee before I could grab a handful of birdseed. He managed to down three handfuls. On another note, sadly both the intrepid PIB or the Physically Injured Bluejay and the male cardinal either did not survive the snowstorm or just decided to move on. I miss them both. I was notified by our very observant Andes Post Office personnel that a bald eagle was seen floating over our Andes School. I wonder if it was searching for a mate or nest site or just interested in quality education.

Now it is April 13th, and two evenings previous the EDG has discovered my house and has paid visits seeking me out for a handout. Yesterday I was moving some heavy brush into piles for rabbitat and there he was pestering and whacking my ankles with his wings to get my attention. Is there somewhere near Andes a home for mentally deranged birds or the bird brained? Enough about this feathered psycho. It is spring and we are now awakened mornings by the cacophony of honking Canada geese and turkey gobbling and if you are reading this on May 1 there may be some booming as it is opening day of turkey season.

“If you enjoy solitude you will not be lonely.”~