Tag Archives: raccoon

Birthday cake and animal tracks in the snow

Raspberry chocolate Torte

This morning, the first thing I saw out my window was a line of animal tracks on the deck.

Animal tracks in the snow

A Raccoon or a Possum had walked up the steps. The animal had stayed near the railing until it reached the top of the stairs, from there it moved to its right; which brought it to the door leading into my bedroom.

possum or raccoon tracks

This past summer a Raccoon had tried to rip off that door by sticking its claws into the wood around the glass. I  taped it back in place and had been meaning to fix it with caulking. But I never got around to it. (Bad me)

After today’s  animal peeked into the window, he turned back the way he came and strolled to the other end of the deck. Yesterday afternoon I had put out some stale bread for the birds. The animal had a snack, then he wandered off the deck using the same path he used to come onto the deck.

Vistor on Deck

I just missed meeting him.

By the time I grabbed my camera the tracks had already started to fill in. The winds were blowing snow off the roof, which mixed with flurries that were adding even more snow to the deck as I tried to photograph the tracks.

I went back inside, warmed up my toes and had a cup of coffee, while my husband surprised me with a birthday cake.

Raspberry Chocolate Torte

We don’t have a local bakery so the cakes are from Swiss Maid Bakery in Harvard, Illinois and our little store in town keeps them frozen.  So, my cake was frozen and …well, I was impatient and the knife got stuck.  It eventually defrosted.

My Birthday Cake

My Rat Is A Cross Dressing Opossum~ Or, Can I Get A Gun To Match My Shoes!~

This weekend was beautiful one of those perfect, mid-western spring days. The skies were baby blue with nary a cloud to be seen. The birds were singing. The winds were just a gentle breeze, and the trees were all budding lime green with a sprinkling of leaves waving as I passed by. The air held a slight chill so I had to wear my orange coat unzipped, I never broke a sweat.

Uriah ran up to me panting. He had his worried face on. His eyes bulging out as he tried to walk as close to me as possible, without actually jumping into my arms.

“Come on Uriah!  What’s wrong with you?” I patted him on his head and he paced then leaned into me.

I stood up and looked around not yet getting what the problem was. Then I heard it. The call of the, Warm-Weathered-Mid-Western-Gun-Owner and  my main reason for wearing a bright orange stylish coat all-year-round.  Avoidance of bullets! Add in the fact that I could be seen from miles off. Unless they think that deer, coyote and raccoons shop at Fleet and Farm, I should be safe.

The sound of a gun being fired caught my attention, along with the immediate high pitch ‘Peeeyuuu!” sound traveling behind it.  The bullet must have ricocheted off something then headed in my direction.

Sort of ruined that safe feeling of wearing my orange coat!

I continued on with Uriah around the back path, enjoying the warmer spring air, just a little more leery.

Yesterday when we took the same walk I saw one of my neighbors, standing in the farmer’s air field, at the back of the path. He and his two young boys were digging a hole. When I came close we exchanged pleasantries. Then he explained the farmer gave him permission to shoot the chipmunks. He then told me that the coyotes hunt the chipmunks and dig holes making it unsafe for the farmer to land his planes. Okay..

 Then he added. “You shouldn’t be walking around without a gun!” He nodded looking around.   “There are Cougars in Illinois that sleep in the trees! Just like in California and they will jump out at you. Or grab little kids, like my boys here,” He pointed to his sons and mimicked biting at the kids, “and then they’ll drag ‘em off” He hesitated for effect then added. “And there are Wolves here now. I know a hunter who saw their tracks just on the other side of town.” Hand on hips, he gave me a few seconds for that to sink in then he continued.  “And a Wolf pack will hunt you down if you’re walking alone!”  He pointed to the gun slung over his boys shoulder. “That’s why you should never walk around here without a gun.”

 I responded back.  “Wolves eat rodents! Rats, mice, rabbits, chipmunks… not people!’

“They will if they get hungry enough!”

There are certain points during conversations where I think of Lucy and Charlie Brown, the Peanuts Cartoon characters. This was one of those times.

 

Lucy had told Charlie Brown, the reason a Palm tree is called a Palm tree is because you can get your entire palm around it. Charlie Brown reacts by clutching his stomach in pain.

 

I know how he felt…

To be truthful he had me a little nervous. I remembered how Uriah was frightened a couple of times at night, and I mentioned that. (see  link #3 below)

“Yeah!  Probably a Cougar!”  This guy is good. He will nod yes, when he wants you to say yes. And shake his head adamantly when he wants the negative reaction. Right now he was nodding and looping his thumbs in his belt loops. ”Yeah! Cougars!”

Okay I have to stop here. I tried to call the county to ask them about this. But no one called me back.  Gee! I wonder why…

A couple of Cougars were sited a year or two ago and they were shot. Illinois doesn’t have cougars on the endangered species list because they are so few. Cougars were exterminated in Illinois before 1870.

As for Wolves, according to ‘Defenders of Wildlife’ site (see link #1 below) Wolves; “were killed in most areas of the United States by the mid 1930s”

The difference being, Wolves are on the endangered species list.  (See the link #2, below)

Back to my walk: Uriah was bored he wanted to keep walking he didn’t want to stand around and talk. He kept glancing at the guns, then looking away.

I had to ask this question.” How do you know that a coyote was digging those holes? Could’ve have been anything!”

He answered with a wave of his hand. “Well there are coyote tracks all over the dirt. They are really good diggers.”

“I was just wondering, because we have a lot of holes made by Muskrats.” I pointed behind me, about fifty feet away there was a visible mound of rocks.

“Muskrats? Huh!”  

After that answer I was wondering if he knew what a Muskrat was.

“We also have a couple of irritating rats near the outside kennel that dig a lot!”

“Rats! You sure it’s not a opossum?” He gave me that I don’t believe you look.

“No! It’s a rat. A nice fat county Rat!” I held my hands about half a foot apart.

“Could be a raccoon.” He mumbled.

“Coon! No it’s a rat!”

 He kept shaking his head, as if I would change my mind and agree it was something else.

“It’s a rat! I have a picture of it. Unless it was a opossum, and it dressed up like a rat!”

Luckily his phone rang and his wife summoned him to dinner.  Or he was bringing it with him. I don’t know!  I didn’t look at what happened to the chipmunks they had shot.

When I got back in the house, I told Michael we needed a gun to fend off Cougars and Wolves. He wanted to know what I was drinking on my walk…

#1: Information on grey wolf:

http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/wolf,_gray.php

#2: Endangered species list:

http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=A00D

http://ecos.fws.gov/tess_public/pub/stateListingAndOccurrenceIndividual.jsp?state=IL

#3:

http://gerardinebaugh.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/something-was-in-the-fogor-take-bets-on-who-pees-first/

Something Was In The Fog~Or, Take Bets On Who Pees First!~

This happened two nights ago…

It was only eight o’clock at night. I needed to bring Uriah inside. He was still outside in his kennel.  

A couple hours earlier I tried to coax Uriah in the house. But he wanted to sit outside. With the sun setting, coyotes would be coming closer to the house, so I locked him inside his kennel.

It was time to bring him inside. I flicked on the outside light and without waiting for the light to come on I stepped out the garage door.  I was met by a wall of darkness. I looked down at my hands and could barely see them. A heavy fog had settled in close to the ground, which caused a curtain of blackness to fall over everything. Silence assaulted my senses. For a second I contemplated going back into he house until the lights came on.  I shook off the uneasy feeling and clutched my ski pole.  

I walked forward, then turned to the right and headed around the back of the house towards the dog kennel. I hesitated again! The silence was over powering! I called to Uriah. He didn’t answer.  I looked up at the light; it was taking its time turning on. Maybe the dampness or the cold air was the reason.  Or maybe I was being paranoid!  It takes time for that light to heat up.  I couldn’t hear anything moving around out there in the dark. But something felt wrong.

I laughed off a trickle of fear and called to Uriah. He didn’t make a sound. Something else did in that heavy darkness! An odd, growl and movement, then the sound of a branch breaking came from the direction of the apple trees.

I stopped and peered into the foggy blackness. Silence! A deep heavy silence!  

I told myself, if there was something out there I should be able to hear it again and there wasn’t a sound anywhere around me.

“Hey Uriah! I really think I should have waited for the light to come on.”  He didn’t answer me.  I knew he was alright, I was talking to him through the window earlier; as it got colder I closed the window and watched him as he stared out into the yard.

I shuffled to the kennel door, opened it. Uriah stood there watching me but didn’t make a move to leave.

I stood at the open door and waved at him to leave.  “Come on! You have to come inside!” 

Uriah turned away from me and stared out into the yard towards the apple trees. He was pacing in place.

I turned and looked out over the wall of blackness. A chill ran up my spine and I fought the urge to step into the kennel with Uriah and close the door. Not a smart move! I would be locked outside, not inside the house.

Then I just made a bad mistake!  I allowed fear to creep around me…

Animals can smell fear. Uriah came up to me and leaned against my leg. Great! He was nervous too…

“Ok, here’s the plan. We walk out of here. You pee! We get into the house fast! Just pretend we don’t think anyone is watching us.”

Brave Uriah whimpered and looked out towards the apple trees, again..

I muttered. “That’s not helping!”

 I coaxed Uriah out of the kennel. He stayed as close  to me as he could get -behind me and under my coat.  I didn’t like this situation…

Then I got mad…

“Alright! Whoever is out there, get the hell out of my yard!”  Uriah perked up immediately and walked in front of me and wagged his tail.

Then I heard a clinking sound, similar to tags on a dog collar. I thought I was imagining that sound.  But Uriah’s head turned to the sound as fast as I had. It came from the apple trees…

I yelled out into the darkness and stepped forward. “Uriah are you going to pee now?”  Then I turned towards the driveway and started to walk.

Uriah followed. I stopped, he urinated and we slowly waked back to the garage.

I kept thinking. “I am not afraid!” Still, I could feel that tickle of fear creep up again. Fear is one scent I really didn’t want to send that out into the yard.  Once an animal catches a whiff of fear, he will attack. I was so glad there wasn’t a wind and we were nearly in the house. And I wasn’t sure what type of animal was out there watching..

Uriah pushed past me and was inside before I had the door fully open.

Would A Sign Help? ‘Chicken Or Pheasant Crossing, Slow Down’~

 

Early Tuesday, afternoon I headed outside to get the mail. I stopped, about forty feet from the road. When I spotted some large, bird tracks that crossed the driveway, south to north.

I followed the tracks to the south, the way they came into my yard, and looked over the fence into my neighbor’s yard.  I couldn’t see where the tracks started from. But, I could see a large number of bird and small animal prints around the trees. I noticed only the large bird had separated from the rest, and walked a four toed pattern under the wooden fence.

I retraced my steps back to the driveway and hesitated. Should I just collect the mail and head back to the house?  No! This was bugging me, that bird could need help.  I decided to follow the bird’s claw prints across the front yard.

 Uriah came over and sniffed at the snow, then followed me.  

I found a couple of feathers. They were stuck in the snow a few feet north of the driveway.  Reddish mottled brown with a soft gray tuff closer to the tip, about two to three inches long, I slipped them into my coat pocket and kept following the tracks in the snow.  They guided me across the front of yard.   That bird had walked a zigzagging pattern, headed north, and kept to the harder packed snow.

I reached the property line on the north end. Slipped between the evergreens and stood on a sizable chunk of plowed up dirt, and stared across the field. Uriah stood next to me and waited.

 I took off my right glove and readjusted my hat.  The temperature was in the lower 30’s, without a wind. I wiggled toes, to check how frozen my feet were, they weren’t cold. And my fingers were still warm. I wasn’t cold at all!  This gave me a reason enough to move on with my quest.

I was thinking the bird might be a hawk and he was hurt. Why else would a bird take a walk?  He could have a broken wing!  Or he may have been clipped by a car driving by too fast!  I shook my head silently. No! If the bird had been hurt I would have seen a blood trail.

It might be a pheasant!  I usually see a few of them running in the snow, or startling me when Uriah flushes them from the tall grass.  Again, I shook my head; the tracks didn’t have lines formed from the birds trailing tail feathers. And this bird had four toes. I thought a Pheasant’s tracks usually showed only the front three toes.   

 I replaced my glove, and made sure my footing was steady. “Well, Uriah, should we head back to the house?  Or…Should we see what type of bird left those tracks?”

 I left it up to Uriah to decide what we did next.

I use my old ski poles as my walking sticks,  I grabbed them both in a way that said I was finished standing around. Then I looked towards my dog. 

Uriah sniffed the ground, glanced up at me and started to walk on ahead. Now he was following the tracks, and I followed him. 

I carefully stepped out on a wash of tiny black icebergs, small points of back earth, which stood out above the snow.

Tracks of coyotes, a fox, and raccoons crossed my trail heading off to the east and west. Tire treads cut through the snow from an off road vehicle, probably the neighbor who I saw on Sunday.  His tracks headed across the road into the farm field. The animal’s prints looked fresh, possible early this morning.  I thought, maybe they were chasing the bird. But no, the tracks crossed each other. I doubt they actually saw one another.

Curiosity had me moving on.   I was beginning to think I was following a drunken chicken

The bird had walked towards a couple of very old, gnarly Oak trees.  Scratched in the snow then turned towards the road, and walked in the ditch, until he headed out on the road.

I called Uriah back, and made him sit. I waited for two cars and a truck to pass by. Once it was clear, I allowed Uriah up and out of the ditch, so he could stand next to me on the blacktop.  I could see that something had been hit by a car recently. It laid still another twenty feet to the north on the opposite side of the road. The car that hit it, had been heading south.

I made sure there wasn’t any traffic in sight. Then, I told Uriah to sit and wait!   I approached the carcass. It was a rooster, a big roster. With a red Comb, or was it a male ring-necked pheasant? No, it looked like a rooster…

It had the shape of a fat chicken. Well sort of.  It was hit by a car!

I kept checking for cars, and took my eyes off Uriah for a second. In that time frame, he walked up to me and stared at the bird. 

I glanced both ways along the road, and then asked Uriah. “Okay, what do you think it is, chicken or pheasant?”

I rolled my eyes and shook my head at him as I checked the road.  Then I asked. “Okay, Uriah! What do you think it is, chicken or pheasant?”

I don’t think he cared.  But wanting  to get in on the game, he looked at the bird.  Then he looked back at me!  Then back at the bird! I could hear him loud and clear, “Can I take it?  Huh? Come on let me take it!” His eyes sparkled and he started prancing around.  His nails clicked loudly on the frozen blacktop.

I shook my head at him, “No! Let’s get out of the road.”

Uriah followed and only looked back once.

I saw a truck coming at us, really slow.  We had enough time to walk along the road. Then move off the road, in-between the Blue Spruce and the Austrian Pine, at the north end of the front yard.  

The truck turned out to be a farmer and his tractor; he was pulling a couple of swaying grain carts filled with corn. The farmer was very, very slowly making his way down the road. I waved at him. As I check the mail…

Where do the insects go in the winter?

800px-IC_Pyrrharctia_isabella_caterpillarSun is shining! I put on my bright orange, stylish coat and went out for a walk,… and to get the mail.

    I was surprised that there were still a few crickets, and frogs chirping away in the trees and dried grass. I nearly stepped on a few stray grasshoppers. With the weather in the upper twenties last night, they should all have hibernated for the winter, or laid their eggs, larvae, nymphs or pupae.

     The bees and wasps have died off. Well, at least the males and the workers. The females crawl into someplace safe, at least they hope so, until spring.

     All my beautiful Monarchs have flown off to far away places to return again in spring.

     I have been trying to vacuum up and squish all the Japanese beetles and box elders that have been invading my house for the past month. I know that no matter how vigilant I am at removing them, some will have crawled in-between the siding, or find places under the tiles. Others have gotten inside the house hoping to hold out for spring.

     In the middle of winter when the sun beats down on the roof, I will find a fly or a beetle that has a death wish by drowning my morning coffee.

    Some caterpillars hibernate, like the woolly bear caterpillar.  That little bugger is not fun to pick up; I try to avoid it altogether. But, every year I make a mistake and touch it, either with my toes, or while grabbing a hand full of weeds. The sharp, stinging sensation is not a pleasant experience, and they seem to be everywhere in the late summer, early fall.

     I try not to disturbed any insects as they settle in for the winter; except for the ones in my house. The others, the ones in rotting logs and in the wooded area hidden under leaves, I leave them be. In spring I want to see them flying and diving around flowers. I want the bees to pollinate my flowers. I want to hear the summer songs of the crickets and cicadas and katydids.

    For now, as I clean up around the outside of the house. Putting away my rakes, and watering hoses. I hope that all of nature can survive the snows and freezing temperatures.

    That reminds me I need a pair of winter gloves.

Every living creature has to have a migraine from this air pressure

Fir0002/Flagstaffotos Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

 Morning: 8 am~

Silence- over cast sky, heavy air pressure but most of all, the silence  it’s settled in like a thick blanket.

A couple of Blue Jays screamed and whistled at me this morning. I wouldn’t have thought twice about the silence if it had been cold, which is not the case; the temperature is around sixty degrees.

I felt something move around me, Mother Nature is waiting for something to happen.  Every living creature has to have a migraine from this air pressure.

Somewhere around 12:00pm~

The ground is holding in the vibrations from the train nearly two miles away. When the air is this still sounds drift around the trees, and illusion can echo eerily in the darkness and fog. In the middle of the day it just feels odd.

Around 1pm~

I stood out on the deck and sneezed five times, painfully irritating. I looked up as the sun peeked out behind the grey clouds.  Blue sky slipped into view along the horizon.

My sneezing disturbed a Blue Jay. He flew out of the old apple tree into a miniature crab apple tree, closer to the deck and to me, then screamed his anger.

About 5pm~

I just remembered to take Uriah for his last walk around the back. It is almost too late. I decided he needs the exercise, and so do I.

It’s nearly dark; that point where the lighter objects glow and the darkness is shadowed in a mist. Above me the clouds in the western sky fanned out towards the east. Pieces of yellow sunset and blue sky shine through the clouds along the horizon.

A heavy musky smell wafts past me. I whistle for Uriah. He is panting as he trots to keep up. We hit the lowest part of the path. I can’t see the mud so I hold tight to my walking stick and slip on towards home.

 Suddenly Uriah starts to growl, a low muffled sound that comes from deep in his throat. He pushes past me.  Then stops directly in front of me, and starts scraping the ground with his back paws and takes a stance of ownership and protection.

“Good, dog, Uriah!” My voice is loud in the darkness, he turns towards me, sneezes then growls back at the trees and tall grass.  I wondered if his sneezing is a warning that a skunk is hiding in the grass?    I wasn’t going to stick my nose anywhere near a skunk. Hmm,  It could be a raccoon another reason to walk faster.

 I moved past Uriah, and called him to follow. We are moving rapidly towards home I could barely see the ground. 

 Fifty feet or so away from the path, Uriah turns back and barks, scraps his back feet kicking up dirt and grass. His hackles are still raised, as we hurry towards the house.

 Raccoons are dangerous for both of us. A few years ago, when I had three dogs I was attacked by a forty pound raccoon. My dogs saved my life.