Monday, February 16, 2009

More critters and varmints

Now that all the "less than desirables" are out of the way, I will show the other animals that we have seen in our gardens this year. This was an extraordinary year for seeing animals at our place. I think it was because of the drought conditions. Well, that and we have five ponds and a new bog garden, so that there is water for the wildlife. I did notice, after we built our first little pond, the immediate increase in bird life. I think every gardener should have a water feature, if for no other reason than to provide water for the birds and other animals. But water features do give a new array of plants to grow as well.

With ponds you can expect to have frogs, and we have frogs. Lots of frogs. Leopard frogs, little creek frogs and even an occasional bull frog. It can be loud at night with several different kinds of frogs peeping and croaking.

Add in the twitter of the Screech owls, a hoot hoot of the Great Horned owls and the weird sounds of the Poor Wills Widow and it's noisier than a honky tonk parking lot.

My friend Andy almost always has his camera with him, and it's a good thing he does. While visiting one day, a Great Horned Owl flew in and lit. Andy just had to raise his camera and click. The picture of a lifetime. It's really stunning in the original format with more pixels. Just look at those eyes.

My wife noticed this little Screech Owl on an old shed one day so I decided to take some pictures. When I went inside to look at them, none were any good. I went back for more and another good friend, Steve Slevin drove up. He is an excellent photographer so I asked him to take some pictures. Of course, his were great. This owl stayed almost all day and would let us get very close.

I spied a Road Runner at the pond and talked Steve into taking its picture as well. By the time he changed lens, the Road Runner was about to leave. But not before Steve got one picture.

Every gardener has a compost pile and I have a couple as well. They are simple, just having cattle panels around them. The coons and the possums are always getting in them to eat the kitchen scraps. The raccoons are too fast to get pictures of but I was able to get a picture of this mama possum with one little baby on her back. Possums have as many as 21 babies but only 14 will make it as they only have 14 teats. When born, all will fit in a table spoon as they are that small. They must crawl to the pouch and attach to a teat to survive. The ones that don't make it to a teat don't survive. I don't know what happened to the rest of this one's brood but she only has one left. I don't mind possums too much except when melons or cantaloupes are getting ripe. They will eat them all if you let them. I put home made cages over the ones that are getting ripe to keep them from getting them.

Along with the possums we have our share of raccoons as well. Here is a game cam picture of one of the little thieves getting into the deer corn.

I love all animals. I love watching them. I like the idea of animals being able to live around me and me not getting in the way of their lives. But, and it's a big but, I constantly have to do things so that they do not ruin my gardening as well. The one that has given me the most grief is the armadillos. I have gone to great lengths to keep them out of my gardens. But, every year it seems there has to be one that figures out how to get in and make my gardening life a living hell. This one was rooting his merry way through a my zinnias and May Night sage. I used my usual removal technique. I scooped him up with a large dip net and hauled him down the road, possibly to be some one else's problem. But probably not, as no one close by gardens.

I found this little guy in the driveway on Christmas day. I gently picked him up and moved him into the trees before one of the soon to arrive vehicles could run over him or one of the dogs would get him. It is a Deer mouse I think. These little guys are always very tame when I find them. I find where they chew on vegetables from time to time but it never bothers me much. They have a short life span and they are like popcorn to any predator. I have no idea why I would have any because of all the snakes we have but I do see them from time to time. They are not like the mice you see in town. These are very clean. They don't live in groups like town mice and do not carry diseases.

Like any one living in the country we have deer, lots of deer. I like having deer but have taken the precautions needed to coexist amicably with them. We see them every day and know the differences in them and know their individual traits. And yes, some have been given names. This is Big Boy. He is not only the biggest but also the tamest. I don't want them to be too tame but it is nice to have some that hang around when we have visitors and not leave. But we must face reality. Our back fence is the Corp of Engineers boundary and they allow bow hunting. So,there is the chance that one may not come back. Big Boy has been with us about three years now and we anxiously await his return from his yearly wanderings in his quest for does. Let's all hope he makes it.I debated on whether to post this next picture or not. I even talked it over with my wife. I decided to post it. This is a picture of Betty. She was the queen of our deer. She had triplets one year and always had at least twins. Most people don't realize that, like humans or dogs or any species, there are good mothers and bad mothers. In deer the bad mothers just can't seem to get their fawns to adulthood. Consequently they cannot build a family group with which to bond with. Therefore, they will always be low on the pecking order and get treated badly by other deer and not get to prime feeding places. Betty was a great mother. She always raised her fawns. Consequently she had a large family group made up of daughters, granddaughters and all their offspring as well. Last summer Betty was killed by a car. They must have been going too fast and it was probably at night because it was in a straight open stretch of road just down from our gate. The saddest part was both of her fawns were killed as well. I can't even imagine how a driver was unable to see three deer in the road at one time. I hope their car was torn all to bupkis and they had a high repair bill so that maybe they learned to slow down a little. It could just have easily been kids and he wouldn't have seen them either.

Out of all the animals we have here, the next one is the only one that gives me any real concern. I put up my game cam to get pictures of the nighttime animals. I got this picture of a coyote. I know a lot about coyotes and that is why it bothers me some. It is really close to my house. I know coyotes have a place in nature. They are the smartest and most cunning animal in the woods. But they are opportunist and will kill and eat anything they can, including cats and dogs.

We hear them howling and yapping in the woods up and down the river behind the house all the time. But I didn't think they would get this close to the house. I look at this as a common criminal snooping around just casing my place for a future crime. Coyotes very seldom get over 45 lbs, with most being much smaller. I walked my Blue Lacy dog in front of the camera the next day to get a size comparison. Bonnie weighs 52 lbs. This is a very big coyote. After this I go outside at night when I let the dogs out to do their business.

That's about it for the animals from last year. I hope ya'll enjoyed seeing the pictures as much as we enjoyed seeing the animals.


katina said...

Man, that's so sad about the deer. :(

Last weekend some friends from colorado were visiting and they asked us about the wild animals and if we had seen any. Shawn and I told them that we've seen deer and raccoons and there's a couple of possums who visit our back yard. When we mentioned that we'd seen a couple of armadillos their first question was "Alive?!"

Unknown said...

and I thought I had critters with scorpions and tarantulas. Man, if I saw more than a garden snake I would be FREAKED.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of deer because we have so many in our neighborhood (I'm in a close-in neighborhood in Austin that backs up to a greenbelt), but that picture is sad, especially since you "knew" those three deer.

Do the armadillos fight when you pick them up in a net? Also, I can't believe those mice will let you pick them up. You're like Dr. Dolittle or something.

Our neighborhood and other urban neighborhoods in Austin have coyotes that have dented the number of cats and dogs. I even heard stories about coyotes bold enough to stand on a back deck looking inside in broad daylight and following people down the street. The city responded by putting coyote traps in the greenbelts.

Annie in Austin said...

Katina's comment cracked me up - a few months after we moved to our first house in Austin we had to fish a dead armadillo out of the pool but didn't see a live armadillo until 3 more years passed by.

Bob, it was fun to see the fawns around that house, but the novelty of seeing deer wore off long before we moved to this more urban house.
We see possums and raccoons, and the HOA puts out the occasional notice of a coyote sighting, but we get nothing so cool as your roadrunner.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob.
I really enjoyed reading this post about all of you visitors, and thought the photography was great. Sad tale about Betty.
The little "popcorn" "hors d'oeuvre" mouse (very funny) was amazingly tame. I wish we had those here. I had a really horrible ratty year last year...brrr (don't want to think about it!) They got into my shed and I left it too late in taking care of the problem.
Tell me about your game cam? how does it work? That coyote was a monster!

Rock rose said...

I loved reading about your visitors. We have many of the same here. We only have 2 1/2 acres but it backs to a ravine and so animals are through here all the time. The only problem is that they are being squeezed into this small area because of the ever increasing numbers of houses they are being built and fenced. The one you didn't mention was the hispid cotton rat. A plague on these little varmints. Actually, I read that this is the only controller of their numbers as the predators barely make a dent in the population. Seeing the dead deer reminds me that when we were driving I 10 to Phoenix at Christmas we were in shock as to the number of dead deer along the sides of the road. There was one about every 100 feet. I have never seen that before.
I am wondering if the 2 owls that wee in our tree one morning were great horned. I couldn't see the ears standing up but they were certainly large birds. A nesting pair I hope.
Don't you just love having all these animals around you? We do and think we are very lucky.

Bob said...

Pam, when you drop the net on an armadillo you need to scoop up fast as they are so powerfull they will tear right through the best of them. Also these mice are different then city mice. These are Deer mice. I don't know what kind are in towns and cities but they are different. As a boy we would carry them home in our pockets and keep them for a few days then let them go.

It is so much fun Annie to see the Roadrunner trying to catch the Leopard frogs around the pond. They flop in and out of the water they want them so bad.

Being only 30 miles from Austin we are always behind in blooming. But the gardens always have some animal life to look at. So yes, Rose, we are lucky with all the wildlife, aren't we?