Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rabbit Tracks and Bunny Trails, Red-tails Taking Fruit to Nests? What Is The World Coming To?

Photograph by Francois Portmann
As you may remember, the Tulsa Hawk Forum was quite surprised to see that suddenly a pair of Sycamore fruit had appeared in Kay and Jay's nest on the KJRH TV tower and they wondered what was going on. I said, I'd not seen it happen here before but that certainly didn't mean it hadn't. And then photographer Francois Portmann wrote in and said he had seen it. Earlier this year, he'd seen the Houston formel carrying London Plane fruits, Sycamore's being a relative with similar if larger fruit, to the nest.

Now why were they carrying them around? They're carnivores so they're not a snack. Did they want the fluff inside that poofs up and helps the seeds travel? Were they just hangers and what the bird was really interested in was the twig to which they were connected?

Photograph by Francois Portmann

And into the nest she goes with her bounty. I wondered if it were Kay who placed the fruit in the Tulsa nest but no one saw it done so we don't know. But we do know it was the formel in this case. They, I would think, would be in particular interested that the bowl of the nest be soft and comfy. But exactly what she did with it we don't know. But the next time, I expect we'll all be watching quite carefully in an attempt to decipher the Sycamore Fruit Mystery.

Photograph by Karen Anne Kolling
Karen asked if these Mourning Doves might be doing the foot warming trick on the heated bath that the Crow had undertaken on my bowl the other day. And that is exactly what they are doing. Friend and Doorstep are extremely partial to using the bowl as a warmer. Just put your feet on that nice warm crockery and then fluff your feathers over the tops and I imagine it is downright cozy in comparison to standing around in snow.

Photograph by Karen Anne Kolling
Karen mentioned that she hadn't seen a Starling over her way in quite sometime. Mine here in Wisconsin have all gone as well. She also noted that like the Starling quite a few of her birds were alternating putting a leg up to keep them warm.

And might that not be a wee Song Sparrow sheltering beside the bulk of the Starling?
The snow is about a foot and a half deep in the feeding area. The rabbits have come and in order to get to the food they have dug down creating a kind of ditch at the ends of all the bunny trails. When I first looked out the rabbit was within the ditch. He then went to shelter under the table. When he thought I was no longer looking he warily looked out and gave two hops.

Then having spied me, he took off up the most used trail for crossing the expanse of the yard to the tree. I'd been going out to fill the bath and put out food, when I saw Rabbit, so I'd waited. But as he was gone, I went to pick up the water bucket.

Pye, who was but two feet from her own bowl of fresh water had decided that the bucket water looked more thirst quenching somehow. Actually I have this sort of affection for running or water they've watched run before drinking, in stray cats before. I've always suspected that they may have drunk bad water and some point and are hoping to avoid it in the future. So I waited for her to finish and then went to check things outside.

As I said the snow is deep, and it shows in the rabbit tracks. Inside of the little upside down exclamation points of tracks in a few inches or crusted snow, they've quite changed.

Strangely the new prints look like an abstract print of a full bunny complete with ears. The "ear" part is actually the drag of the front paws on the take off of the strong back legs on the hop.

This is a trail that originated with the squirrels in the daytime. It drifted over and then the rabbits began to use it and here the tracks mingle in both directions. Rabbits don't traverse open areas if they can help it. Therefore their trails go from bush to open ground to a tree to open ground and on to the next obscuring feature. In fact, the more the trails are used, the deeper they get and the more obscured the rabbits become from at least ground predators.

Here is the the fork in the trail from the tree. The path splits to go right and left around the barrel. Both paths then remeet at the food ditch a few feet round the barrel. This is the left fork.

And the right fork.

And here is the rabbit created food ditch which, as it is terribly snowy and cold, I've put some extras out for the animals beyond just seed.

This was done last night. I saw one squirrel today, the others were curled up in their dreys, I suspect. The juncos fed early in the day and then disappeared again, as did the sparrows.

Donna Browne

Coming up next time--John Blakeman answers my questions as to whether it was sight or sound that led yesterday's snow-hopping Red-tail to the rodent she captured. And some winter birds of New York.

1 comment:

Karen Anne said...

Even big birds like warm feet :-)

A whooping crane youngster, on the current Operation Migration training voyage, with a foot tucked up (scroll down):