Thursday, April 23, 2009

Great Horned Owls and a Wisconsin Skunk

Pat Gonzalez who has been following the Great Horned Owl nest in the New York Botanical Gardens sends in her latest news--
The two great-horned owl chicks inside the tree have literally flown the coop. They are out and about, learning how to fly, and the other things they'll have to know in order to survive. Truly magnificent creatures, they seem to have fuzz instead of feathers. Mama was watching rather intently while I snapped these pics.

I love the beginnings of the owlets "Great Horns" which of course aren't horns at all but rather tufts of feathers. And look at those amazing feathered very large feet this guy has on him!


Hey Donna.

The weather here has been terrible lately so I have been unable to confirm if we have a hatch yet. I can see that Charlotte is still sitting on the nest. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow and I can get a good look through the glass. I leave Friday to visit family in MS and won't be returning until Tuesday so if I don't see anything tomorrow, it will be next week before I know anything.Brett B. Odom

Here's hoping that the southern Central Park pair has a surprise for Brett the next time he looks through his office window at them.

I was lost. To tell the truth I am often lost in Wisconsin. The shortest route ordinarily from where ever I am to where ever it is I want to go is by the country roads. You know, the ones that the Atlases don't have on them? In fact I'd been lost for nearly an hour when I saw two Red-tails circling up in a very blue prairie sky.

Enough of this lost thing already. I pulled off into a little park to photograph the Red-tails, get out my cellphone, call for help, endure the ribbing I always get from the local folks who help get me unlost, and then I noticed the above object.
Do you know what it is? It's an artesian well. This one is equipped with a handy bubbler for easy drinking.

According to the online version of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary and artesian well is a well in which water is under pressure ; especially : one in which the water flows to the surface naturally.

Wisconsin is full of artesian well. The water from these wells is high in silica and other minerals. They come from a deep level, so are also quite pure. Most of them have been capped in Wisconsin but there was always a way left in which the many people from the area who believed in the water's beneficial medicinal value, could always get some to either drink on the spot or fill containers to take home.

Very nice and all but I'm still lost. I get ahold of Gaylord Hooker and after not quite believing that I had truly gotten myself all the way into Porter Township, he gave me the gist on how to get back--maybe.

Definitely two different hawks in the photos. This one has quite a white patch on the neck and the first is a very dark bird, much like Pale Male Jr.'s mate, Charlotte.

Possible directions in hand I return to the car and trundle off. And I drive and I drive and I drive, until what should I see?

A skunk! One often smells skunk here but seeing one is a much rarer matter.

First of all, it's about 3:30 in the afternoon. Ordinarily skunks aren't out until at least dusk. Could this be a rabid skunk?

So not only could I smell really bad for a very long time but I could also be chased by a crazed rabid skunk. I don't know, his legs look pretty short, I'm betting I could beat him back to my car. Besides he isn't drooling or anything though he doesn't seem to really be paying me the least mind. I leave the car door open just in case and decide to stay on my side of the road.

OH NO!!! His tail gives an upward twitch. I stand still and his tail slowly lowers. I don't think he likes my tripod.

He may be giving me the eye, but mostly he continues to forage in the ditch at the side of the road.
I hear mooing and turn around.

Wow there are a whole lot of milk cows back there standing by the barn. It must be time for either milking, dinner, or they don't like my tripod either because the girls are really starting to rev up.

I look back at the skunk and one of the girls gives out a bona vide bellow. Skunk's tail stands straight up. Needless to say I didn't even move enough to click a picture of that completely raised tail. This is his tail lowering slowly after the the start he got from the cow bellow.

Ah, I'm standing in front of Towson Holsteins. The reason I now know I was near Porter is that one of the local volunteer fireman here, looked at the picture and the number on the red sign, to a fireman anyway, tells the location that one is in.

Skunk is back moseying through the grass looking for some Skunk favorites, such as grasshoppers or grubs. They even tear into wasps nests and eat the insects, without apparent regard for all the stings, if they can get them. Ditto for small mammals.
The Girls have gone into a major vocalization. I can hardly hear myself think.

Skunk seems to have gotten used to it, thank goodness.

According to the Wisconsin DNR, Great Horned Owls seem to be the only predator who seem impervious to Skunk smell. Barred Owls will also predate Great Horns but they apparently don't like the smell. I wonder how they can tell? Barred Owls certainly doesn't have lips that can curl up in disgust.

Skunk keeps turning his back lessoning the photo opportunities.

Still staying on my side of the road, I attempt to trot ahead of skunk to get a face shot.

No good. Skunk just pads down the incline away from me.

According to the Wisconsin DNR--
"The striped skunk is very common in Wisconsin. They're not very aggressive and typically plod along minding their own business. But, if you see one, it's best to quietly move away so you don't become a victim…"
Good point about not bugging him and also good point about plodding. This guy without question plods.

He notices me again and quickly turns his back.

What's this? Does he have a scar on his face from maybe a Great Horned Owl attack? Or does he have a sore eye and that is matter stuck to his black fur?

Look along the right side of his tail. See the bottom of his back foot? The gray pads? It took some looking but it turns out that a Skunk's back feet don't look a whole lot like his front feet. The front feet though festooned with very sharp digging claws are quite petite comparatively.

It's time for me to try and get unlost and Skunk is now making away from me, plodding into the metaphorical sunset.
I do dearly hope I get myself unlost well before the real one.
Donegal Browne


Karen Anne said...

What happened to that thumping of feet business by skunks that I thought had been written about awhile back? I was thinking I would know when I was about to upset a skunk :-)

If my various neighbors are correct, our neighborhood has several fox residents, including at least two dens. I had thought they had bigger territories.

Sally said...

Cute skunk! Perhaps getting lost is a good thing, leading to other adventures? At least, as long as you don't have a tight schedule! I loved those country road in Illinoins, I knew most of them, and the cut-throughs around the little cities. Your Ms had me looking for nests in the trees near the soccer fields at the edge of the county line where I dropped off my nephews today, but I didn't see any. There are plenty of farms, they are probably nesting further from people. Do you know what kind of tree the Ms are in? Not a sycamore but big. i keep looking at the sycamores in the lowland along fields but no luck.

Karen Anne said...

p.s. Half the fun of driving in the country is getting lost and finding interesting places.

Sally said...

We had artesian wells in my home town in Illinois, too...seeing that one brought back memories. One was in a lot in the neighborhood, had a pump handle that you had to prime then it flowed like crazy until you shut it down; I guess it was to keep it from flowing all the time. the other was in a field near a railroad track, we used to stop by for a drink someitmes when out and around, before bottled water and nalgene! Such great tasting water, too-so fresh and clean.

Donegal Browne said...


Aren't the wells wonderful? I have a great memory of going with my grandfather to a well, just off the main road. He had a number of jugs in the car which he took to the well which when he uncorked the water in some way, it shot up several feet in the air. You're right. The water is so cold and FRESH. It is a wonder.

Donegal Browne said...

Hi Karen Anne,

I'm thinking that my Skunk buddy wasn't really all that upset, the tail up thing just being a mini warning. I surmise that if I'd gone across the road and gotten too close we'd have had some foot thumping. Sure would like to see one stand on his front paws, but don't want to set Skunk off either. :-) A bit of a tight rope walk that.

Donegal Browne said...

Hello Sally and Karen,
I looked for a visually accessible nest for a couple of years before I found one so keep up the looking, you'll run across one eventually I'm betting.

The Ms, I think, are nesting in an old Oak tree of some kind, according to the leaves I'm seeing still on twigs from last season. It also has that gnarly look of an old oak. I could be wrong of course as I've not gotten up close enough to look at the nodes and such other ID marks.

The tree by the Dollar General where I often see a Red-tail hunting, which I thought was an Oak from a distance, turned out to be an old Walnut, once I climbed the hill to look closely. It had no leaves on it, but plenty of last seasons walnuts underneath.

And yes,Karen Anne though I was feeling somewhat hysterical about being lost and supposedly being somewhere else, I found all sorts of fascinating things while in the process. So actually a good thing after the fact anyway. I never did arrive at the place I was going that day, Pete Berno's shop (an engineer with a huge building chock full of antique machines, many of which he invented), as I was lost for so long, but I did manage to get there the next day to take photographs. But not without getting lost (of course) that day as well but only a little lost not a BIG lost like the previous day.

Thank goodness for cell phones. Otherwise I'd still be out there finding fascinating goodies but getting expremely hungry by now. I think I only had a few Ritz Crackers with me for sustenance.

Donegal Browne said...


Very interesting about two dens of foxes in the same area. I would guess that like Red-tails, the prey depth is a deciding factor. Also perhaps like the Red-tail nests, N1 and N2, the nests just happen to be very near the invisible territory line with the territories, I assume, spreading out to a reasonable size from there.