Not So Cheerful News

RIP Big Red. You were a good guy.

When I went to feed the chickens yesterday, for the first time since I got back from vacation, I was sad to see that one of the latest victims to our resident owl was Big Red, the rooster with the red eyes. He just loved sunflower seeds, and Mandi said she realized he was gone when no one came to the stable for their treats.

I’m really sad about the chicken situation, though we did get the first egg in many weeks yesterday. The only way to keep the owl out would be to cover the chicken yard, but it’s not my chicken yard, and the person who built it is not interested in adding netting. Plus, my house is too far away to keep an eye out on the poor things.

Here’s Buckbeak and the hens back when we actually had white ones.

That leaves me and Mandi with the not-so-fun task of coming in every few days to find we are down another chicken. I feel like it’s sort of cruel to subject them to nightly terror like that. I am also not thrilled with having to dispose of them, even though I am trying to be the “tough ranch person.”

Before you ask, the chickens are much too old to eat, not that I want to eat them; that’s why they are now MY chickens. My former co-owner wanted to make them into sausage, and I didn’t. Who knows, maybe he had the better idea after all.

So, if you would like a nice chicken, I have a variety to choose from. We still have a few Americaunas, some red ones, some black ones, and two black-and white ones. And Buckbeak, the older rooster, is still with us.

I don’t have any chicken transportation devices, but I’d give you food and stuff if you want to get them. I am sure they will start laying again soon, now that the days are getting longer and if they aren’t so worried about owls. I really like these guys, as you can see in my first chicken post.

It’s illegal to kill an owl, you know. I learned that in Master Naturalist Class! I’d just prefer not to provide them with so much food. There are plenty of free doves out there.

Future Plans

Both Mandi and I want chickens, so I hope to be able to get a secure chicken house with a large covered run closer to my house. Alfred might be able to help guard them, and it would be easy for me to lock them inside at night. Mandi hopes to put a chicken house on her property, too. I hope this is soon. I miss sharing eggs with my coworkers.

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A Grand Welcome Home

cranes
Sandhill cranes, just passing through. Loudly.

We returned to the ranch over the weekend, with zero seconds of downtime, but we jumped right into the swing of things and enjoyed visitors, both human and otherwise.

Flying Friends

The most glorious visitors were just passing through. Many flocks of sandhill cranes flew over. We also saw a few snow geese. I just love the sounds of the cranes!

blue_heron
One of my favorite neighbors.

While I was taking crane pictures, two blue herons squawked, so I got nice close photos of them. Of course, they are blurry iPhone pictures, but some day I’ll get a new battery and learn to use the good camera again!

There have also been a lot of visiting starlings, which we don’t usually have. One thing I’ve noticed about them is that they make lots and lots of noise when they are all lined up on the electric wires, but when they take off as a flock to rearrange themselves, they are totally silent. It’s really eerie when you are standing around in the field listening, and suddenly all you hear are the coyotes.

bluet
These are so delicate.

Most of the dragonflies are gone, but we did see a lovely bluet by the small meadow pond. These sure are pretty. They curve their bodies where you see the stripes.

turtle
Why won’t the turtle play with me? (You can sort of see it in the grass.)

More “Friends”

Because it’s rained so much (have I mentioned that? Lots of flooding while we were gone), animals seem to be wandering around. Yesterday, Carlton the dog found an extra large pond turtle in the middle of the pasture. He was most dismayed that it would not come out and play, so he stood there for 15 minutes and barked at it, poking it with his nose a lot. Treats had to be used to save that poor turtle from the torture.

water snake
This dirty part of the porch is where we harmless snakes like to hang out. I want to date this electric cord.

And later yesterday, I once again spotted a large snake on the front porch, in the icky dirty part, of course. I was pretty convinced it was a water mocassin, but the folks at iNaturalist talked me down, and asssured me it was a water snake trying to look like a poisonous one. I am pretty sure this is the same snake I’ve seen over by the pond. It hisses. We kept the dogs away, and it slowly meandered off.

Our house guest was not thrilled that we didn’t kill it. I repeated a number of times, “I don’t kill snakes.” I do understand many people aren’t good with them. My dad sure wasn’t! He’d kill them 3 or 4 times!

scorpion
It’s a scorpion, all right. Small.

In the early evening, we found our first scorpion at the ranch. It was pre-dead, so we didn’t have to do anything to it. We used to see lots more in our house in the karst area of Williamson County

Not Friends at All

We apparently have a visitor over to the chicken coop who is not our friend. It has killed at least 4 of the chickens (at least two roosters, who were probably trying to defend the flock). It gets them IN the chicken coop. Yet another reason for them not to lay eggs in there!

The Neighbor is sure it’s an owl. I think it might be a bobcat, since both hunt at night. A cat could get in there easily from the tree, then scale the fence to get out.

sheep
Leave us ALONE! We just want to eat grass. And escape from these non-sheepproof fences.

Something also went after the four new sheep the Neighbor brought in, and one of them lost a LOT of wool and some flesh, but seems OK. We are hoping the culprit is not the cabin occupant’s dog, who went after the sheep when he first saw them, so they don’t want to leave the pen to eat in the pasture.

Nice of all these creatures to wait until I got home to show up, isn’t it?

 

Guest Observations from California

burrow3After my post about the squirrels┬álast week, my friend Matt Hickner began telling me about his own wildlife experiences at his relatively new home in Bakersfield, California. They don’t have tree squirrels there (not really any trees, as its a desert). But they do have ground squirrels and friends.

Since Matt’s house was recently constructed in a new neighborhood, there are quite a few empty lots nearby, featuring lots of dry grasses and dirt, which give him prime critter viewing opportunities.

A couple of days ago, he posted this on Facebook:

In the vacant lot across from my house are burrows that the local ground squirrels dug. These burrows were also a great temptation for the endangered Western Burrowing Owls to occupy. I can see all of this activity from my home office so I clicked a few pictures of them this morning.

Yes, burrowing owls! I’ve always been fond of those, since they were the mascot of the school my brother and my friend Anita went to (Florida Atlantic University, all the way across the US from Matt).

burrow1
Borrowing owl keeping watch.

I checked with my friends at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and sure enough, both those places are year-round burrowing owl habitat. Apparently the eastern burrowing owls have more white spots than the western ones, but they are the same species.

Continue reading “Guest Observations from California”