Category Archives: Fauna

Black Squirrel

Grey squirrels frequent the yard. It’s always nice to see their big fluffy tails. It’s not uncommon to see squirrels with near hairless tails especially in town, where they dine on lead wires or flashing. 

A couple of years ago, red squirrels chewed their way into the garden shed and wreaked havoc gnawing and nesting nearly everywhere!

This handsome fellow is the first black squirrel I’ve ever noticed in the yard. I hope that he is well behaved, and visits often!

Wikipedia reports:

The black squirrel occurs as a “melanistic” subgroup of both the eastern gray squirrel and the fox squirrel. Their habitat extends throughout the Midwestern United States, in some areas of the Northeastern United States, eastern Canada, and also in the United Kingdom. The overall population of black squirrels is small when compared to that of the gray squirrel. The black fur color can occur naturally as a mutation in populations of gray squirrels, but it is rare. The rarity of the black squirrel has caused many people to admire them, and the black squirrels enjoy great affection in some places as mascots. In several U.S. states, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom, black squirrels have been introduced into the wild in the hope of increasing their numbers.



Saw this fellow feeding on some still green tinged grass, exposed by recent warm weather.

Odd thing, this patch of snow was near the top of Elk Mountain! Last year, a muskrat spent several weeks wintering just a few feet from where this porcupine was spotted.

Though sickness could have brought him out amongst people in the daylight, it is not unusual to see many different critters high on The Hill.

Sick or not, we gave this guy a wide berth as he enjoyed some rare late December sun rays, filling his belly with a taste of summer.

What goes up…


Just as “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”, it’s said that “you can lead a cow up stairs, but it’s afraid to walk down stairs, and so, never will”. I know of one neighbor who often keeps new calves in her dining room the first few days of their lives without mishap, but no steps or ups and downs are involved there.

“A crane or tractor, and sometimes, a bullet.” was the grim response when I asked how the situation was resolved if some prankster actually succeeded in leading a cow up a flight of stairs. So, it’s probably best that the anecdote not be tested.

Passing by the huddle of girls above reminded me of this peculiarity of the bovine mind. For many minutes, the cows remained frozen along the bank. The calves, who blindly followed their elders, found themselves stranded half way up the slope when standing room ran out at the top.

One could almost imagine their thoughts:

“I know we must have gotten up here somehow because we are up here now. I think we were eating a nice patch of grass when all of a sudden we were up here, but I just can’t remember right now….”

“If only, oh, if only, if just one of us could figure out how to get down, we could all figure it out, and we’d be saved !”

I’m not sure whether it was memory, intelligence, or perhaps the fluttering of a nearby butterfly that drew one of the girl’s attention to another nearby patch of green along the top of the bank that spread out to the meadow below.

Whether by intelligence, or observation, one brave bossy stepped toward that grass patch that gently led down the slope. The herd followed and was saved from being stranded forever on the dirt bank.

Oh Happy Day!






These young mothers tend their fawns under mid-summer afternoon skies.

Just born, these babies are not much bigger than Dog, and not nearly as old and wise.

Still unacquainted with the dangers of roads and humans, it’s best they stay with mother for a while yet.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

While driving slowly along Crystal Lake recently, we spotted this fellow (males have a red stripe on the cheek) flying from tree to tree along the shore.

Though rare, his kin has visited our backyard before, but this fellow was particularly memorable as his brilliant crest contrasted the silver grey of a rainy evening.

Not much later,  a bald eagle, worried by two large crows, flashed his head and tail brilliant white, just outside the dining room window.

Always good to “drop a gear” while wandering about the area. It is truly wonderful what becomes noticeable simply by reducing one’s pace.



This handsome fellow wandered the few feet from his roost, just enough to worry dog.

The weather is slightly more wintry than typical this time of year; snow earlier this week, and forecasted for tomorrow.  When viewed in the grand scheme of things, the weather is introducing somewhat of an air of normalcy to an otherwise, unseasonable winter and spring.

Gives one the impression that finally, Spring will catch up with itself, warm weather will come and stay.

Marmota Monax


The Marmota monax pictured above enjoying some evening fruit, recently began frequenting the pear tree in the back yard.

I’ve always felt a bit of a soft spot in my heart for these beings, as they seem to be reviled by most other creatures. Cows can twist or break a leg in a groundhog hole, farmers hate them because of this, and feel no remorse in dispatching them.

Even posters showing the various hunting regulations seem to be biased: The deer season shows a picture of a noble buck with a large rack, fishing season with a picture of a beautifully colored rainbow trout, and other seasons noting dates, times, and field limits. And then, there’s the black and white picture, more of a mugshot, of a groundhog at once looking a bit shifty and nervous. Under the photo the text: “No closed season – no limit”. Yup, groundhogs, kill as many as you want, whenever you want.

I killed one many years ago as it’s presence in the yard caused dog to become frenzied, nearly choking herself on her collar trying to chase the critter from her yard. It took me several mornings to finally terminate the rodent. I would sneak along the barn with my open sited .22 rifle, clad in my mud shoes and bathrobe. Invariably, the ground hog would see me, and scurry to safety before I could get off a shot. One morning, however, it seemed that he just gave up the struggle, sat there and let me shoot him. Repeatedly.

I carried his carcass, already fattened for the winter, jiggling on the blade of my shovel, quite a ways from the house so the dogs would not roll in it as it decomposed.

When I was very young, a neighbor who had been an admiral in the United States Navy would drive around the neighborhood in his beige Ford Falcon, and take me wood chuck hunting.
Under his guidance, I was learning to shoot so well that I was quickly developing the skill to be able to “drive nails in from 100 yards away” with a high powered rifle and scope. My hands and eyes were young, strong and steady, my skills were sharp, and the rifle was powerful and accurate. After a while, it seemed not much of a sport.

There were seemingly comical times. Once, though certain I had connected on a 200 yard shot, the ground hog stayed sitting upright, tilting slightly one way,  then back the other, until finally, just like in the cartoons, he fell completely over with all paws in the air.

For a very short time, I dabbled in killing rabbits, even though I didn’t eat them. Then one cold day, I shot a rabbit that was sitting a couple of hundred yards from me, and through the rifle scope saw that it’s corpse seemed to be smoking.

I walked up to the little critter, eyes still open, and noted a small smudge of blood behind it’s shoulder where the bullet entered; right where I had aimed. Lifting one of his paws revealed that the bullet expanded on impact, and entirely removed the other side of his body. What I thought was smoke, was actually steam rising from the warm, moist entrails I had caused to be exposed to the frosty air.

When I prepared the shot through the rifle scope, the rabbit seemed to look relaxed, calm, and happy to be eating some of the last grass of the faded summer. I squeezed the trigger, and before the rabbit heard the report of the rifle, he was on his way to whatever reward rabbits enjoy for spending time on this earth.

I continued to practice with the rifle for a while, but only on paper targets. I got to the point where I could pretty much hit anything I wanted within 200 yards. I didn’t eat what I killed, and so, lost interest in developing my marksmanship.

A few years ago, a neighbor called me over to kill a raccoon that was apparently rabid. I felt no remorse sending that critter on his way. I’ve since decided that though some may feel that other beings need to die, it’s no longer my desire to be an instrument of death – I’ll leave that to others.

And the groundhog that’s frequenting the yard? Dog doesn’t seem to be bothered too much by it; pears are so plentiful this year that she doesn’t mind sharing.

I sometimes find myself glancing at the .22 resting along the fireplace mantle, and wonder if, with my older eyes and hands, I could still make the shot to the ground hog at the back of the yard.

For the sake of everyone involved, I’ll just keep wondering.



While driving home late Saturday night, I noticed scurrying at the edge of the light cast by my auto’s headlights.

I moment later, I saw this fellow hurry up a tree as mother and sibling darted into the darkness.

This was the first raccoon spotted this summer. Those beings are pretty shy, and are rarely seen around here during the day.

A nice treat to see this family on one of the last few Summer evenings.