Wildlife, weather and chatter

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Posted by Shawn & Annette in Opinion, Outdoors, Twain Harte News on July 18, 2011

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for our family. With the loss of our beloved feline companion and the death of a beautiful buck in our yard, along with a few other setbacks, our entire family seems to be walking around in a stupor. It can be difficult to pick up the pieces and move on after a loss.

I’ve been enjoying our birds — what a terrific distraction from lifes troubles and cares. I’ve added a couple more hummingbird feeders, bringing the total to 5. I noticed yesterday we have quite a few young ones visiting the feeders. I’ve spaced them apart so that the hummers have better access — as you probably know, they simply love to fight and competition at the feeder can be fierce.

During the winter months, the larger hummingbird feeders are preferred since they don’t have to be refilled so often but during the summer months, I use the smaller feeders (and only fill the larger ones partially), between the ants and the heat, it works out better to clean and refill them more often.

Bird Snack Recipe

I made a nice peanut butter mixture for the birds. I used 1 cup of peanut butter added to 1 cup of millet, mixed in a couple tablespoons of molasses and 1/4 cup of rolled oats. I managed to scoop it into the suet feeder. The birds gobbled it up. We now have a wide variety of birds visiting the feeders daily.

The new green metal bird house has turned out to be a wise purchase. Not only has it held up well, but the squirrels can’t get to the black oil sunflower seeds. The hood closes up if anything heavy attempts to get at the seed.

I stopped tossing peanuts out for the Stellar Jays in a location near the bird feeders since they bully the smaller birds and won’t allow them to eat. Also, the jays are forced to stand on the side of the feeder in order to get at the seeds because they are too big for them.  By tossing the peanuts in another direction it keeps them away from the feeders, so the smaller grosbeak, nuthatches and other little birds can still eat.

The new bird house holds a lot of black oil sunflower seeds, so I don’t have to refill it quite so often — even so, they can empty it entirely in about 4-days. I hope they slow down soon, at the rate they are eating it up, I’m not certain how much longer we can afford to keep this up but it is such a joy to step out onto the deck in the predawn hours and hear the birds melodious sounds breaking the early morning silence.

Weather Report

This entire past week the weather has been unseasonably cool for this time of year. The high for the past two days has been in the low 70’s. Vacationers will want to remember to bring along a spare jacket or two, as the evening and overnight temperatures can dip down quite low. It’s currently 62.

Deer Update

I am pleased to report that along with a couple of does, who regularly stop by to eat a few weeds from our yard and grab a drink of water, I finally had a young buck come by for a short visit during the early pre-dawn hours on Sunday morning. I was afraid this buck might have come to harm as well. He is such a beautiful creature. It’s a joy to watch him wander through the woods so graceful and alert. We appear to have had a bumper crop of does this year but bucks don’t seem to be nearly as numerous.

When you are driving here in the mountains, please remember to slow down and watch for wildlife. You might be amazed at what you will see, if you are looking. Have you seen a red fox lately? A bobcat? How about a chocolate brown bear? They are beautiful creatures too.

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Early Morning Happenings

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Posted by Shawn & Annette in Outdoors on April 29, 2011

Once again, I awoke around 5 o’clock this morning. I was greeted by the most joyous chorus of birds singing their little hearts out. The sound really travels in the otherwise-quiet still morning, here in the side of this mountain. It really makes my heart want to sing. I was so mesmerized by the beautiful song the birds were singing that I almost didn’t notice the deer.

First the fawns made their way into the yard, inching ever so cautiously closer. I recall thinking how odd to see so many fawns traveling together in a pack. They were a clumsy noisy bunch, getting louder, as they came closer, I didn’t need to see them to know that I had young deer very close-by. I heard them long before I saw them.

They were so cute nosing around for grub. I tossed out some corn taco shells for a nibble or two and more millet, oddly, the deer seem to like it as much as the birds. The gang of fawns wandered away slowly and suddenly these tiny sweet creatures were replaced by 4 does. It was obvious which one was in charge, each deer knew her place and nibbled around in turn. When she got too close you could see the leader raise a hoof toward the offending doe. Just enough to let the doe know she should back off.

One of the fawns appeared to have a patch of mange on her side, but in reality the patch of fur that isn’t normal, could have been caused by just about anything — even rubbing too hard against a tree. One of the fawns was obviously shot through one ear. Talk about a close call.

I remember a couple of years ago. We had a mixed gathering of deer who enjoyed a daily visit to our yard. One of them we named Wendy. He had gotten tangled up in some plastic orange fencing (“deer tape”) and looked sort of like Wendy – the icon for Wendy’s Restaurant. We felt so badly for the deer but there wasn’t anything we could do for the buck. It wasn’t like he was going to hold still so that we could remove it. I’m guessing he didn’t last deer hunting season that year. He was a handsome buck, too. I could be wrong though, because you’re not supposed to shoot in the direction of this tape.

I still can’t properly identify most of the birds that stop by or even those who live here, but I have been trying to listen closer and it’s already paid off. Just last night, I was out on the deck and I heard a strange bird call that was slightly out of the ordinary. I look around and sure enough, there were 3 mountain quail messing around on the side of the hill. I would have missed them, had I not been listening.

If you get a chance, while you are here in Twain Harte, do make an effort to get up at dawn (or just before dawn is even better). Stop and take a listen to the incredible bird sounds of the early morning. You’ll carry those sounds with you the entire day. I know, I do.

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Squirrel Complains, Loudly

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Posted by Shawn & Annette in Opinion, Outdoors on April 27, 2011

I just stepped outside for a few moments and was immediately assaulted by some very loud barking noises. I quietly closed the door and walked softly out on the deck a bit further. The sun was shining brightly, in my eyes of course, so I shielded them, until I could just make out the squirrel sitting up high on a pine tree branch, barking for all he was worth.

Squirrels actually have a wide range of noises and aside from the chorus of birds heard in the wee hours of morning, the squirrel is by far the loudest animal to visit. They romp around all day, getting into anything and everything. We finally broke down and attached hook latches to the roof of the bird feeder because the squirrels wouldn’t stay out of it. They would just remove the roof and help themselves.

He was making one heck of a racket about something. It was as if he was telling me how much he hated having Sandy, the cat, in his space, as the cat gently rubbed up against my legs. It was then the squirrel made it quite plain what he was upset about and I’m still not quite sure how he managed that.  We had a little chat, I let the cat back into the house and the squirrel went along his merry way, happy that she wasn’t on his deck.

Three deer dropped by this morning to give their regards. I tossed out a handful of carrots for them, which they greedily munched down without hesitation. They nibbled on some bird seed that had been scattered on the ground, then meandered on to where ever deer go when they aren’t here. It’s always nice to have them stop by for a visit.

One of the young does who stopped by, idled long enough to notice the hummingbird as it swooped in to sip a little nectar. Did I just imagine the deer admiring the hummingbird’s grace and beauty? Animals are so amazing; would that I had all day long to sit and ponder their being.

I can’t tell you just how refreshing it feels to get outside and soak up the sun and visit with the animals. They listen as I chatter on about the weather and I’m always careful to thank them for their visit. It’s always nice to have a little company drop by.

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