Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tales of the wild, and a wild tale

Rachel and I continued our journey yesterday afternoon on the Teacracker and River Road Trails.  Part of the Teacracker Trail is in one of my breeding bird survey blocks, so we were able to add the presence of a red-shouldered hawk to the list, and a confirmation of breeding Canada geese as we saw a pair of proud parents with their recently hatched goslings.


As we continued down Teacracker, outside of my survey block, we came upon a massive beaver dam.  Can you imagine the amount of work it took these busy beavers to build this?


We got out of the truck to investigate it further on foot, and found one of their runways for transporting logs to the other side of the levy.


That’s where their enormous lodge was located.  Sorry to say, we didn’t get to see any of the beavers themselves, but I’m sure they knew we were skulking around.  I think it was along this stretch of the trail that we became aware of the recent hatch of deer flies.  They were swarming the truck.  Annoyed

We also visited a couple of the historic Native American sites located on the refuge, but I’m going to save that information for a rainy day.  It deserves a post of its own. 

_MG_8954 _MG_8956

After Teacracker, we headed along the River Road Trail.  Quite a ways in we encountered a parked car.  That piqued our interest since it was a privately owned vehicle, not a refuge vehicle, didn’t have Chippewa Nation license plates (the Chippewa are allowed to do leaching at this time of year), and this is a locked, gated, sanctuary part of the refuge with no public access allowed.  A little further down the trail this apparition appeared popping out of the woods.

It turned out to be Donna Dustin and her bird dog, Annie.  She is a local person that is working on the ongoing woodcock studies.  That’s why she has that big net, her dog, and all kinds of banding paraphernalia crammed into the pockets of her vest.  Also notice that she is properly dressed for traipsing through the tick infested woods.  I seem to meet the most interesting people in the most unusual places.


After chatting for a bit, I asked if we could accompany her and Annie for a while.  We headed off into the bush with Donna and Annie leading the way.  Sure wish I had brought my walking stick along.


Here’s what they do.  Annie has a radio receiver and bell on her collar, and has been trained to sniff out woodcock nests.  She courses through the woods hunting for them, and when she finds one, she stops and her bell stops ringing.  Donna then bushwhacks to her location.  She is hoping to catch and band the young woodcocks.  That’s why she has that big net along.  Sometimes she has to pluck them out of the sky if they take off or cover them with the net if they can begin to run away.  Of course after banding and taking down needed measurements, she releases them back into the wild.  She has banded 91 young woodcock so far this season.

After some time, I decided it would be best for me to start heading back to the truck.  Rachel opted to continue on and complete the big loop back.  That was fine with me.  I know my limits, and I didn’t want to go past my abilities.  Being directionally challenged, I was glad I was able to retrace the trampled path we had made through the bush over hill and dale.  By the time I got back, the sun had come out and I was sweating bullets in my sweatshirt, but it was better than being eaten alive by the mosquitoes and deer flies.  Anyone want to guess how many ticks I pulled off when I got back to the truck?  You’ll need more than your fingers and toes to count them.  Surprised smile

After Rachel returned, we headed off for our last scheduled stop of the day.  We wanted to check on the chestnut-sided warbler nest that we found the other day.


As a little refresher for you non bird nerds, here is what the female looks like.  Slight chestnut streaking on the flanks, a small pointy bill, and the top of her head is yellow.


Can you find her yellow top knot, white eye stripe, and big black eye in the upper center above?  She’s sitting on four eggs in her nest.  See how well that nest is hidden about chest high in a dense shrub?


She got a little nervous as we approached and flew off the nest, so I quickly took a picture of the little white eggs with brown mottling on one end, and got the heck out of there.  Rachel got a better picture of the eggs, and none of them were from the parasitic cowbird.  That is good news.

I know this post is extremely long for me already, but I just have to tell you my wild tale of what happened late last night.  Picture this… It’s about 11:00, and I’ve had my evening shower to scrub off any remaining ticks and bug spray, and I’m smelling marvelous after using my Jean Nate after bath splash.  I throw on a pair of sweatpants, a sweatshirt and my Crocs to take Emma for her last outs.  I flip the outside light switch on, and we descend the stairs.  Emma quickly does her business, and I notice that I have forgotten to put away the bird feeders for the night.  We head over for the pole, and as I’m about to reach up and grab a feeder in my hand, I see a pair of beady eyes and a black mask out of the corner of my eye.

Sorry to say, in mid-grab Emma also notices the bandit.  She lunges toward it catching me off balance.  She is strong enough to pull a loaded sled through the snow pack, and my Crocs act like skis on the dew heavy grass.  She is off downhill after the retreating raccoon, and I am tethered to her by way of the leash.  I stumble and do a header face first partially down the hill coming to rest just before a fallen dead tree.  I’m in a bit of a shock over this.  After a moment, I get to my hands and knees and crawl back up the slippery slope.  I don’t trust myself standing on my feet just yet.  Emma gives up on the coon and comes back and gives me a look that says, “What are you doing crawling around on the ground like that?”

I stagger back to the chair on my patio, sit down, and try to begin to collect my thoughts.  It’s at times like this that I wish Emma lived somewhere else.  In a few moments I have to chuckle about what a sight I must have been sliding down that hill.  There are grass stains all down the front of my sweatshirt and pants.  That’s when I realize that I no longer have my glasses on my face.  Oh no!  They must have flown off when I hit the ground.  I decide to find them in the morning when it is light out.  We go back inside.  Emma is happy about the little adventure, and I’m dreading making another tick check after the slide through the tall grasses.  It took me some time before I could calm down enough to go to sleep.

I found the glasses this morning, put them on and discovered that one of the lenses had popped out upon impact.  So there I was back down on my knees searching the long grass with one eye closed.  Uf duh!  I’ve been a little stiff today, but there were no bruises or contusions.  I found the lens eventually, and headed off to Wal-Mart this afternoon to get the glasses fixed.  All’s well that ends well, I guess.


                                                         THE END!! – My path of destruction.  Sad smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy