Skunked!

Jan. 18th, 2013 04:22 pm
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Last night as I sat reading by the wood stove, I was sure I smelled a skunk. Smelling one indoors in winter had to mean it was quite close by, so I checked to make sure the dogs were in, and quickly closed their door panel for a while so they couldn't go out. Thought the smell had subsided, so I unlatched the dog door again and Red immediately ran out, letting in another strong whiff.

Fortunately he didn't find the skunk. We looked around near the house and couldn't locate it, nor did we see any tracks on the snow. (The snow on the ground is only about a half inch deep and is fairly hard and crunchy now, so no tracks isn't really proof of much.)

I forgot about it until this morning when I went out to feed horses. Didn't notice anything until I'd given the boys their beet pulp and carried the bucket with Tess' portion over to her stall in the arena. Doors of both barns are closed at night this time of year, of course, to hold in what warmth we can and keep the wind out. When I opened the door to the arena, I was nearly knocked down by the stench of skunk, a mixture of rotten onions and who knows what else. Tess whickered at me and made faces, but she was OK. I felt sorry for her having been shut in all night with that (presumably) and hurried to open both of the large sliding doors. One of those is at the north end and the other at the south, so the air started to clear right away. Fortunately, Tess didn't seem to have lost her appetite either.

It was so powerful I was afraid it would cling to my hair and clothing, but it all blew away before I got back into the house. No obvious tracks in the arena dust either, but the skunk had surely been inside there. I hope it doesn't come back. Or that it goes back to wherever it was hiding and goes back to sleep. I didn't think skunks were supposed to be out and about at this time of year.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
It's 9:30 pm, which means finally dark here. There has just been a lot of dog barking and distant shouts audible through the open window, and now a strong scent that is either a fox (nearby) or a skunk (at a distance.)

There may have been the sound of a fox earlier. No idea what's going on out there, really.

No one else in at work this morning, so I actually got some useful things done. Damaged printer replaced with a backup, which ought to be easy but since the backup is a different model it required reconfiguration on several workstations that use it. Pulled a spare old computer from storage and replaced the Linux installation on it with XP so I still have a backup PC that can be dropped in should something fail unexpectedly. This is a nuisance, but it saves substantial time and money in the end.

Beautiful weather today. Tess got to go out, which makes her happy. Grass is getting away from us and needs mowing all over. Blackberry blossoms are starting to open, and the catalpas and hickories are finally showing leaves. Hard to believe it's already mid-May.

So to bed, to see whether I can catch up on the sleep I lost last night. I have doubts.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
First orioles and a hummingbird sighted this afternoon. Heard grosbeaks singing, especially in the pasture, but couldn't find them. We wondered why we weren't seeing goldfinches at the feeders and today I found that they are all out in the pasture, apparently feasting on dandelion seeds.

When I arrived at the library this morning at 8:30, there were two large geese standing on the peak of the roof, necks stretched as high as they could reach and staring into the distance. One was facing south, the other north.

I've mentioned the large numbers of red admiral butterflies. Last year we had very few, this year they are flying in clouds all over and perching in roadside bushes or even on the roadbeds. Today I also saw large numbers of mourning cloaks, and some particularly large and handsome specimens. I did not have the camera with me, alas. For those who don't know this butterfly, it makes me think of a noble character in a Shakespeare play. The insect basks in sun on low plants or shrubs, with its wings spread to show a symmetrical half circle. Most of the wing surface is a deep velvet black, but the outer edges are like ermine trim, white with flecks of black, and there is also a scattering of blue flecks in the black just adjacent to the white trim. the diameter of the circle along the upper straight edge is about 6 cm.

Also noted monarch butterflies, fresh large examples with perfect intact wings and strong smooth flight patterns. These must be the first hatch of eggs laid by a new wave of migrants from farther south. Monarchs migrate from Canada to Mexico in the fall. In the spring, the survivors start north again, breeding along the way so that it takes several generations to reach the northernmost part of their territory. They are particularly graceful fliers, gliding in long arcs on outspread wings rather than fluttering erratically about the way many butterflies do.
altivo: (rocking horse)
Was slow but it did finally come to an end. Got home, found a small (really) amount of cash waiting in payment for my Irish music appearance last Saturday. We went out for dinner and used it. ;p

Stopped at Wally-Mart for cat food, cheap breakfast cereal, and a couple of other items, came home, going to bed soon. Model train show tomorrow, Gary wants to go, so go we shall. Report afterward. I need to get photos of the landscaping he has done, too.

It was densely overcast until just before sunset. Now it's almost clear with lots of bright stars, and, most miraculous, still 60F outside so you can just go outside and gaze up at them. Most striking is the alignment of Jupiter, Venus and Capella in a straight vertical line above the western horizon. The Pleiades are quite visible near that, and Canis Major is bright to the south with Orion standing over him.

The exceedingly warm weather has brought out all our spring bulbs at once. Gary has waves of daffodils that are supposed to bloom in a cycle that takes most of the month of April. Almost all of them are blooming right now, at the same time. Scylla is popping out all over, and the day lilies and iris leaves are standing six inches tall before the trilliums even show. Looks like a bad year for slugs, they are everywhere. Probably the warm weather and mild winter has brought them out. *refills his big salt shaker*

Vet came today for the horses, said they all look good in terms of weight. I've been concerned that they are on the thin side this spring, but she says otherwise. Asher had a bit of allergy a week ago and we started rinsing his hay to reduce the dust, which seems to have nipped it in the bud.

Our vet agrees with the animal control: rabies in raccoons has not been observed here. She says the symptoms observed in the raccoon and squirrel yesterday were either distemper or poison, just as I thought. The squirrel disappeared overnight, and I hope it wasn't taken and eaten by a fox or coyote.
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
We hit 81 or 82F again today, depending on which thermometer I believe. But I think the end of the heat wave has arrived now. About 3:30pm a dark cloud front passed through with high winds and a fairly heavy splatter of rain. The rain stopped but it's cooler and heavy overcast now. More rain is expected through tomorrow and the weekend, with next week's temperatures back in a more normal range for March. That is, well above freezing most of the time still, but cold enough for jackets and sweaters.

Gary e-mailed me at work this morning to say that he had found a large raccoon in a semi-conscious state and having apparent convulsions out in the arena near the hay storage. He called animal control and did not mess with it, which is wise because we aren't trained or equipped to deal with a sick or injured wild animal. A technician arrived in due time and sedated the animal, taking it away in a pet carrier. I imagine it will be put down and examined for disease or poison. She said rabies has not been reported or proven in this area yet, at least in raccoons, but distemper is widespread. Deliberate or accidental poisoning could produce the symptoms as well, as could a spinal injury. The latter seems unlikely because the animal was almost 200 feet from the road where it might have been hit by a vehicle, and had no visible injuries. We'll probably get some kind of report back eventually.

Then just at dusk, Gary was leaving to go to his choir practice and came back into the house and called me. He had found a squirrel behaving the same way, lying on the edge of the driveway. I went out and confirmed that it was either a spinal injury, poisoning, or some kind of disease affecting the nervous system. I sent Gary on to his practice and got a plastic manure fork from the barn. Using that tool, I picked the squirrel up as gently as possible and moved it to a semi-sheltered spot in a pile of leaves in the woods. I'm sure it will die, though. This one may have had bite marks from a dog, but I didn't risk handling it to examine it closer. I suppose we should call and have it picked up tomorrow.

Hopefully that is the end of this incident and we won't be finding more maimed wildlife, but given the fact that Gary has been seeing and trapping rats around the house and barns, I have a bad feeling that some neighbor has put out poison bait and we are seeing the consequences.

Goosed

Mar. 19th, 2012 09:44 pm
altivo: Wet Altivo (wet altivo)
I didn't have time to get a camera, but two geese landed on the ridge of the library roof this morning and sat there for several minutes. No idea why they would do that, but it sure was odd looking.

We are still being goosed by junk political callers, too. No way to tell tham that we voted last week and they are wasting their time and ours. As far as I can tell, all the calls are from Republicans, as usual. And all of them consist of negative campaigning against an opponent rather than positive ideas and concepts being presented. Republicans are defined by what they are against, not by what they favor, apparently. The great party of the perpetual "No!"

Raccoons are out in force, as are the chipmunks. Last night we saw two large 'coons in 0ur yard. Today I noticed a dead one on the edge of the road. Still busily enlarging itself, it had blimped up by about 50% over it's former dimensions, sort of like a Mandarin duck.

Think it must be time for bed, can't keep my eyes open.

Moar trains

Mar. 3rd, 2012 09:31 pm
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
More snow too. Or maybe sleet. It fell very lightly for a good chunk of the afternoon, without any significant accumulation as far as I can tell.

Gary wanted to go to a train exhibition at Harper College (in Palatine, not Rockford as I mistakenly thought.) So we went. It was a good show, though we have seen most of the layouts that were there. The really important points were that he got to talk to someone new about t-track modules and landscaping, which helped reduce his concerns about "doing it wrong." Actually, everything he has been doing is just fine. And he got some new ideas. We also had lunch with [personal profile] casey382 and got to talk about landscaping with him and get some added ideas as well as confirmation of what we already heard. That made it worth the trip. Even looking at the same layouts another time, we are learning to see more details and observe the construction tricks.

Had lunch in Crystal Lake, did some grocery shopping, and came home just in time for evening animal care.

Saw a rat in the yard, so Gary put out his traps again. After dusk, saw a big opossum out there too. Hope he doesn't get caught in a rat trap, though we'd rather he went somewhere else. Anywhere else. Not only are opossums among the ugliest of mammals, they carry a neurological parasite that can infect horses with very unpleasant consequences. If he keeps showing up, we may have to trap and remove him to somewhere far away.
altivo: Horsie cupcakes (cupcake)
...over the bouncing warp. Actually back at it finally. None too soon as I have to get this warp finished in the next couple of weeks. Or else.

What I did to kick myself off both computers was start downloading updates. I have two VirtualBox Windows partitions that I almost never use, and they were months behind on updates.

Fox was barking outside about this time last night and again tonight. We smell him/her also. Or maybe it's a distant skunk.

Over the weekend I heard a screech owl. We used to get them regularly around here ten years ago, but I think the increased noise and road traffic has pushed them away. Certainly there's still plenty of prey for them, and the fox. Mice, chipmunks, voles aplenty. Chow down birdies, I just don't want to watch. (Eewww.)

In brief

Jul. 19th, 2011 10:28 pm
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Another scorching day, high humidity, sunny, no wind or rain.

Had a note from a friend (who is older than we are, see, we're not impossibly old yet) asking about the bugs that were bothering her flowers. Her description was clear enough: Japanese beetles. Hard to kill and very prolific as a rule. Gary called to give her that bad news, and learned that she was down an air conditioner because she couldn't get it into the window by herself.

We went over and put it in the window for her and stayed long enough to make sure it was working. Then decided to have dinner out since it was already getting late. So, not much else will get done tonight.

We left the horses out tonight, that's how hot it is. Gave them hay in their yards rather than putting them in their stalls. Tomorrow may be worse, though it looks like it will break a bit after that. Ground is hard and dry, No real rain for nearly a month now.

Oh, I think I mentioned the fact that the foxes had apparently eaten a turtle. Gary showed me the remains of the shell today, and it was an eastern painted turtle. That's a bit of a puzzle, since they usually stick pretty close to water and we have no significant amounts of water now within more than a mile. I could imagine turtles in the Kishwaukee River, but that's too far away for one to have traveled on its own power and ended up on our land. Presumably whoever caught and ate it had carried it here from somewhere else. It was pretty good size too, about seven or eight inches in diameter.

Interesting

Jul. 9th, 2011 10:10 pm
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
So all this time I've figured that foxes would eat just about anything, but today I had clear evidence that they do draw the line somewhere. After taking Tess out to the pasture at 7 am, I noticed what looked like a small kitten either asleep or dead near the arena. When I got closer, I realized that it was a baby skunk and it was dead. Faint foxy odor, no skunk. Probably it was too young to have working scent glands. Apparently a broken neck, which suggests that a canid got it rather than an owl, which would otherwise have been a possibility. There were fox prints and a pile of fox scat within a few inches of the body.

Conclusion: a fox caught and killed the skunklet but decided not to eat it after all.

Today was a guild meeting, plus a double chore day since Gary and Rob are off at a Civil War recreation. They'll be back late tonight I think. So I went to the guild meeting, and did the usual Saturday grocery shopping, and all the barn work and critter chores myself. Not that it's that big a deal, but usually we divide things up a bit more. No complaint though. If I've got some major event to attend, Gary does it all including my part without complaining.
altivo: (rocking horse)
I hope this chipmunk has a release clause in his lease. Why you should never believe what the real estate agent tells you about the neighborhood:

Dubious Duplex


I've been watching this situation develop for several days. Our repeated attempts to discourage the fox from digging here failed. And of course, that left a nice pile of loose spoils that were just so inviting to Mr. Chippie. I'm afraid the little guy is in for a nasty surprise soon, though.

The library was a zoo today, and I don't mean that in a good way. After being closed yesterday, we were faced with hordes of demanding children who wanted their summer reading gelt. The noise was incredible, accompanied by not a few adult temper tantrums as well.

Oh, and I saw a young red-headed woodpecker fly across the road in front of me this morning. Only about a mile from our place, so it's good to know they are nesting somewhere in the area. This one was nearly full grown already, but had dark brown feathers on his head. I guess they won't turn the trademark red color until the next molt.
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
Runaway asparagus. Happens when we fail to check for new shoots and cut them every couple of days. They have turned into small trees, so I guess we will leave them for this year now.

Making rhubarb pie again for Gary, realized that the rhubarb I had sitting in the fridge was getting rather tired so went out to cut some fresh. Only when I got out there, sharp paring knife in hand, I was greeted by one of the Brit neighbors' horses who started to come right up to me in the middle of the garden. He had obviously gotten through their flimsy fences (not the first time.) He nickered at me but was not afraid apparently.

I didn't want to deal with being nosed by a friendly horse while I had a sharp tool in my hand, though, so I turned back toward the barn to get Gary and a lead rope and unload the knife. Of course when we came back the horse was gone. Or so I thought until I saw him trotting down the fence line on our side. He disappeared on the edge of the wood and when I got up to the spot I couldn't figure out how he got through. I expect he'll be back, though. Runaway horse.

Haven't seen the fox for a couple of days, but heard her at night and we have been finding chicken parts again. Gary says he found a foot. I keep finding stray feathers that are odd colors and definitely not from any of our usual wild birds. Oh, and coming back from looking for the runaway horse, we heard a woodpecker in the woods and hunted him down on a dead oak about 30 feet up. It was a large hairy woodpecker, I'm pretty sure, though I only heard him and saw his back. Gary thinks he went into a hole in the tree. I suppose that may mean he's a she. We'll have to watch.

Time to sample that pie...
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
Sunny, with a few little fluffy clouds, light breeze, and temperatures in the 60s to low 70s. Humidity down, and except for a few stubborn mosquitoes, not too many pests. Because they'd engaged in such a frenzy of lawnmowing over the past ten days, I guess, the neighbors were not polluting the spectrum or the air with their infernal machines. The only problem was that we were both so worn out from yesterday that we kept napping and drowsing for much of the day.

Oh well. I made pizza for dinner, with salad left from yesterday, and baked a rhubarb and peach pie. Pizza and salad were good, we haven't sampled the pie yet but will do so shortly.

Bed soon after that, as we're still both sleepy.

Oh, and this morning at breakfast time we saw mother fox and her kit (apparently only one) sitting together in the middle of the horse yard. The youngster is growing fast, but still sticks close to mom who sniffs and licks at him/her constantly. They both look healthy and reasonably well fed, so I guess they're managing all right.

Barn swallows have babies in a nest in the boys' barn. This is normal, but it's clearly a different pair than the ones we've had the past several years. The previous parents were quite bold and did not flee when one of us entered the barn. This mother leaves the nest immediately if we come in, and will not return until we have left the building.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
As I expected, I felt much better this morning. However, after going to work and trying to catch up all day, I didn't feel all that good when I got home. Nonetheless, it's an improvement.

Little Bandit got banded when I got home. Hopefully done effectively this time.

We just saw a very large raccoon in the yard, gleaning missed bits under the bird feeders. Birdseed? Can't a raccoon find better stuff at this time of year?

It's hot. It's steamy. Abnormally so for the time of year. My hair is frizzed so much even I can't believe it. That's some high humidity.

Tomorrow just farm work. Sunday is a guild spinning demo, and the weather doesn't sound too great for an outdoor event. We'll have to see...
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
That was how Gary described the feathers and bits he picked up in a corner of the arena today. The fox has been around, digging under stuff. We see her every couple of days or so. She left a large wing by the back door of the house, and he left it for me to pick up. Almost certainly a chicken wing from a large bird, Rhode Island Red or Red Leghorn perhaps. I'm not sure how far she is bringing them in from. Certainly none of our immediate neighbors have loose chickens any more.

Also saw an owl perched in a tree along Collins Rd. on the way home from dinner in Woodstock. I think it was a young Great Horned Owl. The location, color, size, and silhouette all suggested that species rather than any of the other possibilities, even though the horns were not obvious.

Updated maps in the Garmin for the second time in a month. They sent me an e-mail saying there was a new update. It took four hours this time, rather than five. I can't imagine why it takes them so long to perform this update process. Sure, it's a lot of data, but it should be designed for piecemeal update rather than total replacement (I would think.)
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
I mean real foxen. I noted my sighting yesterday afternoon, and Gary has seen the vixen twice today and also a kit. He saw the kit poking its head out from under an old log pile behind the arena (near where I saw the vixen yesterday) and mom came barking and running up to herd her wayward offspring back into shelter. An hour or so later he saw mom come running from the barns out toward the road, turn back and bark, then cut west and disappear back into the trees. The Brit neighbors' little terrier came running out along the same path as soon as the fox had disappeared. The dog has a tendency to dig for things in burrows, and I suspect mom was distracting him. She'll probably relocate the offspring now.

Some controversy seems to have erupted (it does every year) over the Ursa Major awards. Results were announced at Morphicon and posted this last week. There are complaints that it has become the Kyell Gold and Sofawolf awards. Superficially at least, this would seem to be true. However, only about a thousand votes were cast. The voting is open to anyone who will take the trouble to register and vote, so if you didn't vote and didn't nominate, then you have no right to complain at all.

I do agree that awards that are determined simply by popular vote will tend to go to the most familiar names with the most publicity rather than necessarily to the best art or literary works. The answer to that is not to try to "reform" the Ursa Major awards, but to start some additional award programs. I would like to see an award or group of awards made on literary merit, by a committee of furry writers. Membership on the committee could rotate, and a group like the Furry Writers Guild would be a good administrative basis. Something similar for artists could also be created. Awards could be given both to specific pieces of work and to individual artists and authors for their entire corpus of work.

Likewise, I think the various furry publishers should get together and make some awards of their own, again based on artistic/literary merit rather than just "who sold the most."

Note that I'm not criticizing Kyell Gold or Sofawolf. They do good work, and are popular. They also do heavy promotion, so they have high name recognition. That counts for a lot in a popular vote contest. If you really want to see someone else win in the Ursas, then you need to help promote their work in advance. Make sure it gets nominated (this takes multiple nominations, so enlist your friends.) Then once the nomination is secured, campaign for it, just as in a political election. Publicize the work and the artist or author. Make sure everyone knows how to register and vote, and that they have seen the work in question. Tell them WHY they should vote for it.
altivo: Horsie cupcakes (cupcake)
Well, not the weather. This is the grayest spring I can remember in many years.

Despite a guild meeting in the morning, shopping in the afternoon, and Gary going to a music event this evening so I'm left with the dogs, it feels less hectic than any day in the last two weeks. That's the definite improvement. I even had time to read over my dinner.

Outdoors, spring proceeds with or without the sun. Lettuce, spinach, and chard are sprouting. For some reason, peas are lagging and may have to be replanted tomorrow. Apples, crabs, and pears are blossoming, not quite open enough to scent the air yet, but soon I hope. And no hail or ice storms to reduce the crop this year please.

Also, we have redbud in bloom. I have been nurturing a redbud for ten years, and finally it has blossoms on a couple of branches. You folks farther south may laugh, but we are near the border of where redbud will no longer tolerate the winters. This one was started from one of those little twigs that the Arbor Day Foundation gives away. After three years it stood about four feet high and had lots of foliage, so I thought it was going to make it. Then it winterkilled right back to the roots and I figured it was dead. It is planted in a relatively sheltered spot and is partly obscured by other saplings that grew more easily. A Bradford pear and a crabapple from the same bundle of twigs now stand over 20 feet tall and bloom profusely in May.

So I forgot about the redbud for a couple of years. Then in summer I noticed the characteristic leaves again and sure enough, it had resprouted from the roots. It has a rather lopsided shape, but many redbuds do grow that way. Early this spring I was convinced that the tree had died over the winter, but now the rose and magenta blossoms are appearing. These come before the leaves, and are intensely colored. With any luck, they are a sign that the rootstock is healthy and the tree will continue to spread.

Rhubarb is almost ready for a first cutting. Last night we ate the first asparagus from the garden. Dandelions are blooming. Yes, I know, my ancestors celebrated spring by eating the dandelion leaves, but I don't care for them, thanks.

Oh, and while I was putting the horses and sheep to bed for the night, I heard a fox barking incessantly. Finally I went outside the barn to try to figure out where it was and could tell that it was just at the back corner of the arena. Sure enough, a movement in the undergrowth and then I saw her cross the lane and head west behind the arena. A smallish fox, probably a vixen, strawberry blond rather than deep red, and possibly a bit thin due either to nursing kits or to poor luck hunting. This could well be the kit that was tangled in our sheep fence a few years back, and had to be released by hand. The color and size would fit.

Fried-day

May. 6th, 2011 09:18 pm
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Library door count up, noise level up exponentially. We have a big art exhibit from the high school art classes plus this week we had a traveling display of Mexican murals. Teachers trekking elementary school classes through all day to "see the art" though I think they were actually paying no attention to it at all and were just busy shouting back and forth to each other.

No rain again, in spite of predictions. I hope it isn't all being saved up to drown us tomorrow during the bird census.

Thanks to some back and forth chatter between two friends on Twitter, I learned that Amazon had dropped the price of a large plush lion I wanted until it barely qualified for free shipping. Get! Apparently Amazon's prices for plush fluctuate up and down like commodity items, with multiple changes during the same day on occasion. Who knew? (Not me.)

We went out for supper and grocery shopping this evening, since I won't be able to shop tomorrow due to the bird thing. While unloading groceries I heard a lot of dogs barking and a fox screaming somewhere across the road. I hope the fox didn't get hurt. She probably has kits somewhere. Gary came back from closing the barns to report a new large excavation under the corner where the tack room is walled off. I suspect the two go together.

Oh, and I saw a low-flying sandhill crane on my way home from work. Now to go study too many warblers before sleeping. Have to be up and on the road right after sunrise.
altivo: 'Tivo in fursuit (fursuit)
I have most of next week off. Working Monday, and Wednesday evening. That's all. I still had 28 hours of vacation left from last year, and this will use most of it up.

Weather looks iffy for the weekend, what with all the chances of thunderstorms, possibly severe, but we'll chance it. Should be the warmest temperatures we've had this year, and I'm planning to grill something tomorrow if at all possible. Just what depends on what fresh produce I can find tomorrow.

Fortunately, we aren't dependent on the morons in Congress for this, or we'd not be eating at all. Aren't you utterly fed up with all the grandstanding and non-cooperation? I sure am. It's all about drama and publicity, not at all about doing what needs to be done. (Which is NOT, I might add, tying crap like your attitudes about birth control, abortion, or sex education into a budget allocation bill. Nor is it tying your extreme ideas about killing programs like Social Security or Medicare into the bill. Those are issues that should be discussed and debated openly and in detail, in their own right, rather than sneaking them into some other large bill and hoping no one will notice until it's too late.)

Frankly, I think any individual whose annual earnings are more than a million dollars, like so many of the crooks who head big banks, ought to be taxed about 90% on those excess earnings. That is stolen money. They have no legitimate right to it when their banks are so busy stealing from small ordinary folks, foreclosing mortgages, raising credit card interest to usurious levels, and cutting interest on savings to fractions of a percent. All the while laughing as they stuff bags with money and ship it off to Switzerland or whatever it is they do with their ill gotten gains.

Right now there is something making very strange sounds outside in the dark. It isn't an Eastern Screech Owl, as we know those quite well. It might be a Western Screech Owl or a Lesser Nighthawk, except that they don't belong here. It's a long (5 to 10 second) pitched trill, with a sort of hollow echo to it. It's not any species of frog found around here, but I'm not familiar with the possible toads. So I suppose it might be a bird I don't know, or some kind of toad. Too early for any insect here to be making that kind of racket.

[Edit: After web searches for amphibian sounds likely in Illinois in the spring, we've decided it's a frog after all. The Northern Leopard Frog, to be precise. Lots of chorus frogs singing in the distance, but this one is up close and very distinct.]
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
Ow! Murder most foul.. er, fowl.. er, vulpine?

Went out to the barns this morning and found a bloody scene in the snow. It took a while for me to decide just what it was. Blood smears over about 15 feet of the track we've made between barns, tufts of gray fur all over, but no corpus delicti. At first I couldn't find tracks leading into or away from the scene, and speculated that the predator must have been a hawk or an owl. Normally there would be feathery marks in the snow where a red-tail or an owl grabbed prey, though, and there were none. The fur appeared to be that of a gray squirrel, probably mostly from the fluffy tail. Our squirrels are generally too large for the raptors we have in the area. Those are more inclined toward chipmunks, voles, and mice.

Finally I found what I was looking for. The snow was crusty enough that the footprints were not always clear, but I decided that a red fox is the likely perpetrator. Sure enough, when Gary came out and looked at it, he followed the tracks farther and she (almost certainly a vixen because of the form of the urine marks) has been hiding in the old woodpile behind the arena. We have no shortage of squirrels this year, and she's welcome to the neighbors' chickens that run loose if she wants them. (In fact, she's welcome to the neighbors' kids if she can catch them, but that's another story.) I think we may be lucky enough to see fox kits again this spring. Last year there were none.

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