House Cat

This is our friendly house feline, whose job description includes household rodent control.

She is an indoor cat for several reasons:

  • For food safety reasons, we don’t allow domestic animals in growing areas, and keeping an outdoor cat away from vegetable & herb beds that have the perfect texture of a litter box can be pretty much impossible.
  • Outdoor cats tend to decimate populations of lizards and song birds, and we like lizards and birds. We’d rather her hunting talents be exercised indoors on rodents.
  • We lost our previous cat to cytauxzoonosis, a really nasty disease that has been likened to ebola for cats. The disease is carried by bobcats, with ticks as the vector, and it is very often fatal to domestic cats. Though keeping a cat indoors isn’t guaranteed prevention (as ticks still ride into the house on us), it is a reasonable precaution.
  • She is reasonably content to stay inside; this was an attribute we tried to select for at the Humane Society, and we seem to have chosen well.

Black Rat Snake

Normally, we consider Black Rat Snakes to be beneficial critters around the farm; they generally provide very valuable rodent control. The above specimen, however, took up residence in the chicken house, ate lots of eggs, and killed an adult broody hen, as described here.

In late August 2011, I found a collection of Black Rat Snake eggs in an old straw pile under some cedar trees. A couple of young dispersed from the area at the time that I initially found the nest, but not all of the eggs had yet hatched. We checked the nest again a couple of times, and found this one poking its head out of the egg in the early evening of August 29.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebes are summer residents of Chert Hollow Farm, typically arriving in March and staying through September/October. They nest on the house, usually on outdoor light fixtures protected by roof overhangs. The individual above is a young Phoebe that had recently left the nest, which was located two stories above the cement patio where the photo was taken. This bird fledged on July 21, 2011.

Phoebes eat insects, and thus we consider them beneficial.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are summer residents, generally present from April through September. They nest at Chert Hollow Farm, as demonstrated by a nest that we found in  2012 in a maple tree.

The bird in the photograph managed to get trapped in the greenhouse. Eric caught it while I grabbed the camera, then it sat still for a few moments while I snapped a couple of photos. This is a female &/or a juvenile, as it does not have the ruby throat that is characteristic of adult males.

We saw numerous Ruby-throated Hummingbirds during the extreme drought of 2012. They were busy visiting the agricultural flowers of our irrigated diversified crops at a time when the native plants had few blossoms. Hummingbirds visited flowers of pole beans, okra, tomatoes (I think), and especially basil.

Net-winged Beetle

These orange-and-black net-winged beetles (Family Lycidae) are not uncommon at Chert Hollow Farm. This is a good example of a species that we see with moderate regularity but know very little about. This photo was taken on an okra plant in July 2012.

A close look is required to identify this insect as a beetle, because we also occasionally see a moth species that is a mimic. The segmented antennae identify this as a beetle.

 

Io Moth

A spectacular moth; this is the male. This is not a species that we encounter very often. In fact, the one in the photo is the first adult that we’ve seen at Chert Hollow Farm. I found this moth on the ground in the orchard in late May 2012 while doing some hoeing. I saw a flash of color and was relieved when I discovered the hoe had not damaged him. The day was rarely cool for 2012, so the moth was moving slowly, and I couldn’t resist taking a break for a photograph.

We found this caterpillar in August 2011:

 

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

This Yellow-Billed Cuckoo must have died when it flew into a window of our house; we found it fresh on the ground in June 2012 and took advantage of the rare chance to examine it up close.

Cuckoos have very distinct sounds and behaviors, generally moving among dense treetops and thus being hard to see. Their patterning and shape up close are really neat.

The folk name of the cuckoo is the Rain Crow, and they do seem to vocalize more frequently in conjunction with a weather system (& sometimes rain) moving through. Our theory is that they can sense, and respond to, changes in atmospheric pressure and thus become associated with rain, though not infallible as not all weather systems bring rain. Somehow a suicidal cuckoo seemed to make an appropriate statement regarding the extreme drought of 2012.

Spring Peeper

Spring peepers are best known from their spring chorus, which can be deafening in the vicinity of a peeper-populated water body. Overall, we hear them far more than we see them. Counter-intuitively, in the drought of 2012, we saw a number of individuals, probably ones that have been drawn to irrigation water as natural water bodies dried up. We saw several in a particularly unusual place: on okra leaves, as seen photographed here.

These small frogs are best identified by the X on their back, as seen below. More info available from MDC.

 

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed deer are common, though not always commonly seen. This fellow posed  for our trail camera at the one remaining watering hole in the stream during July 2012, in the middle of an extreme drought.

We put much effort into fencing to keep deer out of produce-growing areas. We also make use of hunting season to try to slightly reduce population numbers while boosting our meat supply, in effect replacing the natural predators now displaced by humans.