Friday, June 15, 2012

Ramblings Around the Neighborhood

Despite the drought, things are happening all around. One of the things is the death of many of the native plants I planted last month near the back deck. They just weren't thriving, and against my better judgement, I kept watering them (it's been hot and dry after all, and the leaves were all curling up). This didn't seem to help. Then last night, while watering again, I noticed one of the monkey flowers looked like it's root ball had been pushed up out of the ground...and so did another (they were both dead - over night). I took a step into the garden and sank. Moles. The #*&^$#( things have tunneled under the garden and have exposed the roots to air rather than soil - they dried out from below!!! I am not a happy camper. I've often had warm feelings for moles, but this could be the end of that.

Meanwhile, on a more cheerful note, I've been watching and listening to many of the birds, especially while Toby and I do our evening walk. The dicksissels are back! It took me a while, but this unusual bird call caught in my mind and eventually I saw and identified the bird - the dicksissel, which I saw for the first time last year. This year I tried photographing it - I think it is an extremely camera-shy bird, but I persevered, and finally got a few shots that are okay.  Ta-da!

And here is what it sounds like. It is the rough "dick dick dick sissel", not the sweet floating song you hear first.


Let's see...what else. Oh - I found two spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on my spice bushes! Very exciting - this is why I planted them! The first is the younger - when very young they look like bird poop.

 The older instar looks like a green worm with huge eye spots - all the better for scaring off predators, my dear.  Like all good spicebush swallowtail larvae, it was rolled up in a leaf for the night.

 I found this beautiful egg under the maple tree where my feeders are. I brought it in and looked it up in my guide to nests, nestlings and eggs; it's an oriole egg. The big hole in the side suggests another bird broke it open and probably ate the contents - Gary suggested the likely candidate was a grackle.

Then last night, an indigo bunting (my first of the year in the neighborhood) was singing down at the edge of the woods, and it flew to the ground not 20 feet from me - and sat there!  Did I have the camera?  No, of course not.

When we returned home and cut across the yard, a low brown movement near the fence caught my eye.  I thought it was a woodchuck, but it was TWO baby raccoons!!!  One was inside the fence, the other outside, and they were desperate to get to each other.  I dragged T around the house and put him inside, grabbed my camera and went out the back door, intending to get a photo or two and then shoo the trapped raccoon out through the "gate" I opened in the fence.  Here's what happened:

The little beggers bolted up the fenceline, in the wrong direction! (Can you find them both?)

I tried heading the trapped one off at the pass, but it only turned and made little growly noises at me - it wouldn't turn away from me and move toward the opening.

But how cute is that?  Is there anything cuter than a baby raccoon?

It's sibling was in the tall grasses on the far side of the fence (far being relative - it was only about 4 inches away, but with the fence it might as well have been four miles).

After it decided to come toward me (see above video), I decided to find a Plan B. My fence is not the sturdiest thing, but it is sturdy enough that just raising up one section is not easy. I was able to pull it up about three inches and the little one scooted underneath, the two happy to be reunited in the tall grasses.

I waited a few minutes and then let Toby out. Oops!

Look at that fur stand on end!

 He was simply beside himself. 

I thought the babies would've moved on, but they stayed in the grasses - waiting for mom?  I finally had to put T back inside while I did my chores.  By 2:30 AM they had moved on.


  1. Wow! Critters all around! Do you let your cat outdoors? That might solve your mole problem. But then you'd have a flea problem. Or Mama Raccoon might dispatch the cat. Sorry to hear about your plants.

  2. No, the cats stay indoors...unless one succeeds in escaping. I don't want them out killing the birds, and I am pretty sure that Pumpkin would be on the attack.

    My solution, which is weak, is to daily (twice daily?) stomp through the garden bed and squash any mole tunnels I find. And stick plants back into the soil, with a good long drink.

    Mole traps? Ugh - I hate them - seem like medieval torture devices - but I may end up resorting to them if this continues.