Community, Wildlife

On the Road and Around the Pond

Oh the Road & Around the Pond

This is an exciting time of year as we await the appearance of babies. We have does with rounded bellies. We have yet to see a fawn.  The fall burning of tree stumps around the yard resulted in holes and burrows that were not always filled before winter set in.  An opportunistic skunk moved into a burrow created by the removal of a tree root. Looking out the kitchen window we spotted 4 baby skunks. The babies are really cute but not particularly welcome.

He goslings are starting to color.  The ducks paused to finally get their portraits. We have spotted only a handful of tadpoles. Those tadpoles are steadily growing. The turtles are on the move and on the road. We noticed a neighbor stopping to carefully remove a turtle on the road to the safety of a grassed area.

A pair of whopping cranes are occasionally stopping to hunt in the field. The coyote is hunting in the field and along the road. The feral cats are making regular treks along the road. -Patches

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Wildlife

My first days in Trego

This past week held the anniversary of my moving up to Trego to join my wife, Sam… As such, it also held the anniversary of my meeting the best firearm evangelists I’ve yet encountered.

The bears.

The two delinquent bruins, about a month before I moved up to Trego.
Note the radio collar on the left bear – both have them.

A year ago, I wrapped up my Masters Degree project, describing several new species of Kentucky cave beetles, and began the long drive out to Trego, MT. I believe it was the evening of my second day here in Montana that they introduced themselves…

Just as Sam and I were settling in for the evening, we received a panicked phone call from her mother. She was sufficiently agitated for me to hear her some distance from the phone… As it turned out, Sam’s father, Mike, had stepped out onto the porch to shout at couple of gangly young grizzlies, encourage them to get a bit further from his house. But he had a little overweight Pomeranian who had other ideas – she sprinted out the door past him, intent on getting between him and the bears. Despite the size disparity, she startled those bears and made them run… And, as they were running, she pursued them, a good 300-some feet.

Mike couldn’t let her be alone out there with them, so he ducked back inside, grabbed some slippers & the nearest firearm, and headed out after his wee beastie. It’s at this point in time that Sam’s mother called. Sam hurriedly grabbed the keys and produced a couple of guns. She passed me one which I straightaway handed back to her.

At this point in my life, I’d never fired a gun before, and I’m somebody who believes in doing things well. I thought I’d have better combat utility with a walking stick, and took a promising one.

So, off the two of us flew, leaving our own irate wee beastie behind us. Sam at the wheel, bouncing the truck down the old road to her folks. As we arrived the two young delinquent grizzlies were reconsidering their flight from a certain overweight Pomeranian… but they backed off as we raced up in the truck.

Sam passed me her gun, and bailed out to catch the overweight Pomeranian (who refused to get behind Sam’s father), and we retreated back to her folks’ house. While Mike’s seven rounds of 22 weren’t great comfort with two bears at close range… it was a sight better than my walking stick.

The next day we could see the bears from our house, as they enjoyed a neighbor’s water feature. It took about a week for Fish & Game to trap them, and all the while I was waking up to nightmares of bear home invasion. As soon as they were captured and removed from the area, I began learning to shoot. One could scarce ask for better motivation, and I practiced devoutly.

Shortly after our first sighting of grizzlies this year, I had another dream about them staging a home invasion. This time, I was armed, and the dream ended much better for us. While I’d hate to have to shoot one, it’s nice to be capable of doing so, if need be.

Wildlife

Neighbors with similar interests.

Yesterday as I was working at tearing apart some dilapidated buildings for building material, I came across an unexpected find. A bat – genus Myotis, I think. Sheltered in one of the grooves of the roofing tin.

It’s always nice to find other folks who appreciate insects as much as I do. There’s enough insects to go around – I’ll not worry about this fellow’s competition. The bat seemed to be in good health, with no sign of White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease which has decimated North American bats.

White Nose Fungus is native to Europe, but was introduced to eastern North America about 15 years ago, and bat die-offs followed. At first folks thought that a certain European caver’s unwashed gear could be to blame, but now it’s thought that European bats might have spread the plague themselves, after immigrating to this country as stowaways on container ships.

Fortunately, native bats finally seem to be developing resistance to the disease… or rather, most of the susceptible bats have died, and the ones remaining tend to be of resistant stock.

Along with the bat were an abundance of leaf-footed bugs and paper wasps which attempted to overwinter with the roof as shelter. While some insects may have overwintered here successfully, the only ones remaining are those who didn’t quite manage.

The bat skittered away from the camera, and seemed to be trying to hiss at me, though I couldn’t quite hear the vocalizations. Then it winged away to take shelter in a nearby Douglas Fir, shortly before hail encouraged me to wrap up my roof demolition.

I’ll hope to see them again later this summer, diving for mosquitoes and mayflies in the gathering dusk.

Patches' Pieces, Wildlife

Around the Pond

New on the game cam this week is a badger.  The badger tends to be transitory with few Columbia grounds squirrels residing in the field to become dinner. The geese are being geese. The goslings are growing and hiking along the pond’s edge.  The turkeys are being camera shy.  The deer look like they need a good combing.-Patches

Wildlife

The Goslings Hatched

Each Spring, before the ice thaws in the pond, Goose and Gander return, to make sure that no other goose couple takes her nesting island.  In 2015, they were alone, and Gander worked to chase off all other nesting birds – the next year, some of the year-old goslings returned with them.  By now, he’s an old hand at this – about a half-dozen yearling geese and their consorts hang out in the big pond, and ducks nest along with Goose on her island. 

So we’re watching Goose, Gander, and eight offspring stroll and swim around.  The pond isn’t really ours.  It belongs to the waterfowl that use it as a place to raise their young.  We just get to watch them more than anyone else does.

This year she started her nest 3 days before the ice went out – and the hatching was spread out over two days and a night.  It was easy to observe – Gander came ashore to keep the goslings covered as Goose continued her nesting, and last year’s young geese circled the island and flew patrols overhead. 

Wildlife

Usually I don’t see Salamanders

We seem to have made a good location great for salamanders – ours are long-toed salamanders.  Despite being in a near-perfect location for salamanders, most of the time we don’t see them.  The information is online– and the field guide does a pretty good job explaining why we see them rarely.  They’re classified as “mole” salamanders, which kind of suggests they spend their time in the dirt rather than walking around on top of it.  I am pretty much just excerpting from the field guide – and I strongly suggest that if you ever notice one of these little guys around your house, you really want to read it. 

It explains how we built a great salamander environment by accident.  Stretching out a few logs in a stack gives a cool, shaded spot on top of moist soil – kind of a great place for a foraging mole salamander.  The pond, with its still water, provides a great place for laying eggs and hatching the little amphibians.

 Finally, leaving a thick piece of plywood alongside the dripline from the garage roof built a near-perfect mating location – covered by the plywood, and with wet, uncompacted soil, less than 100 yards from the pond.  The females will wander down to the pond, lay eggs, and along will come the next generation.

Wildlife

Frog Eggs and Toad Eggs

Spring seems to have finally arrived, and soon the pond will be full of little frogs. As it turns out, frog eggs and toad eggs are different, and far easier to tell apart than the tadpoles.

Toad eggs (left) and Frog Eggs (right), both from the pond, though the toad eggs are from a previous year.

Frog eggs typically form nice clumps. -this years batch are particularly muddy. Toad eggs, however, will generally be in strands. While the eggs will typically hatch within two weeks or so, it’s still possible to tell the difference in the next stage.

Tadpoles: The frog version will typically school. Eating eggs (or smaller tadpoles) is less common in frogs, and so there’s less reason to avoid the relatives. And, safety in numbers! After all, tadpoles are definitely small enough to be on the menu for dragonfly larvae.

Our local toad tadpoles seem to be far less inclined to form large schools. While not typically seen alone, they are generally doing their own thing and not associated with other tadpoles. Since toad tadpoles are willing to consume pretty much anything smaller than them (including younger tadpoles), this makes some sense.

Other than using behavioral clues, toad tadpoles are somewhat stockier than the frog tadpoles. It is, all things being equal, far easier to make the identification from the eggs.