Sunday, November 18, 2007

Animal Encounters

A week never goes by that we don't have some animal experience. We see some new behavior or sight a bird or mammal that we rarely see. Two weeks ago we walked to the mail boxes to get the morning paper and on the return trip 22 antelope crossed our path. Not all of our experiences are as rewarding.


The misplaced sound was of wings beating the air in a frantic effort to break and change direction. I turned in time to see the bird execute a U-turn and begin picking up speed. She had flown in the open door to the greenhouse and was surprised by my presence. In her panic, rather than exit through the door, she chose the small window that is to the right of the door and about six to eight feet above the ground – the inoperable window that doesn’t open.

She hit the window hard, bounced back a few inches and plummeted to the ground. I rushed to pick her up before she could attempt another escape and injure herself further. There was no need to rush. She was so dazed that she only semi-conscious.

As she slowly regained consciousness, I carried her to into the kitchen to show Julie and to examine her. There were no obvious signs of injury. We placed her on the deck so the house and the roof would provide some protection from predators and backed away. She sat there so long that I began to wonder if she would recover. Julie’s maternal instinct caused her to check on the little lady repeatedly and on the last check the bird flew away with strength and a normal flight.

Recently I was talking with an ornithologist at the University who studies Pinyon Jays. He mentioned the number of birds killed on campus by windows and suggested that I order silhouettes of hawks and affix them to the windows on the greenhouse. I know of one other bird that flew into the outside of one of the south-facing windows. I have yet to order the silhouettes. I never thought about ordering one for the small window on the west side. Had one been in place, the bird would never have flown near the door much less enter.

Bird with a headache. (Larger version)


Rats have the special ability to point out my forgetfulness, my penchant for being lazy (which I define as an optimism that bad things won’t happen) – and the ability to try my patience. Some days when the weather’s fine and the day’s work has been tiring I don’t close the door to my shed. A few weeks ago I left it open the entire weekend. A day or two later I saw signs that a rat was locked in the building. The problem was I discovered this just before we were leaving to spend a week in Amarillo with Julie’s family. With few options I took our backpacks which hang from rafters and other valuables and moved them into the house leaving metal tools and items that couldn’t be damaged. I wondered if he could survive.

A week later I saw signs the rat was indeed in the building. I left the door open for several hours hoping he was still alive and able to get out. A few days later, on a cool morning when scents hang in the air, my nose told me he wasn’t.

A second rat breached the defenses and got under the house. Yes, my procrastination made it possible. I baited a trap just before dark and checked it first thing next morning. Success! I released him in the national forest far enough from the house that he’ll never make it back.

There has been an outbreak of plague in a community about 10 miles from us. Sadly, at the Grand Canyon a wildlife biologist in his mid-thirties contracted the disease recently and died. He was working with a dead mountain lion and appears to have been infected while examining the body.

I’m conscious of plague and hantavirus. I learned a lesson with snakes and got very lucky by falling into the 30% of bites without venom. I don’t plan on learning about plague and hantavirus the same way.

Evicted rat. (Larger version)


Blogger Buffalo said...

You try very hard to be one with your environment, don't you?

11/18/2007 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I enjoy hearing of these tales. have a good week.

11/19/2007 08:35:00 AM  

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