By Jack McShane

From the kitchen window with coffee in hand, enjoying housebound comfort, I have observed some interesting winter wildlife interactions. With the flock of eleven turkey regulars under and in the proximity of the feeder loaded with a mix of cracked corn and black oil sunflower seed (the overflow being the attraction), I was very surprised to see them take no heed as a mink ran from a stone wall toward them and then away. They obviously were aware of him but showed absolutely no interest or fear. The mink continued toward some spruce trees and the back of the pole barn giving me concern for the rabbit that I know lives under the brush hog stored there. In a minute the rabbit came racing out and passed the feeding and non-heeding turkeys to take refuge in a thicket of briar, no mink in pursuit. Lucky bunny! Another morning. Similar setting. This time it was an approaching black squirrel and, although the turkeys did show what I would call disdain and maybe fear, the squirrel went about his business: climbing the tree and leaping onto the feeder. The turkeys don’t seem to know that it is the squirrel that opens the spigot releasing their manna from heaven. More on the turkeys: I was very surprised to watch two big toms in full strut amongst the seeming oblivious hens on Christmas morning. Are they nuts? Spring mating season is months away, I suggest they cease and desist saving their energy and calories to survive the winter.

There are some things that I read that I feel I must share with those who have similar interests and take their precious time to delve into “Fieldnotes”: As reported in the news magazine The Week: “A Rhode Island town has been terrorized by a belligerent wild turkey for six months. It stands guard outside the town hall and rushes anyone trying to go inside. He has stopped traffic, trapped people in their cars with vicious pecking and chased pedestrians down the street. He has learned to recognize the animal control officer’s car and has raced away from every capture attempt.” Fieldnotes suggestion: Forget capture. Pop him, gut him, pluck him, wrap him up and donate to the local food bank. Ended. Done. Fieldnotes, too tough or just realistic?

Now as I write this close to the Gazette deadline, I notice that just recently the turkeys have stopped feeding in our area and there seem to be more flocks along the Tremperskill Road. Perchance they heard my answer to the problematic aggressive dude. Two other avian species that this year seem to be in decline are our mourning doves and black-eyed juncos. Both are ground feeders, dependent on the overflow of the feeder. In past years there would be at least a dozen or so of each; now there is but one of each, although just recently the single dove has been joined by another, a good sign. I have been watching the bald eagle nest on what I call the Dingle Hill Bluff on my travels along Route 30. The nest broke down several years ago and apparently has not been used since. This winter I have noted the odd eagle perching nearby, and twice a pair standing shoulder to shoulder alongside the nest, yet no sign of rebuilding. I have my fingers crossed for a rebuilding and renesting.

Speaking of eagles, the following is from the Franklin Mountain Hawkwatch 2018 Season Wrapup: “This year was notable for the large concentrated movement of golden eagles in the second half of October. From October 16th throughout the end of the month, 250 of these large raptors were tallied, far surpassing even the total season average for the species. Over half of this count came on October 25th, when counters and visitors spotted 128 Golden Eagles, a single day record for eastern North America. The previous single day high at Franklin Mountain was 71 on November 11th, 2015, so the magnitude of this day cannot be overstated. The reason for this, which came two weeks before the traditional migration peak, is unknown.” This report bodes well for the success of the continuing golden eagle project that is right here in Andes, high on my hill for that matter. Stay tuned in.

A final perusing of the BBC: “In a theme park in France six intelligent crows have been deployed to pick up small bits of rubbish. They deposit the litter into a small box which then delivers some bird food as a reward for their work.” Fieldnotes: Let’s train our bald and golden eagles to do the same along our roads and save our volunteer road-cleaning bag ladies time in the spring. ~