Monday, March 9, 2009

The Big Thaw

The specter of Spring is looming ever closer, yet we have the "Big Thaw" to work through first - and it is in progress as we speak!

Now, by "Big Thaw" I'm not just thinking of the ice breaking loose on Waterman Creek down in our valley...that's taken place twice already in the past 3 weeks. It's also the great migration process "starting", it's the long absence of some "neighbors" now showing up during the day and night, it's the lawn actually showing up and giving the newly arrived Robins a place to dine through, and maybe it's finally the last throws of white stuff???

We had another blanket of snow came after a couple hours of freezing rain and sleet, but by mid afternoon half of it was gone already. In the midst of the afternoon a neighbor paid us a visit...Mudd, our original farm cat sat outside watching the "neighbor" from a safe distance ignoring calls for her to come in the house. Once Georgie saw Mudd's reason for not venturing toward the house, she alerted me and I decided to give a friendly greeting to the visitor.

I try to be nice to "touchy" neighbors and watch from behind trees!

By "friendly visit", I just mean "careful"! I took my small camera with me and thought I'd get a picture or two. Using the big camera and lenses would require a big tripod and I thought I needed to remain more "mobile" in case someone was in a cranky mood.

The Skunk was the first we'd had in the yard in some time and the first in the neighborhood this winter that wasn't roadkill. It was what I presumed to be a small female...this is the time of year we see skunks moving about unconcerned in the daylight...usually seeking mates and denning sites for future broods. Our visitor was under the fenceline bird feeder station enjoying some black oil sunflower seeds.

Opossums don't usually act that smart but this one wasn't taking chances!

Later our visitor came back and the traffic got a tad busier, one of our haybarn 'possums came for supper too. We watched this from inside because it could have been messy (smelly). The skunk raised her tail as the Opossum approached but she didn't turn her business end, she just kept the "guns" cocked. Eventually the 'possum noticed what was "up" and turned 90 degrees toward it's favorite tree.

The Opossums (Grinners as Georgie likes to call them) are our favorite yard critter...they don't bother Mudd at all, in fact she's only slightly curious about them and they walk right past one another all the time and barely exchange a "hello". What concerned us was the skunk letting one of our friends have it - right in front of the house with the wind coming our way to boot! Once the yard or house gets nailed, it's heck to live with the smell for a week or so! We were thankful for the lack of an itchy trigger finger!

During the day we'd had two or three Bald Eagle flyovers...we're just under the east crest of a hill on the west side of the valley. When an eagle flys over it passes over us at or slightly below tree top level and it is a great sight! The yard's also filling with newly arrived flocks of Red-wing can get real noisy when five hundred to a couple thousand (seriously!) birds land in the trees around the building here! In past years we've witnessed deer get up out of the back grove and walk down through the yard in broad daylight just to get away from the noise!

Once nightfall hit last night the 'yotes cut loose in the valley out front. I'm always trying to record the audio of these events but they seem to stop as soon as I step outside. Georgie cracked a window in the living room to see if that'd help but Mudd set to growling...she's one wised-up kitty and has been around the section enough times in her life to know what that noise could mean to her! (She also growls at Bald Eagles when they pass through the yard!)

(This isn't the night raider I mention below, but I didn't get a shot of it, these were "guests" from a few years ago!)

As I was checking out the night scene in the yard after the Coyote commotion, I noticed a big blob on the fence bird feeder tray. I knew what that meant...put a big flashlight on it an there was our first winter Coon since last year...the "Big Thaw" was truly in progress. This is when the bird seed costs begin to spiral too...wait until the Orioles and Catbirds arrive and we put out the grape jelly! Old mister Raccoon will really be in hog heaven...

But I like the Big Thaw...don't you?!


Mary Klein said...

I loved reading this - and seeing the wonderful wildlife shots!

I'm a big fan of the Big Thaw too - and am more than ready for it this year. Even my dog's muddy paws can't dampen my enthusiasm.

Prairie Painter said...

I'm with you Mary! A fun time to be alive!