This coyote posed for pictures!

In the past week, I’ve seen a coyote hunting in our neighbor’s field three different times. The first two, it moved out of range before I could get my camera. But this morning, he or she was a little more obliging, leisurely nosing around in the tall grass, close enough for me to get a shot. I turned off the sausage, grabbed my camera, and hoped it wouldn’t get spooked and run. Sorry for the poor picture quality, but these are the best I could do with my “point-and-shoot” camera.

coyote in the field

coyote looking for mice

coyote

In more populated areas, coyotes avoid interaction with people by hunting at night. In our rural area, they are more brazen and hunt during the day, too. They are opportunistic feeders with a varied diet, which includes scavenging the large kills of other animals. In the Blue Ridge, they hunt rabbits, foxes, mice, beavers, all kinds of fruits and berries, and I suspect even the salamanders in our neighbor’s pond.

It’s possible with all the recent sightings that there’s a den nearby. If that’s true and there are pups to feed, this coyote will be out hunting again. With any luck, I can sneak up on it and get a closer shot. Maybe a better option would be to attach my BirdCam to a tree and see what activity it captures. Stay tuned!

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A short stay at the pond

Yesterday, a beautiful pair of Canada Geese suddenly appeared on our neighbor’s pond. Leisurely swimming from one end to the other, they were checking out the water and its environs to see if it was a suitable place to nest. I watched from a distance for quite a while, snapped a couple of pictures, and left so as not to disturb them.

Canada geese

We live in an area where strong-running creeks flowing out of the mountains vastly outnumber the slow-moving bodies of water that geese prefer, so I was a little surprised to see them. But our neighbor’s pond is made-to-order. With gently flowing water, a moderately sloped bank with no tall vegetation to hide a predator, and a surround of mowed grass perfect for eating, I’m sure the geese pair were thinking this spot would do quite nicely.

But things are not always as they seem. This morning, I happened to look out the window just in time to see a coyote loping out of the woods, headed in the direction of the pond. As I watched, out came another…and another…and another! I immediately thought of the geese, but when I looked over at the pond, they were gone. Perhaps they had seen the coyotes earlier and beat a hasty retreat. With four coyotes in the area, they would have stayed at their peril and put their young at extreme risk.

And coyotes aren’t the only predator the geese would have had to worry about. Their eggs and young would be tempting to foxes, skunks, raccoons, and even ravens. That’s why geese populations are increasing in urban and suburban areas. These areas provide excellent goose habitat with far fewer predators than a rural setting like ours. Well-kept lawns, golf courses, business parks, city parks, and recreational fields provide excellent forage. They also often contain water reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and marshes dotted with islands that provide safe nesting sites for geese.

I hated to see the geese leave, but the pond wasn’t a safe place to raise their young. With any luck, they will find a more suitable place and in just a few weeks, be parading a new family.

eastern box turtle

I went on a walk yesterday with two of my grandsons in a patch of woods near a small creek – perfect habitat for turtles! We were admiring the wildflowers when we noticed a turtle half-hidden under leaf litter. I gently lifted the turtle from the leaves so the boys could get a close look at this handsome Eastern box turtle. He tucked his head and legs inside his shell, but after a few minutes, he relaxed and let me snap his picture.

Eastern box turtle. Photo by Jo Ann Abell

Box turtles remain in the same two- to three-acre area as long as they have food, water, and other turtles to mate with. In winter, they hibernate under leaf litter or grass clumps. Populations are declining due to the use of pesticides, loss of habitat, and people removing them from the wild for pets (where they often suffer malnutrition and death).

We found this little guy about 5 o’clock in the evening. The temps are going down into the low 40s tonight, so he is probably digging in under the leaves to stay warm. We put him back where we found him so he could burrow in for the night.

Cool Fact: Box turtles reach sexual maturity at 5-7 years and have been known to live 100 years!