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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Success in the Virginia Turkey Woods (Blog 331)

I decided to go turkey hunting after school today, as Virginia's winter season ends this Saturday, and I still had an unpunched tag.  Honestly, with the hatch being less than stellar and with an abundance of acorns, I was not expecting to be successful.  Most of my hunts this fall/winter have resulted in my not seeing any turkeys.

But lo and behold, I emitted some hoarse kee-kee runs and a flock of longbeards ambled in.  His picture is below.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Rhode Island Reds Sick, but now Recovering (Blog 330)

Several weeks ago, I wrote that our young flock of Rhode Island Reds were staying inside during the recent snowstorm.  At first, Elaine and I thought they were just scared of their first snow, and perhaps they were, but developments now make us thing something else was in play.

When the harsh weather was still going on, we looked into the coop one day and saw a hen whose eye was swollen shut.  She was also very lethargic and continued to grow weaker.  Eventually, we had to put her down.

Then our cockerel Al began to have trouble walking as did one of the hens.  We eventually had to purchase an anti-inflamatory from a vet to help rejuvenate them.  Both Al and the hen are doing much better now, and we hope they can rejoin the flock next week.

The next time we have a bitterly cold spell, we are going to monitor the hen house more closely.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

No Luck with Virginia's Winter Turkeys, but the Birdwatching was Great (Blog 329)

Today, Virginia's winter turkey season began, and I heard a flock on the roost behind my house at dawn.  I was only about 75 yards from their roost site which was on a creek ridge.  Knowing that if I tried to scatter the flock, the birds would simply fly across the creek onto a neighbor's land, I decided to sit tight.

Unfortunately, after fly down, I heard nothing and thinking the birds had moved downstream, as is their usual habitat, I decided to loop around them and see if I could position myself in the direction that the flock was travelling. When I arose to do so, several seconds later I ran right into the flock, which then flew across the creek.  If I had chosen to sit still, would the birds have walked right to me?  Who knows with turkeys.

While trying to call the flock back across the creek, which, predictably ended in failure, I saw several interesting songbirds: brown creepers and golden-crowned kinglets.  They were in one of those winter mixed flocks that also included Carolina chickadees, downy woodpeckers, and white-breasted nuthatches.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Rhode Island Reds in the Snow (Blog 328)

Five inches of snow fell here in Botetourt County, Virginia today.  We have two flocks of heritage Rhode Island Reds, and they live in adjacent runs.  The flock we call the "Old Reds" are a year-and-a-half old and, today, seemed to remember snow from last winter.

They stayed in their hen house until it was warmer in mid-morning, and then everybody ventured out to eat snow in order to consume their water.  Elaine had placed a heated waterer in the corner of the run, but, as was true last year, this flock did not walk through the snow to reach the waterer. In short, the older flock was not intimidated by the weather.

Meanwhile, the "Young Reds," which were born in early March, experienced their first snow and were too scared to leave their hen house all morning.  I brought them some food and water, both of which they eagerly consumed, but then Elaine and I decided that our young charges needed to lose their fear of snow.  We gathered up each member of the flock, including Al our cockerel and leader of his flock, and placed each one outside in the snow.  Without exception, each young bird crumpled in fear when they were placed in the snow and seemed terrified.

But after a few seconds, each of the Reds decided to move about and went to their feeder and waterer.  We are hoping that on Sunday, the birds remember their newfound courage to take on snow.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Emerald Ash Borer Arrives (Blog 327

On Elaine's and my 38 acres in Botetourt County, Virginia, the emerald ash borer has arrived with a vengenance. My son-in-law David first pointed out the fact several weeks ago, and now I have made a survey of our land, and most of the ashes are dead or dying.

I have cut one of the dying ones down for firewood and marked several others for removal.  David has also noted several that he will cut down for firewood, as David and his family also live on this land.

Invasive species are a threat to wildlife and wildlife habitat.  And that has become apparent once again on my little postage stamp of land.