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Archive for the ‘Wild Animals’ Category


December is the perfect time to share some animal-related posts I’ve landed on here and there on the Web.

  • Dog lovers, get your Kleenex or hankies: These photos, about a dog’s guide dog, will touch you to tears

“Within the heart of every stray lies the singular desire to be loved. Lily is a great Dane who has been blind since a bizarre medical condition required that she have both eyes removed. For the last five years, Maddison, another great Dane, has been her sight. The two are, of course, inseparable. ‘People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.’ ” Substitute the word “people” with the word “dog,” and that works, too. http://rossparry.co.uk/. Photos by Ross Parry , United Kingdom

  • Cat lovers: An alluring cat named Usyaka,caught in the act  in photos taken by her devoted human, Alexandra. I enjoy how creatively Alexandra uses light to make ordinary shots into fashion statements and art. See more of Usyaka at usyaka.wordpress.com. Photos by Alexandra.

  • Tis the Season to Bee-lieve. Click the link below and read a poignant tale that connects Pearl Harbor Day and the life of a b http://honeybeesandme.com/.

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This picture seems to be all that remains of the young black-tailed buck that traveled our woods -- and helped himself to my rose buds -- for two years. I forgave his harvesting my roses when he turned and looked right into my eyes as this photo was snapped. It was taken earlier this year when his new antlers were still fresh in velvet. I imagined that rack being a yard across in years ahead. My guess is he seldom left our place. It is rather a perfect bachelor pad as bucks go: meadows for browsing; ponds and creeks for drinking; woods for hiding; and does for courting. It was his turf until poachers ended his young life the first day of the Fall 2011 hunting season. Photo by James Sherman.

I try not to use the word “hate.” I did my best to raise my son in the art of not using this four-letter word or others  like it. But I’m using that word now: I “hate” deer and elk hunting seasons. More specifically, I hate the people who cheat at it: poachers.

Where’s the sport in raising your rifle as you sit in your truck on a public road at sundown and shoot a deer on private property where faded, but readable, “No Hunting or Trespassing” signs are posted?

Yes, we live in a hillside clearing surrounded by private forests and BLM land; so we expect hunters’ rifle shots to boom through our silence. The first weekend of the fall deer season they seem especially loud. I remind myself it’s a seasonal sport and tell my husband how glad I am it’s not his thing anymore.

I admit hypocrisy here: I don’t often voice my view in our rural social circles. Intellectually, I get the pros of ethical hunting as necessary for wildlife and wildland management. It’s my heart that isn’t convinced.

I’m the mom who read “Bambi” to her son and every time skipped the part about Bambi’s mother dying. My son’s 20 now. But whenever he starts a sentence, “Remember when you…,” I know he’s about to remind me how my revisionist bedtime reading got him blindsided on the playground when friends happened on the “Bambi” storyline. Adam insisted it didn’t go the way his pals said.

That afternoon, Bambi was with us in the car on the ride home from school. As soon as Adam had clicked his seat-belt around his six-year-old waist, it was game-on. “Mom, there’s only one ‘Bambi’ story right? So how come other kids say his mother got killed? And what exactly are hunters? ”

Adam’s words were like a shot to my mom heart. I’d tried to protect him from what I considered a harsh reality. And I’d put him at a disadvantage. It wasn’t the first time I apologized to my son for something I’d said or done. It was the first, and last, time I lied to Adam by omitting pieces of the truth.

I guess you could say deer hunting is a loaded issue for me. And can I just say that I got my Bambi comeuppance this summer. My chocolate Lab, Kobe, loves to find stinky things to carry home from walks in the meadow. This time, he was lagging way behind and pulling something heavy up the hill. He was dragging a skeleton: a head, spine, and partial rib cage. It could only have been a long-dead deer or young elk, taken by coyotes, injury or illness. “OMG” was about all I could say to my quite proud-of-himself dog.

Kobe knew better than to even attempt to bring his find into the house. Reluctantly, he dropped it on our front porch. Where it stayed until Adam got home and moved it out of sight for his mother.  Yes, the whole “Bambi”-on-the-playground incident came up yet again.

As it did recently when we got disturbing news from our other-side-of-the-woods neighbor: He reported seeing hunters taking aim from the road and dropping a forked horn in our woods at dusk. I literally felt as though I’d been smacked by a rifle shot’s recoil.

The young buck was apparently standing alongside the pump house on our private property when they killed it. Did I mention they were shooting toward our house?  The poachers, trespassing, dragged the buck to the county road and heaved it into the bed of their pickup. They sped off before the neighbor could make out the mud-spattered license plate number. I’m no game warden, but I count at least three rules* of the hunting game broken. Not to mention the spirit of the laws. Wonder what great heroic story the cheap-shot hunters told their peers about their illegally taken prize?

Chances are the buck poached was the one you see in the photo. He posed in our front yard earlier this year, perhaps to show off his brand new antlers. Needless to say, he felt pretty safe hereabouts. He probably didn’t stray from our place his entire life. Born here, lived here, died here. RIP.

 *      General Hunting Rules, excerpted from 2011 Oregon Big Game Regulations

Shooting Hours:                                                                                                                                                                                             ■■Game mammals may only be hunted from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.

No Person Shall:                                                                                                                                                                                             ■■ Shoot from or across a public road, road right-of-way or railroad right-of-way….

■■ Hunt any wildlife from a motor-propelled vehicle. Exceptions: 1) A qualified disabled hunter may obtain an “Oregon Disabilities Hunting and Fishing Permit” to hunt from a motor-propelled vehicle except while the vehicle is in motion or on any public road or highway.

To Report Wildlife Violators in Oreogn,  Call 1-800-452-7888 or Email tip@state.or.us


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THE BEAR DID IT! AND OTHER ON-VACATION ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS.

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My young nephews invited me to join them at the picnic table for an adapted version of BananaGrams. Every word we created with our letter tiles had to have something to do with the animal kingdom I was instructed. Photo by Adam Sherman

Everywhere we go, there they are: Animals that is. Even on vacation.

Some dogs, like some people, me incl uded, are quite content to spend their vacation on a raft. Photo by Dennis Forer

Some dogs, like some people, me included, are quite content to spend their vacation on a raft. Photo by Dennis Forer

My dad started a wonderful family tradition 50 years ago—a week or two spent in the same place at the same time each year. As the family has grown and moved away from home, this annual August trek has become a mini family reunion while on vacation.

Prince is my sister’s family’s golden retriever. It’s hard to say who enjoys the mountain-air morning runs more, Prince or my sis. Those outings always end with Prince madly splashing into the swimming hole and begging to be sent into the deep on water retrieves. Prince also likes to retrieve the rubber rings used in the game of Muckers, which is much like Horseshoes. Each year, we set up our Muckers pit behind our cabins and have an all-ages guys-versus-gals tournament; however Prince must watch the game from the cabin’s veranda. Otherwise, it would turn into Prince’s own game of “Catch Me and the Rings If You Can.” Give him a bed and a dog chewy something, and he’s content all the same. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Sparky is my brother’s family’s dog. He’s small but mighty in charm and character. Family vacation came as a relief for the little guy: He’d had a hard school year, what with two of the three kids in his family going off to college and all. Here at last, his pack was united. Photo by Adam Sherman

Our stay in cabins on a river in the woods almost always includes a few dogs of our own. Other families have vacationed with cats and ferrets.

When I was young and on vacation here, I spent the largest part of each day at the stable, waiting for my turn to ride one of the for-hire trail horses.  Wilderness pack trips and promises of great fishing in the cold lakes of the back country were then one of the main draws to this rustic 1920’s-era “resort.” Dad and I took a lot of those rides back in the day.

One thing that has remained constant at our family vacation spot for 50 years is blue jays. If the warm sunshine in your face doesn’t wake you when it stretches above the mountains in the early morning, the blue jay conversations just inches from your sleeping bag will. Photo by Adam Sherman

Much-younger, my siblings had their own kind of animal fun watching fat chipmunks and shimmery blue jays  scatter after bread crumbs. The once bustling stables were abandoned long ago, and the tack room and hitching rails have gone to weeds. But a sturdy new corral is home to a couple of overweight donkeys that come hee-hawing to the fence whenever someone with a carrot or sugar cube stops by.

Youngsters in ours and other families pester parents to take them on walks “up to where the donkeys live.” For me, the little long-eared fellows evoke Dad-and-me memories of following along behind a string of mules packed with supplies for forest rangers at lookout stations and Boy Scouts at high country camps.

“Mr. Donkey, just because my sweater is green like an apple does not mean you can eat it! Let me have my sleeve back, and I’ll give you a carrot!,” I said to this sweet long-eared fellow. He’s gone a tad “sour” from all the handouts he gets from vacationing kids – and yes, adults, too.  Now corralled, this donkey and his partner used to roam the resort at will. Since the warped doors on the old vacation cabins don’t always close tightly, these clever donkeys would use their long noses to wedge the doors open, tip-toe up the rather rickety stairs, go inside and binge on human sweets and treats. Photo by Adam Sherman.

“Mr. Donkey, just because my sweater is green like an apple does not mean you can eat it! Let me have my sleeve back, and I’ll give you a carrot!,” I said to this sweet long-eared fellow. He’s gone a tad “sour” from all the handouts he gets from vacationing kids – and yes, adults, too. Now corralled, this donkey and his partner used to roam the resort at will. Since the warped doors on the old vacation cabins don’t always close tightly, these clever donkeys would use their long noses to wedge the doors open, tip-toe up the rather rickety stairs, go inside and binge on human sweets and treats. Photo by Adam Sherman.

My nieces and nephews appear not to have my horse-crazy genes, but they do smile sweetly when the donkeys’ soft lips and bristly chin hairs sweep across their small palms as they offer treats. Family dogs aren’t always so enthused by the donkeys: Sometimes they growl a grumble or hide behind the person nearest at hand.

Watching the kids and donkeys interact again had me thinking about how entwined animals are in our lives, even when we’re away from home.

Butterflies float through our mountain forest vacation spot but infrequently. This beauty took a breather on a corner of the riverside beach. Back home, my mom’s husband’s family has a renowned butterfly garden; hence he gave this visitor a hearty welcome. Photo by Dennis Forer

My cousin’s husband had his camera slung over his shoulder while walking near the river the morning this bird of prey passed overhead. There’s an eagle’s nest not far from where the photo was taken, so we assumed this was an eagle. Once we had the photos in hand and could enlarge them to look at details, it looked to be an osprey – probably out fishing for breakfast. No matter the type of bird, it doesn’t get much better than snapping a photo as it soars against a cloudless blue sky before the heat of the day sets in. Photo by Dennis Forer

Most years, while we’re on our family vacation, there’s some kind of bear activity in camp. Generally that involves midnight raids with bears climbing on top of chain-locked dumpsters and straining to get the lids off. The noise they make is the worst of it.

However, last year, on the bittersweet final night of our vacation, a bear ripped out a screen and climbed into a nearby cabin. The bear had its way with the refrigerator and most things in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the woman sleeping at the back of the cabin jumped over the veranda and ran to safety. The bear was later trapped and moved to a distant section of forest.

Here’s how my youngest niece, Sara, who was age eight at the time, told the tale, which appeared in her school’s newspaper.

A BEAR STORY

“I went on an adventure to Trinity Alps Resort with my family. It is an adventure because you are in the wilderness. When we went on walks in the wilderness I found chipmunks. We had three cabins in a row this year: We had Sierra, Santa Barbara and Sacramento. My family was in the one Sacramento. Everybody in the family comes to Trinity Alps Resort.

“Our last night at Trinity Alps Resort the bear was out! My mother woke me up to show me that the bear was out in the garbage can. I was so scared I had to go in the room with the roof. I was sleeping out on the veranda which has a roof on it. But there are other openings all around you.

“Guess what? The black bear actually got into a cabin. It tried to open the door. But instead he broke apart the window. The lady’s name was Sharon. So she heard a noise in the kitchen and then she went into the kitchen and she saw this black thing on its two hind legs and then she realized that it was the black bear! So she ran to the veranda and she jumped over the veranda.

“Then she ran over to my cousin Mikayla’s cabin and she told Mikayla’s dad all about it. Then Dennis, Mikayla’s dad, drove Sharon to Jim’s house. Jim is the kind of person who keeps everybody safe and keeps things straight. So Sharon slept the rest of the night. The bear got into the cabin at 3:00 in the morning before the bear got into the garbage can about 4:15 in the morning. My dad was in the bathroom about 4:45 shining a flashlight in the bear’s eyes.

“There is a cabin called Napa and the person who is staying in Napa which is Mrs. Jansen. She gets freaked out because there is like a little path where the bear comes and goes. I was selling jewelry there, too. In the morning we went to go look at the cabin. At Mikayla’s cabin I got a Hershey Bar. You might not want to read this at night but the chocolate part won’t scare  you as much as Mrs. Schuler [Sara’s teacher].”

Her teacher commented: “Good suspense. Now that’s a scary bear story!“

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Still regal at nearly 20 years old, Shadow enjoys his windowsill vantage point. Photo by Adam Sherman.

(PLEASE TAKE THE POLL AT THE END OF THIS POST. THANKS.)

I wonder: Does a white-tailed, floppy-eared doe consider a mid-size black house cat to be prey, predator, or a curiosity?

On a morning trip to the chicken coop, I noticed a deer near our woodpile. She was looking intently at the ground. When I left the coop a little later, the hens were complaining as always at being robbed of their nest’s goods. Sometimes, they get so dramatic, they make sounds that are much like a growl.

I thought that‘s what I was hearing as I noticed the doe remaining in exactly the same position as before. I shuffled my feet in the gravel, but even that didn’t startle her.

Now I was curious. Slowly, I approached to see if the deer was perhaps focused on a fawn at her feet. No fawn; instead a shadowy silhouette, shaped like a cat’s head. My near-20-year-old black cat, Shadow, sat frozen just inches from the doe, staring up at her. It was him doing the growling, nearly as deep and loud as a dog’s. The young doe and the sweet, but a tad demented, old-man cat, were staring each other down. Shadow would never be able to avoid a direct hit if she decided to give him a hoof.

I yelled at both of them and made big cartwheel moves with my arms. That diverted the doe. She turned and calmly walked toward the forest. Shadow scurried as best he could into the shop and hid under a big, red toolbox the rest of the day. He wasn’t injured but was suffering a little post-drama trauma.

I’ll always wonder who saw who first that day.

Next day, Lilly the barn cat ran zig-zagging into the arena where my horse, Callie, was loose and cavorting. After a few minutes of zipping around in the sandy footing, Lilly froze and stayed that way. Eventually, Callie caught sight of the gray-and-white cat and sauntered toward her. Callie stretched her neck down to sniff Lilly, then shook her head as if inviting Lilly to play.  I hoped Callie’s next move would not be “playfully” striking out with her front feet.

Lilly stayed stock still. She had a baby vole or gopher under her paw that she was not going to part with come Hell or hooves. Callie gave Lilly another sniff then turned to egg on Sam, the blue heeler sitting outside the arena waiting for a sign the chase-each-other-down-the-fence game was on.

Cats seem to be feeling quite empowered this week.

Folk-art style stick pony, or hobby horse, typical of those recently used as real horse proxies during a rodeo-queen-style contest in Utah.

STICK HORSE STAND-INS

More than 50 horse, burro and mule events in the United States and Canada were canceled in May and June when a highly contagious, often-fatal illness, equine herpes virus (EHV-1), struck in 10 western states. Ninety cases of EHV-1 were confirmed. Of these, 13 became fatalities, according to the USDA.

EHV-1 spreads easily from horse to horse through nose contact, contaminated tack, equipment and clothing. To help prevent the spread of EHV-1, state veterinarians invoked quarantines and instructed owners and trainers not to move their horses away from home stables for any reason.

Still, one show went on minus the horseflesh:  a Utah mounted posse junior queen competition. The contestants rode, well, stick horses, to demonstrate their horsemanship and knowledge of the required routines.

This gambit received national media attention: Some viewers and readers commented that the stick pony substitution set these young women up for ridicule. Others believed it a lesson in creative problem-solving.  I like to think it made people smile — and not at the expense of the queen hopefuls.

The contest judges certainly were able to get  a clear picture of how each contestant adapts to uncomfortable situations. How could you not feel

Pink polka dots add a fancy touch to this stick pony. These toys also became known as hobby horses in 1500s England when keeping horses for recreation, as opposed to draft work, took hold with the royal and wealthy.

self-conscious without your trusty live mount to carry you to victory? Let’s hope the young competitors felt gracious, not graceless, as they moved around the arena demonstrating gait changes, figure-eights and other maneuvers.

Prime time stick ponies got me to thinking about my childhood stick horses, also known as hobby horses since the 1500s. My favorite was the color of a palomino with a creamy mane and tail. Do you remember yours?

Or perhaps this old English nursery rhyme rings a bell:

I had a little hobby horse,
and it was dapple grey;
its head was made of pea-straw,
its tail was made of hay.

THE ANIMAL LESSON THIS WEEK: What the stick ponies bring to mind is the 12-step phrase, “Take the world as it is, not as it ought to be,” (or “as you would have it”). This valuable insight points to the importance of being able to adapt and take things in stride. There’s a group of young horse women in Utah who know how.

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FAWNED OVER

I've been partial to fawns since childhood. This was taken circa 1960s in a California national forest where a park ranger had rescued this orphaned fawn. Photo by Edgar J. Herring

Does and fawns, nouns that elicit Madonna-and-child-like visions of peaceful mothers and their babes: Until the doe thinks her fawn’s in peril.  A sweet-seeming Bambi mom can turn mean in a hoofbeat. That’s what happened when a pint-size dog (He weighs in at 14 pounds.), on an innocent gopher hunt, was caught “trespassing.”

Here’s how the scene unfolded. The pooch’s owner heard a weird sound while doing evening chores. She looked up and saw upwards of 208 pounds of white-tailed deer running dead at her! Next she noticed the mad-as-a-hatter deer was really stampeding after her little dog — also speeding straight toward her.

Some fancy arm-waving and shouting detoured the deer into the woods just in time to avoid a woman-doe collision. The little dog, kiy-yiy-yiying all the way home, was shaking, dirty, limping and missing some hair. The assumption is that he got rolled, stomped, or bit by the doe. After a few shaky, achy days he was back to normal – and now a rare visitor to that particular field.

Imagine your surprise if, walking through the tall May grass, you literally stumbled into this all-alone fawn. Apparently, the new baby was napping while Mom was several yards up the hill, scaring the life out of one of the farm's resident dogs.

Same place, same day, an all-alone fawn was discovered in the hip-high grass of a resting field just down the lane.

Gates were left open to encourage Mom and baby to reunite and make their way back into the woods. Next morning, no sign of the fawn; instead, a path of recently flattened grass leading away.

No coincidence I’d say. That fawn had to be the brand new offspring of the raging doe.

“Like a lioness” or “like a mother bear” are phrases used to describe a human mother who, instinctively and aggressively, jumps to her child’s’ defense or protection. I think we can add “like a mother deer” to that group.

IT’S SUPERMAN! NO, WAIT: IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE!

Turkey vulture profile, in a manner of speaking. In the air, their faces seem a muted coral color. Close up, the color is a brilliant lipstick red. Looks like smudges of dark eyeliner around those eyes if you ask me. Photo source: http://mollysbox.wordpress.com

Riding toward the river near the barn, I spied a hint of red high in the for-once very-blue sky. A red-winged bi-plane was flying a pattern of dips, lifts and somersaults.

Stage right, another spot of red appeared  lower in the sky. It was a red-beaked turkey vulture. It, too, was repeatedly diving, soaring, and floating on the breeze. It looked as though the small plane and big bird were a pair waltzing in-step to a choreographed sky dance.

I sat in my saddle and pondered how oddly enchanting the scene was. I’ve never thought of vultures as anything besides unsightly, unseemly scavengers. It turns out, vultures are uniquely built for expert soaring and are considered by many experts to be one of the smartest birds there is.

They’re big on family, too: In late spring or early summer vultures nest as a clan in caves, cliffs, and tree hollows. They “speak” in hisses and grunts; hence locating them by ear can be challenging. Vultures don’t bestow us with lyrical birdsong; instead they give us acrobatics with sky as their theater.

The wingspan of an adult turkey vulture can reach six feet. Photo source: nationaleaglecenter.org

Since vultures  prefer to fly over open fields and meadows rather than dense woods, we often get to watch them play the thermals above the valley behind our home. My appreciation for vultures has been awakened. Now, when I observe them — so ungainly on the ground — glide and swoop with great grace, I see them as winged dancers, not just as opportunistic gleaners of nature’s fallen.

Watch this short public broadcasting video for a glimpse, http://www.opb.org/programs/ofg/segments/view/1718

THE ANIMAL LESSON THIS WEEK, from the vultures, relates to the 12-step slogan, “Keep an open mind.”


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This week’s post comes to you not from the barn or a farm, but from Australia! And, no, not because I’m a tourist there, but because one of my blogging colleagues, Barbara Taylor, lives in the Land Down Under.

She recently posted these photos of the kind of wildlife that roam about in her part of the world. Can you imagine seeing a kangaroo jumping along a roadside or across a lawn here in the states?

And the flamingo-colored cockatoos! How pretty are they? You have to love any animal, furred, finned or feathered, that mates for life as these sorbet-colored birds do. Barbara’s blog is called Passionate About Pets, and she is. You can visit her site at http://passionateaboutpets.wordpress.com

Eastern Grey Kangaroos of Australia. Photo by Bizzliz Photography


“These guys (kangaroos) were grazing in the bush at the end of our street. They graze early morning and late afternoons, so that’s the best time to see them. During the heat of the day they stay in the shadows of the trees to keep cool and snooze!

Galah, or rose-breasted, cockatoos of Australia. Photo by Bizzliz Photography.

“Galahs feeding off a bird table. They are also known as the Rose-breasted Cockatoo. They are found all over Australia, are an intelligent and social bird that mate for life and are quite common as pets.”  by Barbara Taylor

FINCH FEST

Male goldfinch getting his share of seed before the finch food frenzy begins. Photo by Karen Mendonca.

The first time I saw a colorful bird in the wild, I felt blessed. It was shortly after we moved to Oregon. A bird feeder was a monumental part of making the new place feel like home. The reward  came the very next day.

Seeing a wee bit of yellow winging in for a landing may not stop the hearts of many. The goldfinch truly took my breath away. The next day, the yellow finch brought a friend, or perhaps his mate, to dine.

Each day, the guest list grew, and more little lemon-colored finches flew in. Once, there was a finch convention of 32 vying for a place at the table of thistle seed.

That was when we lived in the valley. Now we’re in the high foothills and finchless. Seems they don’t take to  steeper altitudes. We see other wonderful birds — ducks, geese, hawks, falcons, crested blue jays, robins and blackbirds.

Still, I miss those dear little finches and the bright contrast they  brought to the landscape of greens and browns. I liken them to the pleasantness of sweet and sour lemon drops tickling bored tastebuds. By Janet Herring-Sherman

Postscript: I think God heard me pining for goldfinches. As I walked from the driveway to our front porch this afternoon, a little yellow fellow zipped right across my path and into the ravine! I think I heard myself say to the bird, “Hey You, come back.”  I’m adding this to my to-do list — a trip to the feed store for some thistle temptation — a finch favorite.  Where there’s one, there must be more, right?

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It being Easter, let me introduce my blue-egg-laying Ameraucana chickens, Teddy,
Georgie, Frankie and Alex. My sister nicknamed the four-hen flock Sisters in honor of a 1990s television series

Ozzie, the rooster and two of the hen Sisters, Teddie in the middle, and Frankie, the white one, on the right. These Ameraucana hens are not as inclined to set on their eggs as much as some breeds. In spite of Ozzie's persistent pestering, my Ameraucanas have no offspring. Photo by Adam Sherman.

we used to watch together on Saturday nights. The show, “Sisters,” was about four sisters born to a father who wanted boys; hence their names.

I collect a few things: cobalt blue glass, decorative pumpkins, Santas and home-made Easter eggs. I enjoy inventing tasteful ways to combine them. In this photo, taken by my son, the contrast of the blue bowl and the pastel eggs is heightened by the angle of the late-morning sun. And by the way, these aren’t decorative eggs, they’re the real deal; all two dozen plus, courtesy of our four hens. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Hens that lay blue and blue-green eggs are actually called Easter Eggers in poultry circles. The secular part of our family’s Easter holiday includes decorating a few of the Sisters’ eggs to add to our collection. But we’re spared the dip-and-dye step, because they’re already so pretty in blue.

The Sisters’ have been blessing us with all manner of eggs of late. We thank them for each and every gem. Hens Alex, Teddy and Georgie are a mix of intricately designed sorrel, gray and brown feathers. Frankie’s different: She’s a wheaten color — but stands out mostly because of her antics.

She was the first to start laying when they were young; the first to escape the day the coop gate blew open; the first to inspect the new hen house; and our rooster’s favorite. Frankie’s one smart chick: She’s figured out if she roosts early enough in the evening, she can avoid the attentions of the always-ready-at-sunset rooster. I’m convinced Frankie’s the one that lays the torpedo-shaped eggs as well.

Ameraucanas are not as inclined to set on their eggs as much as some breeds. In spite of our rooster, Ozzie’s, efforts, the Sisters have no offspring.

Buckeye hens share nesting and hatching duties on a clutch that includes eggs from each. Buckeyes are a historic poultry breed in danger of extinction. The roosters are said to possess a range of sounds, including one that sounds like a dinosaur’s roar. Perhaps that's what hampers their popularity! Photo by Janet Herring-Sherman.

My friend Stacy has hens more than happy to set. Hers are a heritage breed known as Buckeyes. She currently has three Buckeye hens that insist on setting on the same nest at the same time. They appear not to care whose eggs are whose.

These personable hens share the maternal duty of gently rolling and repositioning the eggs to make sure they incubate nicely. Looks like they engage in chit-chat, too. I wonder if the chicks will imprint and bond with one or all of their moms?

Since Buckeyes are reputed to be as good as or better than cats at mousing, it would seem they’d be a popular choice for country and suburban dwellers. Not so.

Buckeyes are a threatened species on the conservation list compiled by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Since 1977, this organization has been working to keep 180 historic breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction.

Perhaps that’s why these Buckeye hens are so very earnest in their mission to hatch out chicks with burnished red plumage and comical personalities like their own. Even if it takes a village.

A handsome duck dropped in this week. Literally. Right onto the railing of the deck that backs our house. We had the good fortune to be sitting nearby when it arrived. If I hadn’t seen this drake myself, I’d swear this was a photo of a perfectly painted decoy, or a watercolor. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Living in the mountains near a forest, we’re treated to animal sightings pretty frequently. This one was unusual because it occurred just a few feet away from us.

My husband, Jim , and I were watching TV just before sunset when he suddenly became very still and told me not to move. He didn’t want any motion to startle the duck that had just landed on the railing of the deck right outside our tall windows.

At that point, I couldn’t see the duck and thought perhaps Jim was playing a belated April Fools’ trick.

Then, the partially metallic-green head of a male duck came into view. Its webbed feet walked purposefully along the railing.  About 18 inches behind him, along came a female, wearing feathers in more muted tones.

She followed his every move. A few times the drake stopped, turned to face her and kind of pecked at the air around her head. I worried she’d loose her balance and fall. Jim reminded me she could fly.

A new variety of bird seed mix filled the feeder on the deck’s corner, and we think that’s where the pair was headed. We never found out, because a hawk buzzed by and the ducks scattered. I’m guessing the drake was in the courting stage, because once his mate starts to incubate her dozen or so eggs, he’ll leave her to it and join an all-male flock.

I’m puzzled as to the type of duck this is: When compared to images of Mallards and Wood Ducks, it doesn’t quite match. Wonder if ducks lay colored eggs?

Have a very  blessed  Easter.

And did you know that the Bible contains 138 mentions of animals, according to http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/animals.html?

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I realize not all of my devoted followers reside in Oregon, or in America for that matter. Still, I believe most all of us view bald eagles as mystical, magical–and oft-maligned. Let’s hope this was a wound of nature, not inflicted by a human; and that this majestic creature is soon healed and airborne.

Injured bald eagle awaits rescue. Photo source: http://www.flashalertnewswire.net/images/news

Bald eagle, grounded with an injured shoulder. Photo source: http://www.flashalertnewswire.net/images/news

News Release from: McMinnville Police Dept.
“On April 09, 2011 at about 1:30 pm, Officer Steve Macartney was dispatched to an animal call at 2400 SE Stratus Avenue near space #12, McMinnville. Local residents had found an injured bald eagle in some nearby brush. Officer Macartney confirmed that the injured bird was a bald eagle. With assistance from Oregon State Police, the Audubon Societycame out and took the bald eagle for rehabilitation.According to Deb Sheaffer of the Audubon Society, the bald eagle appears to be a five to six year old female with an injured shoulder. The eagle is in stable condition at this time, but the prognosis for release is guarded.  She is being treated with antibiotics and supportive care and will be evaluated day by day. She said that if the eagle recovers completely, it will be returned to the McMinnville area and will be released back into her territorial area.

Anyone with questions about the Audubon Society, their work, or this particular incident can call Deb Shaeffer at 503-292-6855 x125.  They can also be contacted through www.audubonportland.org

A FEW BALD EAGLE FACTS:

They mate for life; however if one dies, the survivor will accept another mate.

Their life expectancy is 15 to 20 years, but they can live as long as 30 years.

They are unique to North America. They are most concentrated in Alaska but are also found in Canada and every state in the United States except Hawaii.

They are no longer on the Endangered list, but they are still considered threatened because of poachers, habitat loss and injuries caused by man-made things, such as  power lines.

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freefoto.com

Just for fun, during the past week, I made a note each time I saw or heard something animal-related. When I look at this list in context, I’m amazed all over again how a change in place changes our conversations. I’ve been thinking back to what the common conversation thread might have been in my past life in a newsroom. Some talk of animals would have filtered in: I did, after all, sit next to the paper’s farm reporter for many years. Mainly, any chit-chat there was time for was about our kids. I believe all of our back-then kids would have enjoyed the following animal bytes.

A  tenor-toned frog has been offering melancholy serenades at bedtime —  and on in to the wee hours. I don’t know much about frogs, but I’ve seen several Facebook posts about their nighttime habits of late. Male suitors seeking springtime mates perhaps? (One of my goals is to learn something with each of my animal posts. I just did: Frogs overwinter more or less hibernating in mud and damp soil.)

Lilly, the barn cat I wrote fondly of a few weeks back, has a tummy sagging with kittens-in-the-making. We can’t help but marvel as her stripes keep, well, expanding exponentially. Her fave napping spot is on the horse blankets atop my saddle in the tack room. I hope that won’t be her chosen birthing spot!

The cougar, North America's largest native cat. WL Miller photo from weforanimals.com

At our monthly book club potluck, mention was made of our host’s neighbor having caught sight of a mountain lion in the driveway they share. It’s not unexpected to hear claims of cougars — North America’s largest native cat, often seen screaming from a cliff in old Western movies – out here in the woods. It’s quite sobering, however, when you hear there’s one only a few driveways from your home. Driveways out here can be miles apart: Still, I wonder if it’s out there watching us as we move about our place.

Okay, I know there is a world of difference (not to mention continents) between cougars and lions. But when I found my husband watching a movie about man-eating lions in Africa the next night, I suggested his timing was quite poor. I did use the puma–in-the-neighborhood theme to my advantage on April 1. I tricked my son into grabbing his camera to take a photo by telling him the mountain lion was drinking from our pond down the hill. April Fools’!

Speaking of predator types, my husband, Jim, described a scene I

Coyotes are generally lone hunters, because they prey mainly on small mammals and rodents. Coordinated pack hunting comes into play when the quarry is large game, such as elk. John Good photo from weforanimals.com

think I’m glad I wasn’t home to see.  From time to time we hear coyotes, usually at night, their plaintive howls and cries following them across the valley floor. Jim was feeding our chickens one morning when he saw a coyote trotting alongside the woods below. He noticed another leave the woods right behind. Then, two coyotes exited the far side of the woods, moving in the same direction as the first pair. He glanced that way and saw elk grazing on the hillside above. The pack had a plan in motion.

We keep guns locked in a safe; but Jim ran inside, and was able to grab one and fire off a few shots over the heads of the stalking coyotes. They scattered, and the elk moved calmly up the hill away from the woods. Why do we feel so protective of the elk? Many farmers don’t.The half-ton animals hurdle over or shoulder through fences to graze in cultivated fields. I want the coyotes to survive, and the elk, too. I know this is all part of nature and the circle of life, and yet….

 

Wolves remain on America's Endangered Species list. From weforanimals.com

A similar debate about wolves continues here in America’s Pacific Northwest. Wolves remain on the Endangered Species list. For decades, they were absent from our state, historically, their home turf. They are reappearing. Experts say there are 29 in Oregon’s remote northeast. It’s ranch country with cattle herds and sheep flocks easy prey, some say. Others state that domestic dogs kill far more livestock than wolves. Our local NPR station aired a both-sides-now conversation about wolves. Here’s the link, if you’d like to have a listen.

Gotta end with a smile-maker. I attended a Faith and Culture Writers Conference with two women friends. As one picked up her Bible, the soft leather cover stayed in her hand and the bounty of whisper-thin pages of gospels and verse fell away. When she’d picked up and reassembled it all, I noticed a corner that looked chewed-on.

The dog did it, my friend explained: “We have a  67-pound black Lab puppy, named Kohl. My husband called me at work one morning to tell me he’d made a discovery: Kohl had been conducting his own version of Bible study. My husband found the cover of my Bible in our living room, and the Old and New Testaments in our family room.” Guess Kohl was spreading The Word, we joked. Now her Bible is not only well-loved, but a tad dog-eared!  I’m sure Kohl’s been forgiven: Dog, spelled backward, does spell God.

At least a baker’s dozen animal bytes remain from my week of country conversing and eavesdropping. I hope you’ll find the next collection as sweet as, well, a bear claw bakery treat.

Bear claw, an almond-flavored sweet pastry popular in America. From datasource.com

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