It’s Not This Time of Year Without….

It’s Not This Time of Year Without… making sure that the wildlife, particularly the birds and deer, that inhabit my property have enough food and shelter. My property has been designated as a National Wildlife Federation habitat. That just means that I have the resources on my land to sustain the needs of the wildlife. Water, food, shelter, and so forth. Since I live in the woods, it’s not hard to provide those resources although I do supplement the natural resources to make sure that there is enough for the wildlife that have been pushed into my land by land development all around us.

Since it is still autumn, the squirrels and chipmunks are busily gathering up the nuts that have fallen. The birds still have a few berries to eat. The deer eat both. But just the resources on my land is surely not enough for the plethora of wildlife that frequent my property — from deer, birds, and the small rodents to raccoons and the more exotic foxes and beavers.

Since I do live in a hardwood forest, I have many species of birds visiting my property, particularly woodpeckers. They require a special kind of food to get them through the winter.

The woodpeckers prefer suet that I hang in suet feeders from the trees. When the big pileated woodpecker is around (see picture at the top of the post), the suet vanishes rapidly because it is almost as big as a chicken. When all the species of the woodpeckers are feeding, I buy a lot of suet. They will also eat seeds and nuts from specialized types of hanging feeders. Not only do I have to have food out for the birds but water as well and I have to make sure it is not frozen in winter.

I have dozens of other species of birds. The ones that are here all the time are cardinals, finches of all types, nuthatches (who eat what the woodpeckers eat), thrushes, flickers, sapsuckers, mourning doves, wrens, juncos, and many others. This list is certainly not exhaustive. Many other birds pass through when they migrate. These birds love black-oil sunflower seed and safflower. The finches like thistle and the big blue jays love peanuts. Be careful if you buy mixed bird seed. It is usually full of filler.

I also provide shelter for the birds in the form of bird houses and plat

As for the deer, I provide them with salt and mineral blocks scattered around the property. I also make major purchases of field corn for them and there are often twelve deer at a time standing around the feeding troughs, does and bucks alike. I give them apples as we have them. Sometimes, I think the deer are going to walk right into the house if I’m late in feeding them. Hunting season thins the herd a bit but I have a very high deer population where I live. Raccoons share the corn with the deer.

For me, it surely isn’t this time of year without making sure these animals are well-fed, watered, and sheltered. We have taken their habitat and the least we can do is try to give a bit of it back to them. #amwriting #amblogging #writing #wildlife

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The Bobcat

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I sat straight up in bed in fear of my life. It was the middle of the night and something had just woken me up. I had just heard a woman scream – loudly. The thing is…..I lived alone at the time, in a wooded area with no close neighbors. Who in the world could have screamed?

I was afraid to get out of bed. But, I had a big dog that slept in his bed beside me. Murphy, an old shepherd/collie mix who I had rescued. Murphy was fiercely loyal to me and he was not a dog that you took lightly. There was no way to know what had happened to Murphy in the eight years of his life before I rescued him, but it wasn’t good. He came to me aggressive and a fear-biter. He hated men but would make up to women. Most of all, he loved me. He seemed to know I had saved him.

When I heard the scream, so, of course, did Murphy. He jumped up and immediately went to the door, about to tear it down. He wanted out. Murphy had guard instincts but mostly he was all about protecting me. My first thought was to keep him inside. I didn’t know what was going on. I was afraid someone was outside trying to break into my house. I was still half asleep. I couldn’t explain the scream.

Murphy overruled me. He showed no cowardice. Most dogs know no cowardice. Their instincts are to protect hearth, home, and master or mistress. I opened the door and let him out. Against my better judgement. In the dark, he took off in one particular direction, through the dark of my large backyard.

I had a dusk to dawn light in the backyard so it was somewhat lit up in one spot. It was heavily wooded as well. Murphy ran toward the spot that was somewhat lit up. That’s when I saw it. The bobcat. It was sitting on the lowest branch of a tree looking down. Murphy was running right for it.

Bobcats are more common in North America than we know. They are elusive. They stay hidden in the day and roam and hunt at night. They are carnivores and can kill prey much larger than they are, though they usually eat smaller animals such as rabbits, mice, and squirrels. They can be as large as 30 pounds. They are also called wildcats and are the most common of all of the big cats in North America. Since they are so elusive, most of us would be surprised to know that there are as many as one million bobcats in the U.S. alone.

But, the calling card of the bobcat is its scream. It sounds like a woman screaming. I remembered that when I saw the cat sitting in the tree with my dog running toward it.

I didn’t really think the cat would attack my dog. It was in a tree and would not feel particularly threatened. But, I had just been awakened in the middle of the night and was not thinking particularly straight. I started screaming for Murphy to come inside. Murphy as obedient. He stopped, looked around…..I don’t think he ever saw the bobcat but his nose was in the air and he smelled it. I’m confident if that bobcat had been on the ground he would have taken it on, thinking he was protecting me.

Dogs are really amazing creatures. They show only bravery under the most difficult of circumstances and no cowardice. They are man’s best friend. We should always treat them as such. #amwriting #writing #blogging #dogs #kyfishwildlife #dailyprompt

 

 

#weekendcoffeeshare 7/2/2016

 

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“Jenn, you’re early for coffee today, but come on in,” I called out as I saw Jenn walking toward my side door. I was glad to see her as I always am when she stops by for coffee. “Rosemary, it’s the Fourth of July weekend. I was afraid you wouldn’t be home,” Jenn said. I replied to Jenn that I had been gone earlier in the week but planned to stay home for the Fourth. My little dog, Betsy, is sometimes scared of the noise of fireworks so I wanted to be with her. She helped me finish the coffee and tea and we went out back to sit on the deck. We wanted to have a nice, long chat and morning brew.

“You’ll never believe what I saw as I drove up your mountain road,” Jenn said. “I saw a bald eagle sitting in the top of a tree along the road! The road rose up right at that spot and I was almost as high as the eagle and got a really good look. I didn’t think many bald eagles were around any more.”

“Oh, Jenn,” I said. “There are a few bald eagles around here now and many across the country.” That’s the way our #weekendcoffeeshare chat started today.

There is a big, wild lake close by where I live and nesting pairs of bald eagles have been spotted there. I told Jenn that there is one tree, probably the one she saw, along our mountain road, where I have also seen a bald eagle, probably one of those nesting pairs of birds. The bald eagle is a success story because it has been brought back from near extinction. By 2007, it was actually taken off the endangered species list.

It’s appropriate to talk about the bald eagle this Fourth of July weekend since it is America’s national bird. “Jenn, I said,” “Bald eagles are the only eagle that exists only in North America. But, we almost killed them off largely because we used DDT, an insecticide. This chemical caused damage to the eggs of the eagle. The eagle’s habitat was also damaged when the original forests were removed. The birds that the bald eagle eats were hunted and killed off. They had no food supply. Bald eagles were even shot because farmers thought they threatened their livestock.”

Jenn asked,”So, what happened to save the bald eagle?”

I replied, “First, we banned the DDT insecticide which went a long way toward protecting the bald eagle. Shooting them was also banned. When they were considered an endangered species, we protected their nesting sites and, in most places, still do. Their nests are used year after year by the eagles and weigh, sometimes, up to 4,000 pounds. As our pollution control laws took effect and our water quality improved, we started seeing more bald eagles. By 2007, there were enough so they were taken off the endangered species list. They are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the MIgratory Bird Treaty Act.”

Jenn said, “I’ve heard of bald eagles sometimes nesting in suburban neighborhoods.” “Yes,” I said. “From what I understand, there are so many now, they are competing for territory. The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife sometimes find them injured by other bald eagles because of this problem. In 1963, there were only 487 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the U.S. By 2006, there were over 9700.”

I said to Jenn, “Many people don’t realize that bald eagles are powerful, big, and that they are birds of prey. They are meat-eating birds. They usually live near lakes. They fish, eat roadkill, and steal the kills of other birds. Bald eagles can weigh up to about 14 pounds with a wing span of six to eight feet. They have been known to swoop down and pick up small dogs and cats out of backyards.”

The bald eagle has been America’s national symbol since 1782. The bald eagle had been seen as a sign of strength since ancient Rome. It started appearing on flags, documents, and gradually became associated with America and its spirit and strength.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! I hope you get to see a bald eagle! #writing #amwriting #blogging #FourthofJuly

*Image provide by therightclicks at Creative Commons

 

 

 

Whales: Prisoners for Entertainment

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Killer whales. Orcas. Synonyms for a single species. Both refer to the whale that is in the news right now. The whale from Seaworld that beached itself on the Canary Islands in a water park pool. Her name is Morgan and she is a captive who swims around all day in a concrete pen that is a fraction of the size of the territory she actually requires. Whales beach themselves when they are sick or hurt….or to die.

Orcas are not whales, though they look like a whale and that is what they are called. They are the largest species of dolphin. They have huge brains. They exhibit intelligence similar to the dolphins with which we are familiar and eerily similar to humans. Many animal species can pass along skills to their young which are generic in nature. In other words, birds pass along migratory routes. Big cats pass on hunting skills. But whales and dolphins go a step further. They can learn as individuals and pass individual knowledge on to their young — just like humans. Imagine a creature that intelligent swimming around all day in a pen that is tiny to them. Imagine a human being in a bathtub. Having to do tricks.

Many orcas exhibit self-destructive behavior when kept in captivity. They do things like repetitively bob their heads upwards and down. They swim faster and faster in small circles. At the Miami Seaquarium, there used to be two orcas. Lolita and Hugo. It has been reasonably well established that Hugo committed suicide in 1980 by repeatedly ramming his head into the walls of his tank until he died. Do we know for certain it was suicide? They can’t talk, at least not to us. I guess we can’t know for sure. But, no other cause was found. Some say Morgan, the whale that is in the news, was also attempting suicide.

The movie, Blackfish, is a documentary about an orca whale named Tilikum who killed his trainer while held in captivity, first at Sealand, then at Seaworld. Theories abound that whales held in captivity suffer from some sort of severe psychological trauma.

Orca whales, in the wild, swim around 100 miles per day and have a complex society. They live in several types of pod structures, all of which contain several generations of family, including children, parents, and grandparents. Their need for social interaction is high. Their needs cannot be met when held in captivity.

If we want to see orcas, why can’t we take whale-watching tours and go to them instead of making them come to us. If they come to us, they have to endure a life of captivity for which they are not suited. Seaworld announced this year that they would hold no more whales in captivity. It’s about time. Other marine parks should follow suit.

UPDATE: JANUARY 2017
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post on orca whales (SEE ABOVE), who are actually dolphins, and the problems they face in captivity, and Tilikum, the whale featured in the movie Blackfish. Blackfish is the movie that publicized the plight of the orca whales that are kept in captivity. The movie finally forced entertainment facilities like Sea World to stop using the orcas for entertainment purposes. They also stopped breeding them in captivity.

Tilikum recently passed away at the age of 36. He died from a persistent bacterial lung infection. Tilikum finally became aggressive in captivity and, in 2010, he killed a trainer at Sea World. He was implicated in the deaths of two others. There was actually sympathy for Tilikum because the stress of his captivity was seen as the major factor in his behavior. There have been reports of oracas trying to commit suicide in captivity as reported in the above-mentioned blog post.

After Tilikum died, the President of the Humane Society, was quoted as saying that his death meant the end of the orca captivity program. We can only hope. A much better alternative for us is to take whale-watching tours a few miles out into the ocean. RIP Tilikum.

*Image by Christopher Michel 2009 Born Free