wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Badlands

Are the badlands really bad?

The lack of a steady supply of water makes it hard to grow much. And look at the terrain. Can you imagine an expensive piece of farm machinery trying to negotiate those hillsides? I think farming this area is out of the question.

Still, some vegetation just plants itself. It has to be tough to survive. Grasses are real survivors if they only have a chance to sprout.

But seeds are easily washed away if not in the sparse rain, then at least in the run-off from snowmelt. The wind lends a hand too. Between them, wind and water carve out a landscape full of curves, rifts, pillars, and odd-shaped hills.

So what is the good of these badlands? That is, if there is anything good about them.

At first glance, it looks like a wasteland. You’d be surprised though, how much life it supports. Insects, obviously, and those attract birds and snakes. Lots of snakes.  I guess that’s a good thing, if you like snakes. They have to go somewhere.

The carved out crumbling rock formations provide many crevices and holes for a snake to hide in – a place to get out of the hot sun. In the late fall, rattlers will travel miles through prairie grasslands to the badlands where they seek out underground chambers (caves and tunnels) and scooped-out areas where they can snuggle up together for the winter in their very own hibernaculum. These dens are often underground and close to the water table, but preferably in a place where it stays above freezing.

The erosion in the badlands creates all kinds of possible hiding places for small animals.  The fields at the edge of a badlands area could provide food for insects, small rodents, rabbits, and game birds such as grouse and pheasants, which in turn attract predators such as hawks and owls.

Even deer may be found wandering through the badlands.

 

 

 

If you have a dog though, watch where it goes. You don’t want it to be bitten by a sneaky snake. If you take your dog there, maybe to hunt a partridge or other game bird for dinner, the best time to do that is probably early in the morning when it is cool and the snakes are still a bit poky.

A friend told me of a time when his dog (same breed as our Emma – an English field cocker) was running down a path ahead of him and a rattler was in the path directly in front of her. The dog leaped over the coiled up snake and kept going. It was lucky that, because of the cold morning, the snake was still quite lethargic. A few hours later, this scenario could have had an unhappy ending.

If you’re ever in a badlands area, keep your eyes open and your camera handy, and bring along your snakebite kit and the local vet’s phone number.

Internet image

 


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Not “Hoo” but Where?

It was an owly night. I couldn’t sleep for the sounds of hooting and hissing and screeching right outside my bedroom window. But WHERE were they? I needed them to get rid of those pests.

Owls are not the only animals on nightshift.

Look what that destructive little bunny did to my front yard. I don’t know what he’s digging for. I suspect it’s the roots of those tiny dandelion-like flowers (weeds). He must have heard the owls, but these roots are so yummy (I guess), it’s worth the risk of becoming dinner himself.

He deposits some tiny raisins of fertilizer – a snack for Emma and Ruby –  to show his appreciation for the midnight snack, but … those huge holes are everywhere.

Einstein and the junior professor are asleep at the switch. I guess that’s what happens when you stay up all hootin’ night.

 

 

The night was black until the moon

Lit up the darkness and the gloom,

“Soft lighting on our dinner plate,”

The old owl says, “It’s getting late.

Glide down with me. I’ll show you how

To catch this rabbit. Come! Right now!”

 

As Einstein swooped on silent wings

He thought, Tonight we’ll dine like kings.

The bunny leapt, he heard the whoosh,

As talons missed his ears and tush.

Into the hedge he slipped away

“I’ll eat those roots another day.”

 

 

“The holes I’ve dug will still be there

I’ve dug so many everywhere.

I know that Anne-li will be mad

And curse me out for being bad,

But everybody’s got to eat,

As long as I’m not Owl Meat.”

 


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A Case of Harassment All Around

It was a glorious morning, very early.

Ruined!

“Caw! Caw! Caw!” came the ugly croaking call of a crow, summoning his cohorts to make a try for the breakfast that was about to happen when Robbie, Ryan, Ross, and Roberta left their robin’s nest.

I picked up some pebbles from the yard, grabbed the slingshot and went looking for the murderers who threatened to skewer the baby robins with their sharp beaks, much like hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party.

As I walked down the path in front of my house, the crows flew away, and I stood a moment to admire the view.

I took a few breaths of fresh sea air and turned to go back home. Just then, something burst out of the two-foot-high St. John’s wort shrubbery at the side of the road. It flew up onto a fence rail about ten feet away and stared down at me.

It stared and stared and stared, for maybe 30 seconds, and then it flew up into a nearby fir tree.

I hurried into the house and traded the slingshot for a camera.

It was much farther away now, and I had to zoom the camera. It’s a bit fuzzy, but I was still thrilled to get any kind of a picture of this great horned owl.

Later I saw what it might have been after.

Looking back, I was harassing the crows who were harassing the owl who was about to harass the rabbit who was about to harass my garden which held the worms that the robins were about to harass. And what was harassing me? The backyard supervisors, wanting their breakfast.

Sorry for the blurry picture of Emma. She can NEVER sit still.

And Ruby, patiently waiting for her breakfast.


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Quick Like a Bunny

M-m-m! These tall grasses smell delicious!
Oooh! Yummy! They are exquisite.
I wonder if I should turn on the tap and give the grasses a drink of water to make them grow.
This long stem is so good, and it gets better the closer I nibble it to the top. Hahaha! I could come to a seedy end!
Uh-oh! Did I hear the backyard supervisors? Those dogs are F-A-S-T! At least, the little black one is. The other one is getting pretty old (thank goodness)!
I’m just going to hide here for a minute. If I stand straight, I’ll look like part of the pipe. I think I’m slim enough, don’t you?
On second thought, maybe I should crouch down and hold still. This is when I wish my ears weren’t so long.
Just to be on the safe side I think I’ll skedaddle, quick like a bunny, until the coast is clear.

I found some grass with flavour grand,

Beside the tap and in the sand,

I nibbled it and loved the taste,

I could not let it go to waste,

But then I heard a vicious dog,

My eyes bugged out, I stared agog,

I tried to hide but then I thought,

This battle’s one that can’t be fought,

The dog has biting teeth and jaws,

I sure don’t want to give her cause

To bite my soft brown bunny fur,

I’d rather run away from her.

I’ll come back later, in the night,

When she is sleeping curled up tight.

And then I’ll munch and lunch till dawn

Cause I am safe while sun is gone.

But, oh, what is that hooting sound?

I think I’d best not stick around.


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Owl Pellets

I found these pellets (not poop, and most likely from an owl) on my driveway yesterday. Thanks to the many trees, we have a lot of owls in the neighbourhood.

When the rabbit, mouse, or rat populations get too high, the owls show up in greater numbers and stay until those populations are down again.

By the way, did you know that while rats and mice belong to the order rodentia, rabbits do not? They belong to the lagamorpha order.

You might think that owls are greedy, eating the whole animal from head to toe (and they literally do start at the head), but they have it all figured out. The crunched up fur, bones, and claws are  cast out in pellet form. In plain English, they throw up the parts they don’t want to digest. This is sometimes called casting.

In the pellets below you can see that the owl probably ate something with gray fur. A few bits of bone are showing in one of the top left pellets.

If you think this is a rather  disgusting way to eat, consider how we might tackle a piece of meat with our knife and fork. We cut around the bone and we cut away pieces of fat and gristle. The owl, lacking a knife and fork just does this job in a different way, but the result is the same. The unpalatable parts are discarded.

You might not give a hoot about this info, but owl bet you learned something. 😉