wildlife


We have been lucky enough to have a pair of American Kestrels hanging around our property.  Also called sparrow hawks, these beautiful little birds of prey are favored by falconers.

Their favorite perch is the electrical wires that run the length of our property, and the ornamental pear trees that form an alle’e along our 900 foot driveway.

They will fly away as soon as the car approaches, almost racing it down the driveway  to the house.

In mid January, I was very surprised to see one of the pair sitting on our deck bird feeder. They have never come this close! In fact, the whole time the kestrel was puffed up in the falling snow, a tiny junco was underneath, on the floor, literally not moving– and doing his best to remain invisible! The kestrel diet consists of mice, voles, other small rodents, larger insects, and the occasional small bird.  I could almost see the junco heave a giant sigh of relief when the kestrel left!!! The junco can be seen  in the photo below, in the lower pot hanging on the railing.

The kestrel sat, surveyed the scene, and called to its mate.   I was very glad to have been able to see it up close and relatively still.

About a month later, as we were leaving the house, my daughter went out first, then came back in telling me there was something outside that, in one way,  I was not going to be happy about, but in another way, I would!

I followed her outside, and there outside the garage door, between 2 vehicles, was one of the kestrels, dead.

She was right, I was very sad about this, but happy that I would be able to inspect one at close range.

Being a bird of prey, it is against the law to keep him, but since he was right in front of the garage door, he had to be removed. I did take this opportunity to photograph, measure, and weigh him (for a future watercolor) .

I should have been a naturalist, I am fascinated by all things in nature, dead or alive. Death allows closer inspection.

This (and future posts) will include these discoveries- so if you don’t like dead things – heed my warnings, and go no further!!!

This poor kestrel, appears to be a male – males have a  spotted breast, females, streaked- another thing you can’t really see as they go zooming by!!  His dead weight was 3.8 oz, and breast bone was not pronounced, so he did not seem to have been starving. His weight fell on the lighter side of their usual weight range of 80g-156g, but still within the parameters.

After watching a documentary on falconers, it was interesting to learn that the handlers weigh their birds before each hunt, because if their weight is a tad too high, it will affect their hunting abilities.  So, as in the wild, the falcons have to be careful not to overeat.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered the beak was split in half. At first glance, I thought maybe he had crashed into the truck or garage while diving for food, but the break appears to have been there quite a while. Despite this deformity, he seemed to have managed quite well, up until that day!

The claws were quite impressive – for clutching dinner on the fly!

He almost appeared to have a lower lid that would come up to cover the eye.

Not a large bird, the kestrel measured 10″ from head to tail, wingspread from shoulder to shoulder was 6″ , wing tip to tip about 14″. Shoulder to wing tip was about 7  1/2″.  He had about 8 or 9 tail feathers, his lower leg from elbow to toe was about 2″.

Except for the split on the top, his beak seemed fully functioning and in good shape.

It looks like a total of 7 primary flight feathers on each wing.

A beautiful little bird,  I would have loved to preserve him – but it is against the law to have one, dead or alive, without proper license.

Since his death, I have not seen his mate. Hopefully, if she survives, and finds another life partner, she will return with him to our property.

 

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All is well, and never dull, here at Mountain Meadows this bright, sunny March morning……………………..

I first became enamoured of rural living when I was a child.

We lived on suburban Long Island, and grandma and poppy had a “country house”.  I longed for the summer, and the opportunities to go spend a week upstate, in the country!

It might only be for a week-  if I was lucky, I got to go for longer or several times over the course of the summer.

The most noise I ever heard there, was the deafening din of the crickets, and the cicadas’ hot summer song. The whippoorwill at night, and the occasional caterwauling of a bobcat were the evening sounds that lulled us to sleep.

So, when the opportunity arose, as an adult, to move to “the country” – we jumped at it and delved right in to our version of country living!!!

We are at the foot of the National Forest and couldn’t be happier!

Surrounded by farms, there are different types of night noises, and day time odors- something I never experienced in my childhood days upstate!

The sound of the river, after a rain, is one of the most peaceful sounds I know.

At night, we fall asleep to the hooting of an owl, and are awakened at dawn by the rapping of a woodpecker searching for breakfast.

On the down side, summers here bring the less than pleasant aroma of cow and chicken manure, and the flies that accompany that odor!

Autumn arrives with the sounds of gunfire- hunting season – one plus AND minus of living near the National Forest – or any wooded area out here!!!

Last night, the lowing, moaning, bellowing and constant mooing of the cows across the road, indicated that the calves had been separated from their mothers. I can look forward to that sad sound for a couple of days.

Two nights ago, the eerie yapping of a fox woke me from a sound slumber. He, or she, was pacing the treeline outside my bedroom window, vocalizing at the top of his/her lungs. I call it screyapping- it’s an unforgettable combination of screaming and yapping.

Deer speak also – usually only when scared- and as a warning to their herd. It’s also an unforgettable sound- a combination huffing screeching noise. Certainly worked on me, the first time I heard it at close range!!!

What I am hearing now, is the tapping of a chickadee or tufted titmouse as he opens sunflower seeds. The birds have discovered a wire planter on the deck is a handy implement for opening seeds. So, they perch, pound, and eat- all morning long! This sound is accompanied by the whistle of wings. The mourning doves have a distinctive sound when they flap their wings. That, along with their cooing, is a soothing sound I never tire of !

Although not as quiet as the sounds of the country of my youth, the sounds of this “country” have become music to my ears. Far from the cacophony of urban  living, the sounds that emanate from this Gap area, have become dear to my heart. I hope we never leave…………………………..

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Hoof & Feather Breakfast Bar!

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All is well at Mountain Meadows this brisk and sunny November morning….

….to hear about the rescue pony. When the husband heard there were two available, he said why not just take them both!!! Woohoo!! I am still waiting to get a call back- am getting a little anxious. But, I guess, if it was meant to be, it will………………..

Since I was waiting around for the call, I was trying to decide what to do with myself today. I did the barn chores, took blankets off the horses, ran to the PO, and fed the feral cat.

I was not too happy to see the feral cat was limping. After he ate, a young groundhog made his way along the tree line and headed right for where the cat was sitting. The cat stared him down for a minute, then arched his back like a Halloween cat and took off. The groundhog scurried under the grape vines and disappeared.

So, spring is indeed upon us – almost!!!! The weather will be getting warmer each day thru Sunday, I saw two robins last week and one in my driveway this morning. And, the groundhogs have come out of hibernation! Of course, upon hearing that, when he came home from work, the husband changed out of his uniform, and got the rifle. He looked not unlike a tall, thin Elmer Fudd, stalking the elusive young groundhog.

I am not too happy about the hunting of the groundhogs, but they are sooo prolific, and manage to get in my garden, despite the electric fencing, and the garbage can sized holes they leave  in the fields, are just too dangerous for the horses.

On my to-do list today was: dye wool, plant bulbs, clean house- in no particular order. Being of scattered mind, and waiting for that phone call, I did none of those!!!

I did take a walk tho – the weather was beautiful, and I decided to go down where the deer hang out, to see if I could find any antlers. I crisscrossed the field, and checked every rubbed tree and flattened area where the deer bed down. I checked all the trails, but to no avail. I did take a few pictures tho – there was a flock of ducks that managed to get away from my camera 3 times on my walk.

Not my neighborhhod deer!

Not my neighborhood deer!

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Downed tree trunk

Downed tree trunk

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One of the old pieces of farm equipment left behind...

One of the old pieces of farm equipment left behind...

All is well at Mountain Meadows tonite……………………..

Everyone knows, strange things happen on the eve of a full moon. Ask any cop on the beat, the nuts are out, the arrests are up, it’s bound to be an interesting night!

Of course, on the farm, full moon occurrences are a lot milder by comparison! Planting schedules are done by the moon, and I suppose late night hunting is easier by the light of the moon.

Our moonlight madness was an uprising in the mouse colony that lives in the barn! I don’t mind the mice, no barn is complete without them!!! Could be worse – I could have rats!!! I much prefer tiny mice!

I have admitted to leaving little snacks around for the mice. They are  already there, so I might as well distract them from gnawing on other things!!! Whenever I feed the horses, I leave a tiny snack of carrot shavings or a few kernels of corn on the ledge. The ledge that runs around the barn wall, is the main mouse highway -a  rodent runway for the little critters.

Indiscriminate in their bathroom habits, the ledge has to be swept off from time to time. The mice have become used to me, and I them, little shadows scurrying around while I am there, trying to keep out of my way, waiting for their treat.

Well, the other day, I was remiss in leaving the treat. Tonite, I walked in the barn, and the odor of mouse urine was definitely hanging in the air. In an apparent late night retaliatory maneuver, the mice got together, and decided to help themselves to their midnite snack! I had brought home a 50 lb bag of horse feed, and did not put it right into the metal containers. Big mistake!!!

Two almost perfectly round quarter sized holes were gnawed in the bottom of the paper feed bag- and there was a nice mound of feed on the barn floor! I can just picture the mice, working in a tandem chewing frenzy, working their way to 50 lbs of heaven!!

The shadows were scurrying along the ledge, while I cleaned up the mess. I did leave some of their bounty as a largesse- it was of no use to me anymore.  As I said earlier, mice ‘potty’ whenever and wherever the mood strikes them – if you get my drift!!!

The feed is now safely stored in the tightly covered metal bins, the paper feed sack discarded in the trash, and the carrot shavings left in the usual spot. All the horse blankets are safely hung up, and everything that is chewable, or nest worthy is hopefully out of reach of the mice!!! I’ve given them a roof over their heads and shelter from the elements – the least they could do is respect my property!!!!

Two of the brazen li’l perpetrators below!


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The evidence!!!!

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This was a great moon shot – on the camera!! But I am not technically savvy enough to know how to show that on here!!! Definitely need a better camera……….

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Part of the famed rodent ‘highway’ – time to call in the street sweeper!!!!!

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All is well at Mountain meadows tonite – by the light……..of the silvery moon……..

I was blog surfing this morning and found some new ones – at least new to me!!!

Angela Cartwright’s has always been a fav – http://www.acartwrightstudio.blogspot.com and I found some interesting links on hers.

She made a recent visit to the LACMA and its Broad Contemporary Art Museum- if you ever go to LA, this is a must see!!! Click on those links and check out Angela’s new shadow stamps!!! There was a big crafters/artists show at the Shriner Auditorium- you can see some pix from that on her blog also.

There is also a link to the Vanity Fair website- there are some wonderful vintage Vanity Fair covers – from my favorite period – 1913 to the mid 1930’s!!!

Turn on the sound and visit Bristol McDonald’s website – http://bristolequinephotography.com– a subject near and dear to my heart!!!

Bristol is a talented photographer and supporter of the few remaining wild horse herds in the US. You don’t have to be a horse lover to enjoy these photos!

Well, back to blog surfing- to see what else I can discover!!!!

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All is well, and truly November weather has arrived, at Mountain Meadows this morning………………..

https://ooglebloops.wordpress.com/2008/11/12/christmas-memories-giveaway/

Don’t forget – we are waiting to hear your favorite holiday memories-random drawing on December 1st!!!

We were pulling in the driveway, after a lovely Sunday morning jaunt to Lowes for lumber (I do sooooo love going to Lowes with the husband – and after each trip, I swear that will be the last time!!), when expletives burst from the mouth of the husband.

Whenever we come home, the trip down the 900 foot gravel driveway is always slow. First, husband has to comment that he HAS to reset the sign post- it’s crooked! To the average “joe”, and I, driving down the road, the sign looks fine! Next, he must visually inspect all of the 36 ornamental pear saplings he planted himself- every day!!! Granted, he planted them, and babied them along, and they have done well. Someday, they will become a picturesque canopy for the driveway!

But today- several of his trees were scarred!!! It appears the deer have been snacking on the bark! But, upon closer inspection, they are rubbing their antlers on the tender bark!!! It’s only on the lower part of the trees, where they would lower their heads and scratch that itchy velvet off! That would explain why the dogs have been barking the past couple of nights – at things they see but I can’t!!! The deer were out front!

We have just started putting out cracked corn for the evening visitors- prior to seeing them rubbing on the trees!!! Hopefully, the corn will redirect them to the rear of the house and away from the 36 little trees!!

We’ll have to leave a corn ‘crumb’ trail from the front to the bonanza pile of corn out back!!!

I told the husband he should just get some 1/4 inch mesh or chicken wire and wrap the tree trunks, to prevent further damage. He’d already thought of that – but is not looking forward to wrapping all those trees!!! And, he’s in a limited time frame. He is due to go in for rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder, the Tues before Thanksgiving, and has his right wrist in a brace – work related injury! So, there he is, out with the tractor, and a huge roll of wire I just hoisted into the bucket, cutting mesh “chain mail” to protect his trees from the marauding deer! He can cut and wrap without affecting the shoulder or the wrist!

And, by the way, having dogs pee on trees- contrary to popular opinion or old wive’s tale- does NOT keep deer away!!! Our dogs do that on a regular basis – obviously, it does not work!!!

It’s just another Sunday afternoon- and windy, sunny and pretty darn cold!! I better get off the computer and make up a hot lunch – the husband is going to need it when he is done with his trees!!

All is well at Mountain Meadows today……..

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https://ooglebloops.wordpress.com/2008/11/12/christmas-memories-giveaway/

Don’t forget to share your favorite holiday memory, and be entered in the random drawing! I am putting the goodie box together, and it’s nice!!!!! Winner will be picked December 1st!!

 

Rain, rain....

Rain, rain....

 

It’s another not quite November-like morning again. The rain fell most of the night, keeping the temperatures higher than is normal for this time of year! The other night we had an inch and a 1/4 of rain. I put blankets on the horses, because it was rather chilly that night. The blankets have been laid out in the barn for two days drying!!! I HAVE to get a blanket rack installed!!! I have them draped over trash cans and bins, and have to keep shaking them out, to prevent the mice from taking permanent residence!!! It doesn’t take those little buggers long to find a snug place to call their own!! Everything in the barn that we DON’T want mouse holes in is hung on the wall whenever possible!

The little mice have become quite brazen- they scurry just out of reach whenever I enter the barn, but within a few minutes, their tiny little heads with big black eyes are watching my every move – waiting for a crumb to fall. I think they have become accustomed to the tiny slivers of apples or carrots I leave for them in the winter. I confess, I am my own worst enemy!! We would have mice in the barn anyway, but leaving little snacks for them just invites their friends and neighbors!!!

One little field mouse got trapped in a plastic bin the other day. It’s not the first time – their curiousity gets the better of them sometimes!  Apparently, this little guy had been checking out the horse blanket (see, I told you!), and slipped into the bin it was draped over. I never noticed him until it was almost too late!!! I came back from the co-op with two 50 lb bags of horse feed, and was just about to drop one of the bags into the bin. I happened to notice mouse droppings, so grabbed the bin to shake it out. There in the corner was a tiny little field mouse, staring up at me. That was a close call!!! He was pretty calm about the whole situation,not realizing how close he came- until I took the bin outside. Then he was attempting an escape, which had been, and was, futile, due to the slippery plastic of the bin. I gently tipped his prison over, he took one look over his shoulder and was gone!!! Running from one spot to another – always stopping in a place that shielded him from overhead view- til he made it back to the barn!!! Their survival instinct keeps them in ‘duck and cover’ mode whenever they are outside!

They have good reason to be so careful- their place in life is to be little hors d’oeuvres in motion for snakes, and winged predators.

Just this morning, I heard the ‘screee’ of one of our resident hawks. I couldn’t see him, but he was having breakfast somewhere nearby! The daughter has seen him more than I – she says he regularly swoops down past the front window, getting breakfast off the front fields. His diet does not include the birds who visit my feeder. I have seen mourning doves sharing the view from the telephone lines with the hawk- they and the hawk are lined up down the line – and he pays them no mind! The blue jays take time out from their meal to scream obnoxiously and divebomb him- their bravado quite impressive – considering what those hawk’s talons could do to the jays, if he was so inclined!

Thursday evening’s rain left an almost impermeable fog draped over Mountain Meadows and the whole Gap area. This morning’s fog was washed out by last night’s rain, a few remnants still caught on the tips of the mountains. The balmy air will probably last thru today, and that wind eerily whistling by, will drag in the typical November weather.

After running the morning errands, and feeding the horses, today will probably be a good day to help the husband clean the basement. The neighbor is giving us a huge woodstove he no longer needs, and we have to clear the clutter away! When installed, that basement stove, should heat the entire downstairs, with vents sending heat to the main floor. I am looking forward to that!

 

Time to get off the computer, and get on with the day!!!

All is well at Mountain Meadows this wet Saturday morning…………………

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Don’t forget – leave a comment about your favorite Christmas memory, and be entered the random drawing on December 1st, for a wonderful free goodie box!!

 https://ooglebloops.wordpress.com/2008/11/12/christmas-memories-giveaway/

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