Archive for May, 2013

Wild Life on the Gopher Trail

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Snapper in our Pond

In its second spring, a growing variety of wild life has become accustomed to the cabin, making my downstairs office a sort of wildlife blind (one that happily includes cold beer and Internet access). A constant stream of wild animals have been parading past my sliding door.

The groundhogs have been the most aggressive of the bunch, wandering across the cement pad that comprises the lower porch, chewing on the Weber grill cover, sampling the taste of my floor mat, knocking over the broom, and curiously staring into my office. Several of these annoying and destructive steroidal rats were hurried back towards their burrow with the assistance of Sir Stinger of CCI. One volunteered to help feed nesting buzzards’ hungry chicks. A couple squirrels were sighted, apparently planning on chewing up some window caulk.  The show isn’t just about hungry rodents.  A turkey hen strutted past my glass door two mornings in a row. Last year’s disappointed phoebes have found comfortable nesting niches on the cliff face of our front porch.

The pond has been incredibly active with fish, fowl, and a never-ending stream of reptiles. After a long winter, when they depart to parts unknown, its always reassuring to see the bluegills and bass sunning themselves just under the surface.  We often see a snapping turtle, but this is the first year that I’ve seen two at the same time: a big one and a ginormous one, both covered with layers of gunk that would embarrass some of the less aggressive turtles, two of which spent most afternoons neatly sunning on a rock on the far side of the pond.  Hoping for an extended turtle dance, the two snappers mostly ignored each other, with only one very short turtle-in-your-face-wiggle-the-flappers moment. One day, I saw a black snake quickly swim across the width of the pond.

Freshly Landed Geese

There were some wood ducks and mallards, but not anywhere near as many as earlier in the year.  The small and agile ducks don’t seem to have much trouble dealing with our relatively short landing field, although I find it somewhat disconcerting to even consider that ducks would have claws, let alone seeing them sitting in trees. It just doesn’t seem natural.

Landing requires a much higher level of effort from the larger birds. I was walking around the back of the pond on a Sunday afternoon when a noisy pair of geese approached, gears down.  Sighting me just as they began their flare out, they set off the klaxons and pulled up, without touching water or tree. I was standing in front of the cabin when a blue heron arrived.  These slow and elegant fliers seem to struggle even more with our tree lined pond than do the geese.  He made a short field landing and spent a couple minutes near the painted turtles, before my telephone conversation disturbed him and he took off.  The smallest of the water birds, who takes our tight quarters in stride, the kingfisher, doesn’t seem to be a regular visitor yet this year.

Visibility is rapidly dwindling as the trees finishing leafing out, a magic process reversing the apparent shrinkage of Heiser Hollow that takes place every Fall when the leaves drop.  The ubiquitous buzzards were visible every day. Although mostly silent, their wings make a distinct swooping sound when they fly through our woods and across the pond.  A red-tailed hawk has been a regular visitor. One day I saw him dive on some hapless rodent, while a pair of mallards lazily snoozed only 20 feet away, seemingly oblivious to the carnivorous drama taking place just up the hillside. 

With the trillium in full bloom, and the ground carpeted with bluets and spring beauties, the season of life has returned to Heiser Hollow.