By Jack McShane

On January 11th, a day of an unusually warm temperature (57 degrees) and with all snow now gone, it was too perfect not to take a short walk around and check the local trails. It was muddy in places, but this did not deter my friendly EDG (the emotionally disturbed grouse) of finding me and looking for a handout. He marched nonchalantly toward me up the center of the trail, seemingly unaware of all the potential predators both avian and ground that could be lurking nearby. Two handfuls of sunflower seed and cracked corn were carefully scattered far off the trail so that he would be at least somewhat out of sight as he indulged with no apparent fear. He has been around for 4 years now and I remain very thoughtful of his safety, as his eventual demise one day will leave me in a state of sadness, if I am still around. A perfect example of the danger that is constantly out and about in the wild was what followed: As I continued on with my walk around, the local blue jays began a chorus way above and beyond their normal vocal expressions of agitation. It was quite obvious that something bad was happening. I continued on, the alarms eventually ceased and the forest went silent, real silent. Farther on I spotted a very light patch on the grassy lawn a short distance from the birdfeeder, and upon close inspection, the light spot turned out to be a mass of feathers, those of a very unlucky blue jay. No sign of the very successful predator or anything indicating its identity. My first thought was, oh well it was only a noisy blue jay; Whoa, not fair! A knee-jerk, demeaning and unfair vilification of this innocent creature. Could it have been the coopers hawk that I observed a month ago wreaking havoc and pandemonium amongst the flock? Don’t know. It was a long spell before the blue jays returned to the feeder, but not the audacious chickadees as they took advantage of the jay’s absence and also that of the unknown predator. This was a very graphic reminder that my very unwary grouse should take heed, something he appears not keen to do.

Speaking of the unwary grouse, we had a very unlucky female grouse hit one of our windows killing her instantly. She was heavily damaged and not in a condition for human consumption, so as usual around here where nothing goes to waste, she was wrapped and frozen to be used to attract some hungry wild critter to one of the trail cams. Not content to make her easy pickings I built a stone tomb for her interment. Amazingly, upon completion, with her body now interred my crazy friend walked across the frozen pond, jumped upon the stone tomb and looked around. Was he paying last respects to one of his girlfriends, now deceased and interred? And, if so, how did he learn she had passed and where she was? This we will never know. I shared some sunflower seeds and eventually we both went on our way, me wondering if the seeds eased his grief. No flowers. As time went on, I checked the tomb often. Something even more interesting happened. Freezing temperatures locked the stones of the tomb into the ground making it impossible for a carnivore to disassemble and acquire and feast upon the body. So there she remained for ten or so days. Then something very strange happened: The body was gone leaving the frozen tomb intact and still impenetrable. Could this be a Biblical phenomenon in the wild? I will let my readers decide that.

“Get up! You have to see this!” “What is it?” Aroused from my computer, Nancy was alerting me to a sight. On a sunny, relatively warm January morning I spied a very large coyote sitting on the lawn facing away apparently watching for some movement signaling a potential meal, or maybe just enjoying the view from a select and comfortable spot. It stayed immobile for maybe five minutes, then loped off and over a stone wall to wherever.

This got me wondering what such a large coyote would require to stay alive. Now a fisher, according to wildlife biologists, can get by on about one rabbit, a squirrel or two, or fourteen mice per week and a porcupine will sustain him for a month. A large coyote would need quite a bit more, I would say. His best bet: Find the location of the golden eagle project and raid it—plenty of venison.~

   “A brush with wild things no matter where leaves many of us yearning for more.”~