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No one likes to admit it, but we are past mid-year now, though we won’t notice the dwindling daylight hours for a while. Already one cutting of hay is in the barn (or wrapped up, at least) and if we get enough rain (which it appears we will) there should be a second cutting not too far down the road.
I really was not thinking about the time of year or how quickly it has gone, but one recent morning when I went to put on my old rubber boots in preparation for a walk down along the brook I found one of them full of sunflower seeds! Why a chipmunk (the most likely culprit) would spend that much time filling a boot with food with a constantly filled feeder just a few steps away is beyond me, though I suppose humans who love near the bank have some ready cash stashed away somewhere as well.
Having a few extra trail-cams that needed testing, I decided to set one up by the boot just to see who and what was going on. The first night I had 47 images of a chipmunk running and forth, his cheeks brimming with seeds! It wasn’t much of a mystery to begin with, but it was fun to see that nature doesn’t sleep, not even on my front porch!
Another camera was set up on the porch near the night light that glows across the dooryard. Set up on a motion detector, the light comes on whenever “something” moves nearby. One night I was up late writing and the light kept going on and off, on and off. I thought it might be the busy seed hider but the motion detector is faced away from the porch and the cabin, so whatever “it” might be had to be crossing the gravel outside my window.
With the camera in place I shut the shades and went to sleep, assuming I was under surveillance by a raccoon, chipmunk or opossum. Fortunately, these trail cams work in relative silence, and with the shades drawn I wouldn’t see the flash going off through the night.
Come morning I had another full card of images, and I was anxious to see what it had recorded. Of the 110 images recorded, most consisted of bizarre shadows on the left and right but nothing moving on the ground – at least nothing I could identify at full screen.
Finally, luck and good timing collided with technology and I had my “intruder.” Actually, it was two of them. In one glaring shot I had a whip-poor-will, the bearded boomerang of the night. In the other was a brown bat, a common insect predator that even we can see at dusk as they come out to help rid us of mosquitoes, moths and other nighttime bugs.
I’ve long known that there are daytime and nighttime critters all around us. Dawn and dusk are the punch-in, punch-out times for the various diurnal and nocturnal denizens of the woodlands around us. Most deer hunters can tell you that there is a palpable shift in activity in the pre-dawn and twilight periods.
Other than the occasional owl the night noises are dominated by the shuffling of heavy feet as deer, bear, moose, raccoons, foxes, fishers and other large, furred creatures finish their work. All that ends as daylight comes on and the birds begin to sing, tentatively at first, but with increasing vigor as the dangerous night gives way to another glorious day. Deer hunters, especially, plan to be in the woods early and late in the day because this is the period when whitetails are most likely to be seen. Heading from their feeding areas to their safe and secure beds, the deer are most vulnerable at this time. In fact, if not for dawn and dusk few hunters would ever find a target!
I enjoy the change of shifts year-round, spending most of my hunting season days in the woods but observing the ritual from my porch in the off-season. Most of my mornings begin with a cup of tea at sunrise, often while the bats and whip-poor-wills are still out. If I sit quietly and just watch, the hummingbirds and chickadees will show up at their feeders, and if I’m in a tolerant mood the gray squirrels will come in and steal what fallen seed they can find. I especially enjoy seeing the fat chipmunk that lives under my porch. He’ll come out very quietly, sit as close as he dares on the porch steps and look as innocent as any thief, both of us knowing he’s spent the better part of the night filling my boots with seeds!
Rodents are not the most popular of critters and most folks will put out some traps or poisons to get rid of them. I probably should as well, but I simply dump a boot full of seeds into the feeder and start the process all over again and no one is worse for it. Come fall a few of the squirrels will end up in the crock pot, their tails destined for next year’s trout flies, but as long as they stay away from the feeders they are safe.
Like most reclusive types, I enjoy having my yard filled with wildlife, vermin or not. When I happen to go into town and pass the rows of apartments along the main drag, I often wonder what it must be like to sit on those porches and not be able to see anything but the neighbor across the road. No matter where I go I find entertainment in the furred and feathered things that show up unexpectedly, night or day.
I find it comforting that they are out there and that, for the price of a cup of tea, I can watch them go about the business of surviving. I can’t fault them for using my boot as a storehouse when there are no hollow logs nearby. It’s the least I can do for having dropped a house in the middle of their domain!
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