Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Beavers Are Back

Just in from nature lover and news watcher Kentaurian-

Beavers grace New York City's official seal: "Upon a shield, saltire wise, the sails of a windmill. Between the sails, in chief a beaver, in base a beaver, and on each flank a flour barrel.


Beaver back in New YorkPosted on : 2007-02-23

Author : General News EditorNews Category : US NEW YORK, Feb. 23 (UPI)

North American beavers have returned to New York City for the first time since the animals left the region about 200 years ago.Biologists said the beaver's return to New York is a testament to both the adaptability of the animals and the success of the cleanup effort at the Bronx River, where the animal's habitat was discovered, The New York Times reported Friday.Multiple beaver sightings were reported in fall 2006, but biologists said the reports were written off as native muskrats confused for the similarly-sized mammals.

However, a group of biologists investigating the claims discovered evidence of a beaver settlement, including gnawed tree stumps and a 12-foot-wide mound of twigs and mud.Dietland Muller-Schwarze, a beaver expert at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, said it was only a matter of time before beavers returned to New York.It had to happen because beaver populations are expanding and their habitats are shrinking, he said. We are probably going to see more of them in the future.Copyright 2007 by United Press International Print

Source :© 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Hawk at Sunset and an Emu at Breakfast

Once again making the trip from the nursing home in Edgerton back to the house in Milton on 59, we discover one of the hawks from yesterday in a spot close to where it hunted previously. the setting sun gleams orange on his feathers. He turns and is keeps an eye on the back tree line where I would hazard a guess his mate has already arrived for the night.

Then it's time to prepare for the night himself or perhaps we've gotten just a touch too close and it is late in the day. There is no guarantee of a bulging crop before bed around here. The cold wind sweeps by and I think of how much harder it must be for country hawks. No big flocks of pigeons foraging about on a daily basis. No big fat garbage fed rats at dusk. Off he goes towards the trees. We trundle back to the car and I think not only about how different this hawk is compared to our urban ones but also the differences with the tame exotic we'd watched earlier in the day.


9AM Sam and I arrive at Harry's Yard to watch Emmie the Emu being fed. Here comes Harry in his fluorescent orange jacket with Traveler the Sheltie at his heels. One can tell that this is a ritual. Though little, Shetland Sheepdogs are working dogs and Traveler believes he has responsibilities. He sits ears pricked alert to any possible threats while Harry takes the big bucket from the cart and fills it from the water spigot on the back of the house. Traveler trots beside Harry down the neatly shoveled path, trot, trot, wag, wag, down to the animals. He has never been happier, there might just be an intrusive squirrel that must be dealt with, one never knows. Traveler runs the perimeter of the pens. He's back: all is well. The water goes into the big flat bowl and Emmie's pen mates a couple of amiable ducks come over and sit in it. Emmie doesn't seem to mind this. It must also be part of their ritual: the morning toilet for duckies.

Emmie on the other hand has noticed Sam and I and is a touch suspicious. A change isn't always a good thing. If Harry isn't around and another member of the family is doing the feeding, Emmie gives them the treatment. Once they come into the pen Emmie walks up behind them, places his chest against their back, curls his neck around in front of them and suddenly they have an emu face, with those black shiny eyes a few inches from their own.

Hi. At that point, Emmie may well decide to remove their jewelry by force.

Food dispensed, the bucket goes upside down and it's time for Harry to sit on it and give Emmie some attention while he tells us about the oddities of Emus.

Emmie rests her head on Harry's knee and her bottom eyelid rises and falls with the pleasure of being scratched.

When it's time to go, I remember we've brought some chopped carrots and we scatter them for Emmie who looks interested but doesn't move until we turn our backs. Once again it is that cross species bird habit of being very aware of which way eyes are pointing.

Traveler having run out of territory to patrol near us has taken off to patrol the neighbor's yard though he's supposed to stay close, which seems to be what he does every morning, and just like every morning, he's called back...all part of the way a day should begin here in Harry's yard.

Back up the path we go for a visit inside to see the petrified kidney that's 18 inches long, the buffalo skulls, the Ho Chunk grinding stones, 150 year old bells,a specially padded with straw bull harness, arrow heads, train lanterns, peace pipes, tomahawks, a pair of tongs with which a bull's nose was pinched so it could be led,a wagon brake found on land my great grandparents farmed, a collection of giant hornet's nests, hundreds of sleigh bells on harness, branding irons, rug beaters, an antique ice skate, a collection of safes and cannon balls, a hundred gallon wooden wine barrel, a petrified mastodon tooth, and an amazing old hand written map of the places the local Indians camped, hunted, fished around Lake Koshkonong...and that's just one room in the basement. There are many more rooms chock full of things as are the out buildings and ...the yard. Harry's Yard. That's where one finds the plows, manure spreaders, several big red British telephone booths, antique gas pumps, scales that could weigh heifers, turn of the century just never know what you'll find in Harry's Yard. And I hear that just that morning before we arrived there was a Red-tail in the tree next to the house.
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Red-tails Everywhere

A Red-tail Hawk on a power pole on HWY 59 between Edgerton and Milton WI starts a big stretch.
It's forty some degrees, sunny and mild. The first day above freezing in well over a month and a half and the Red-tailed hawks have come out of the deep freeze in force to hunt along the roadways in the afternoon sun.
Sam and I, well, we've been wondering whether they'd decided to head towards a more southerly clime. We see that indeed, they haven't. Even here it's too late in the season to leave a territory unprotected from other raptors looking for hunting grounds to raise their young in.
The Bald Eagles seen in the area months ago had followed the ice south for awhile during the many days with minus zero temps here and we now assume that with the melting of the ice on the river they will be heading back up and possibly even further north then their winter hunting grounds on the Mississippi. (Wisconsin is third in the U.S. when it comes to Bald Eagle population.)

The Red-tails are showing themselves today curved crops and all. We pull onto the shoulder, trying to look innocuousand it seems to work. The RT remains on the wire and ignores us concentrating on more important matters. We then turn around and in the midst of the turn into and out of what we thought was a dairy farm driveway, we discover that it isn't what it looks like. Instead it is a Long Grass Prairie Restoration business. Wisconsin is down to less than 2% of it's original grasslands causing the disappearance of the Marsh Hawk and the Barn Owl...perhaps there is hope for them after all.

We head back in the direction we'd intended in the first place and suddenly there is another Red-tail on a power pole on the other side of the road. Is this the mate of the first? The one on the wire? They certainly are close together. We manage to get over onto the shoulder going in the correct direction without getting squished and creep up on her riding on the shoulder of the road. We don't get out but rather Sam attempts photographing her, peeking the camera out the window of the car. We've found getting at all close or having any kind of proturuberant object (gun fear?) will make the local Red-tails take off in a snap.

We watch for awhile and then she looks at us and begins a big stretch. Her body begins to build tension.

Then she's up and flies from her pole, crosses the road and lands in a tree. (upper right quadrant) Her back to us, she blends with the branches.

Before long, in seconds in fact, her mate appears in the sky and lands on the same branch. ( And it isn't the same bird we were looking at earlier on the wire either. Note the difference in belly band.) She is looking one way and he the other in savvy bonded Red-tail fashion.
Marion the school bus driver reported a nest near here as well but we don't stay to spot it today as Sam and I are almost run down by a speeding semi.
And not more than a eighth of a mile away, the third Red-tail still sits on the wire. And down the same road but a scarce couple of miles away is the territory of the Krideri pair with it's nest. The long grass prairie people seem to have created another raisin in the "raisin bread" just like Central Park.
(This refers to the Raisin Bread Theory of raptor territory. Think of the land as raisin bread. The bread part is just your usual hawk hunting ground. What comprises the raisins? The raisins are those places in which the prey options are so high that hawks tolerate other hawks of their species in much closer proximity than is commonly considered "normal".)
Donegal Browne

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Winter Nest

A multiple year country hawk's nest in winter

The view from the Wisconsin Rock County Road Y, heading south from Milton to Janesville, to the right. Can you see the nest?

There it is, near the top of the center tree.

Note the intermingling of woven trigs and the underlying live branch.

The farm house with barn beyond and the far tree line holds the hawk nest.