Saturday, December 30, 2017

Crow World, Hawk World

A trail cam allowed us to see crow behavior up close as the crows gathered to feed on the carcass of a deer.

Some of the crows with larger bills big-belly around--but they make themselves scarce when the hawk arrives!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Mice Run In, Mice Run Out

After filling our freezers with venison, our hunter-friends left deer carcasses where scavengers could get to them.  

We expected hawks and crows.

We didn't expect mice! 

The mice puzzle me.  They spend so much time running around.  What is the point of all that energy-expenditure?

What are they up to?

I am reminded of the gross humor of my childhood, as we kids started on the long journey of coming to grips with mortality.  We'd hoot at each other:  You'll be in a grave!    Then we'd all join in, chanting:
The worms crawl in
The worms crawl out
The worms play pinochle
On your snout...
Over sixty years later, I still don't have mortality figured out.  
But these mice seem perfectly willing to play pinochle!
However, they seem that way to me because I have so much to learn about mice.  I asked Mammalogist Drew Ricketts at KSU to help me understand what we see in this clip.  He replied:  
Mice have pretty high metabolisms relative to ours, and they also have small stomachs, so they spend a lot of time zipping from place to place in search of something to eat.  Mice also have to move relatively quickly when they are in the open, so that they can try to avoid becoming a snack for a predator.  A slow, lingering mouse would quickly become a dead mouse.  They also could be grabbing a bite so quickly that it is hard to see in the video.  Animals also tend to check on large resources, because they are important to them.  Finally, carcasses attract predators and would be a dangerous place for a mouse to be.  It is possible that the mice smell evidence of predators that have visited the carcasses, and have a hard time feeling comfortable.

Some mice are very omnivorous, and some mice have very specific diets.  The mice in the video are white-footed mice, and they eat a lot of different things.  They probably don’t spend a lot of time looking for carrion, but, when it is placed in their home range, it is probably a resource that they can’t resist.  

Thank you, Drew!  Experts who are willing to share their expertise with us lay people are the best!!!  You help open doors that would otherwise remain closed to us.  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

Hawks Give Wings to Deer

Our hunter-friends filled our freezer with venison and then left the deer carcasses in the Road Field where the scavengers could get to them.  

Our trail cam caught these two hawks feeding on the deer.  The first one (the smaller of the two) is a Rough-legged Hawk (feathers down to the toes).  The second one is considerably larger.  At first I thought she might be a female Rough-legged Hawk, but then I noticed how her feathers stop above her wrists.  And her bill is so large!    So I went to an expert.  He told me that the first hawk is indeed a Rough-legged, but that the second one is more likely an immature dark-morph Red-tailed Hawk.   

Check out that kick she delivers at the end of the clip!  What's that all about?

Many thanks to the Bur Oaks for producing fat acorns this year so that the deer could be numerous and well fed.    And endless thanks to these three deer who gave their wild lives to nourish  hawks and other wildlife and provide food for us.   We owe a debt of gratitude to the Bur Oak Family and the Tribe of Deer!