Bird list & natural events, November 2012

Like September and October before it, November continued our long, drawn-out, stable autumn. Like much of 2012, it was generally warm (a few degrees above average) and dry (about 30% of average rainfall as recorded by the Columbia weather station). In fact, it’s been so dry that (like summer 2012) we’ve been having the desert-air effect in which days become quite warm but nights cool off rapidly, producing a multitude of hard overnight freezes on days we could work in T-shirts. This has been a problem for some fall/overwintering crops, from which we’ve had to remove all irrigation lines due to the freezes, but which are likely drought-stressed and thus under-performing (like spinach). In addition, our fields of winter cover crops have barely grown since germination. We are definitely concerned about a repeat of winter 2011/2012, which was warm & dry and got us off to such an early start to the season with a variety of problematic consequences. Regardless, it’s  been a pleasant month with a fair amount of wildlife observation due to hunting season. Read on for some photos (including a very interesting new species for the farm) and bird list.

Above left, a Unicorn Caterpillar found on our blueberries. Above right, a cool-looking mushroom from one of our compost piles. Anyone know what it is?

Preparing for deer season, we’d been using our remote trail camera to scout various likely locations. This site near the north end of our pastures was particularly active, including these turkeys above, which I (Eric) also saw in person several afternoons.

Most of our deer images came at night, which fit into the early-season frustrations as I saw no deer during the opening few days. This coyote, captured in the same place a few hours later, was a nice result; someone later poached a coyote in our eastern woods, leaving the carcass quite near one of my best-scouted and promising hunting sites. Still, this image was nothing compared to what the camera caught along the pond bank:

Yep, that’s a bobcat, first one confirmed on the farm. Joanna had thought she’d seen some large cat tracks in mud a few days before, but hadn’t really taken them seriously until these images. The shot at right is blurry but shows the bobbed tail, just in case anyone thinks this is a very large house cat. We just wish (s)he had passed by a few feet farther from the camera. What we don’t need, though, is a Timber Wolf like this one, about 30 miles from the farm.

I never did get a deer, though toward the end of the season they finally started showing up in daylight. One day alone I saw a total of eight, including two pairs of rutting bucks/does that went charging right past me, a far-off deer on a ridge, and a doe &  grown fawn who approached tantalizingly close. These latter two behaved exactly as intended for this site; they followed an established trail in through some brushy areas, paused behind a large tree, then moved out into the open together in a perfect pose for a clean shot, except they were side by side! A two-for-one trick shot that I wasn’t comfortable with, as the rear animal would almost certainly have only been wounded. They calmly browsed there for a lifetime, never shifting position, then pricked up their ears  & looked away as they heard something from the opposite direction and charged away. No clean shot. That was the last day I could justify hunting, as there’s just too much to do this time of year to spend lots of days in the woods. Plenty of other interesting bird & wildlife watching, but having the only legal hunting time be a short stretch of late fall is very difficult for our farm’s calendar. We could have used the meat given the drought-lowered yield from our goats, but such is life. We won’t starve.

Bird list
RECORDED IN OCTOBER 29 species, 4 new, 12 unobserved since September)
Great Blue Heron
Snow Goose: Heard multiple flocks headed south on the night of 11/11.
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Turkey Vulture
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Wild Turkey
Killdeer
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tufted Titmouse
Black-Capped Chickadee
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
Golden-Crowned Kinglet
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal
White-Throated Sparrow (didn’t see a single sparrow of any kind on the farm this month)
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-Winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch
American Woodcock
Hermit Thrush

2 thoughts on “Bird list & natural events, November 2012

  1. The image of the Bobcat made me wonder if you have heard of any Cougar roaming the local areas? Is this area of Missouri part of their former/traditional habitat? I know that Cougar have been sighted, for the past 4-5 years, in even the northern suburbs of Chicago. I think also the Cougar can travel with relative ease up there because of the Forest Preserves that are off-limits to development, despite one perhaps thinking, “Cougar sightings in the suburbs of Chicago?”. I know that one of the Cougars that was shot in the northern part of the city of Chicago, by a Chicago cop, DNA was taken and eventually traced to those found in South Dakota.

    That’s an amazing little camera you all have there. Sad to hear about the result of the coyote that you mention in the blog posting. That’s very frustrating, but a reality. Perhaps good they reproduce so well.

    Curious if you would consider expounding on why a wolf in the area would be a less than desired presence? Would it be the concern over your flock of goats? I only ask because I am about as city slicker as it gets. Any insight would be helpful. My mind also wonders if goat meat, for a wolf, would be a welcome change for a wolf from a regular diet of deer, or whatever else figures into their diet in the wild. The goat probably doesn’t give chase as easily as the deer, so it might easy to catch, same with cattle.

    Great website!!! Thank you.

  2. Mountain Lion (as they’re called down here) sightings have become increasingly common in Missouri; there’s been at least 5 in the last year or so. The Missouri River corridor is certainly a good conduit for wide-ranging animals, though many of these sightings have been far from the river. Any wolves showing up would, in general, be considered a concern for livestock depending on the behavior of the individual. Same is true for lions, some of which become livestock nuisances while others don’t. Hard to know until it happens. Same for bobcat or any other predator. We know area multiple farmers who feel they’ve lost animals to lions, especially as the damage left behind is different from that done by coyotes or dogs.

    Our management philosophy in these cases is to manage our pastures to minimize the temptation (by using good electric fencing & sheltering animals overnight) while preserving enough habitat & corridor to provide any predators with alternate sources of food and passage. So far we have never lost any animal (goat, chicken, etc.) to a coyote, despite having two active packs in our area, but that only means so much.

    Coyotes are in no danger of extinction or depletion, and seem to have boomed in population the last few years (we’ve seen a boom in rabbit & rodent numbers, too, which may have something to do with it). So the loss of any one doesn’t mean much, other than (a) the act of poaching on others’ land, and (b) the common culture of shooting things for the fun of it rather than food/pelt/use. Loose semi-domestic dogs are, in our opinion, as much of a threat as wild predators and those are just as common, though culturally more protected.

    As naturalists we’re thrilled with the idea of larger predators returning to the ecosystem, but need to balance that with the risks to human endeavors such as farming. This is an inevitable tension when managing land for productive use.

    Thanks for reading,

    Eric