Beauty all Around

January 14, 2017

Last summer was a good summer for the deer, and we had several that visited us regularly. There was a momma deer and her doe, a second momma deer that had two does, and there was also a solo young buck. I would see them often as I would go about my rounds, making several trips a day to both the chicken and turkey yards. Sometimes I would be so focused on where I was going, that a deer would startle me when I would look up and see one standing a few yards away from where I was walking. Now that winter is here and we’ve had several snow storms, the deer seem to be spending more time closer to the house browsing on the vegetation that is not covered in snow. I’ve even seen the deer kneeling down underneath the edge of the chicken coop to browse on the weeds growing underneath the coop! The last snow storm dropped 11 inches of snow, and we’ve had some spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the snow covered landscape. Since we are on a hillside with a southern exposure, certain areas of the farm thaw more quickly than others, and the deer have figured this out. There is one of the younger does who has taken to browsing in the rhododendrons and other ornamental shrubs right in front of the house, only a few feet from the front door. The other night we were watching TV when the motion sensor light by the front door turned on and illuminated the head of the young doe poking up from behind the front deck as she sauntered through the rhododendrons, apparently having a midnight snack. Today the group of three deer spent most of the afternoon napping in the sun under a cedar tree, in one of the only non-snow covered areas in the backyard. Every time I walked by the kitchen window I would look to see if they were still there, and they were, and I was happy to get to spend the afternoon with them.

We’ve also had a less than welcome nature siting recently, which was a coyote right outside the fence of the turkey pasture. It was a Saturday morning, and I was relaxing in the living room by the wood stove when I heard the unmistakable turkey alarm call. It is a high pitched, quick call, sort of like an insistent “Pip, Pip, Pip”. As soon as I heard the call, I looked out the living room window which has a perfect view of the turkey pasture. I saw all of the girls in a tight group together in the middle of the pasture, necks outstretched, calling in unison. Ringo was not gobbling, which I thought was strange, as he usually gobbles at anything unfamiliar and often at birds flying overhead. At the downhill side of the electric fence stood a coyote, looking at the turkeys and presumably for a way into the pasture. I quickly threw on my shoes and coat and grabbed the baseball bat that we keep by the mudroom door for just such a predator emergency. I ran outside to see the coyote still there, he had run back and forth along the fence and was still eyeing the turkeys. I started yelling at him and he got the idea that he was not welcome and ran off into our neighbor’s field. Later on, we reviewed the film footage from the turkey camera that we have overlooking the pasture. We could clearly see the coyote running toward the turkey pasture as he first appeared in the frame, and it did not appear that he was just passing through. The turkeys saw him right away and moved away from the fence to the center of the pasture. The way coyotes hunt when they are after a potential meal that is protected by a fence is that they will charge the fence, knowing that the instinct of birds such as chickens is to take flight, unfortunately sometimes flying over the fence where they can be captured. Thankfully the turkeys did not do that, and they exhibited a good self-preservation instinct. I am hoping that the coyote finds easier prey elsewhere and does not come back. We will be moving our motion activated trail camera to the location where we saw the coyote to see if we can capture any images of him coming around at night. It is fun to see wildlife at the farm, but this particular sighting was a bit too close to home.