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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dogs, birds and squirrels


My backyard ecology is dominated by dogs, birds and squirrels. I like them all, even the cute little furry tailed rats called squirrels. I’ve easily spent entire days watching the interplay of animals and nature from my hammock, using two pairs of binoculars, each with a different magnification and focal length. The backyard has dog food, seeds, nuts and fresh water, ample shade with a cooling breeze off the lake. A cord of winter firewood stacked between the trees provides home and shelter for geckos. I regularly patrol the area dumping standing water which stops most mosquitoes, the purple martins, hummingbirds and nightly bats find those few surviving mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are one of the few products of nature I would change, making them hunger only for dog poop. This would save me one daily chore.
The squirrels want the dog food and bird seed, the dogs want the squirrels. This battle between two smart and organized species provides endless plot lines for my mentally internal road runner cartoons, which replaces my addiction for cable TV. The ingenuity of the squirrels in defeating any attempt to protect the bird feeder constantly befuddles me. Squirrels are crafty organized bandits; one draws the dogs away to a corner of the yard while their accomplice gorges on dog food and seeds. Again and again the squirrels win, the only solution I have found is to provide enough food for all.
The birds arrive in flocks, house wrens, sparrows and tit birds in large numbers with the red birds and jays in smaller numbers. The lake allows for ducks, cranes and gulls. A copy of the Peterson Field Guide “Birds of Texas” is keep handy to identify the rare visitor. Creating a safe cat free environment provides for nesting and a reasonable chick survival rate. The only real danger to the birds and squirrels are the hawks that patrol the area, this spring there was a nesting pair of hawks and their chicks were hungry. The hawks will slowly cruise low, gliding with ease through the tree limbs. The birds and squirrels become agitated and watchful, tracking the hawk. Sometimes the hawks perch high in the trees watching and waiting until their prey relaxes, becoming less watchful. The hawks are swift, silent and absolutely deadly. At night the owls come out. Now the hawk chicks have grown and the hawks are back to individual hunting. Lake Conroe is a nesting ground for the Golden Eagle, watching this beautiful bird hunting is a rare special treat. My backyard is not the Garden of Eden; it is as natural as I can make it.
I don’t sell tours but a comfortable lawn chair is available.

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