Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More day-in-the-life and death on the farm

With tears in her eyes, DW showed me the remains of one of the juvenile owls in some tall grass not too far from their nesting box. It had been dead for quite some time, meaning that all of the flesh was gone, dried up, just bones and feathers, and it was missing its head. A quick google revealed little except a reference to red tail hawk predation on owls and the possibility of the hawk only getting to eat the head before being scared off. I’m not quite convinced that this is what happened.

It is a ritual for our dog, Annie, and me to go out for her last walk about midnight every evening. Ever since we discovered the baby owls, Annie and I have gone back to the barn to listen to them squeaking for their mother to bring them a partially digested vole. One made a louder noise than the other, which we discovered later was because one was somewhat older. If we got too close, and momma owl was nearby, she would let out a bone-chilling screech to warn us off.

One night about three weeks ago, and just after one of the juveniles was beginning to fly, we saw an owl flying between the barns, screeching frantically, and so we kept our distance. I didn’t think much more about it until today. If my assumption is correct, I think it was a Great Horned Owl that killed the juvenile, for we have them in the nearby woods, and because what we witnessed was at night.

I had been no more than six feet away from the carcass any number of times over the last few weeks as the spigot for the watering system for our garden is nearby. I don’t believe either DW or I wanted to have to see it on a regular basis anymore, so when she mentioned that she would move it, I added it to my list of evening chores and took it upon myself to do the deed.

It was a rather warm day today, so the bulk of the afternoon and early evening was spent indoors doing some writing for a grant proposal. I headed outdoors about 6 o’clock and was welcomed by the sound of lawn mowers and tractors. We haven’t had rain in over three weeks, which was about the last time I had to mow our lawn, and it still has another few days to go before I’ll consider another round on the Deere.

The neighbors were mowing their dirt. I wrote about these folks some time ago, and mentioned at the time that they engaged in this unnecessary exercise in extra fuel consumption every few days from the first dry day in early spring until the rains come in late October. I made a mental note at that time to be sure and get photos of this comedy. I missed an opportunity Saturday. Today, evening chores would have to wait. I apologize for the fence blocking much of the view of the wife on her lawn tractor, but I had to be as stealthy as I could. How would I explain myself? Pity the neighbors downwind.

Content with a couple good shots, I commenced with chores, one which wasn’t a chore at all, as it was picking what would be part of tonight’s dinner. In the photo is the last of our Buttercrunch lettuce (new starts are in the ground), Purple Beauty bell peppers, and Lemon cucumbers.

The owl nesting box is now empty. We haven’t seen or heard an owl in several days. I will now be able to do some mowing, or rather, bush hogging between the barns and bring the old Ford tractor out to power wash off the owl scat. I will put a tarp over it when I put it back in the lean-to, for we will have owls again.


Memphis MOJO said...

Does this mean mamma owl and the bigger juvenile have gone to live in the woods?

Note to neighbors: there are drugs for OCD that make your live more bearable. Anaphranol (sp?), for example.

bastinptc said...

Do they make a pill to remind me that editing a post involves more than checking the spelling?

I left out that I believe the carcass was in fact the older, bigger juvenile, as it was very decomposed and I was still hearing the younger one no more than a week ago.

I wonder why I didn't smell it? The very dry, hot weather may have something to do with that.