The View

The View

Thursday, July 30, 2020

An Unexpected Visitor...A Bear

Blogger has changed their format, and I am having some difficulties posting blogs.  I can't seem to preview my stories before they are published.  I reverted back to the old design, but in a month that won't be an option.  I hope they have worked out the kinks but if not, my blogging days may come to an end or I will have to find another option.  I thought I should write as much as I can until that happens.

We have lived in South Central Wisconsin for eighteen years.  We moved here after retirement from a more metropolitan area.  I have learned so much about nature, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Having learned that nature can be cruel, I realized the good still outweighs the bad.  I have written many nature stories but about a month ago, we had a new experience.  One morning, July 6, 2020,  I woke up to seeing the bird feeders flattened and hummingbird feeders broken off and on the ground.

My first reaction upon seeing this was that a Raccoon had done some damage.  Then I thought maybe a deer pulled the feeder over.  I had seen them stand on their hind legs to eat the seed.  As we were discussing the situation, our neighbor called and asked if we had seen a bear.  A bear, I thought.  Never was a bear on my radar.  In all the time we have lived in this area, we have never seen one.  A few times the rumor mill mentioned one was sighted, but we thought we were too far south for such creatures.

Later that day, we were sent a video confirming a bear was in the neighborhood.  Silly us, thinking it was just passing though, we fixed the feeders and set them up again.

The next night I was sitting watching TV, and it was completely dark out.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw the white pole that was holding the bird feeder.  It was bending.  I called out to my husband and the motion light came on.  There not ten feet from our window was the bear.  I had my husband go to the light switch and flip it on again.  I took my phone and snapped some pictures.

It didn't look like a very big bear, but there was no doubt who had done the damage to the feeders. The very next day we took down the feeders.  I miss watching the birds, but removing the feeders each night and putting them back up in the morning wasn't an option since I had broken my leg less than a week before.  I did remember that just before my accident, I was throwing some weeds on a brush pile we have at the edge of the woods.  I heard a loud sound and something bounded away.  It scared me, but I thought it was a fawn I had happened upon a few days earlier.  It might have been this bear napping in the woods.  Never again will I just wander around like I have for years.

That was it.  No more bear visitors because there was nothing to eat.   We didn't replace the seed and began to relax a bit.  It had been two weeks, and no one in the neighborhood had reported a sighting.  Then on July 28, 2020, our motion camera came on a little after midnight.  I checked the video and sure enough there was a bear walking down our driveway.  The next day we checked the trail camera and saw him again.

I can't be sure if this is the same bear.  It does look slightly larger, but it could be the angle or that he is all stretched out checking for food.  I hope it isn't an entire family.  Life will certainly change around here if that is the case.  I have to admit it was a little exciting, but now I would prefer that they move on to a more remote habitat.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Life is a Highway and I Just Hit a Pothole

Life is a highway, that's for sure.  Sometimes you can cruise along at top speed and sometimes you hit curves and bumps in the road.  It happens to everyone.  Last Wednesday, July 1, 2020, started out great.  We were enjoying a nice sunny day that wasn't too hot.  We were trimming branches as we do every year.   Some trees die and some trees thrive to the point of overtaking areas they shouldn't.  We have a walnut tree that grows out over the roof.  We don't want the roof destroyed, so we cut out what we can.  This year we were being especially safe.  We pulled the pickup truck over so we could stand in the bed instead of on a ladder.

We like this pole trimmer.  You can use it as a saw or put the cutter over a branch and pull a rope to cut.  It's nice and safe without any worry of cutting fingers.  When we were finished with a branch, we would attach it to a rope and pull it to the front for the city to pick up.

When we are born, we change a lot in the first few years.  Birth to five years is huge.  We go from being an infant to reading, riding bikes and going to school.  Five to ten, ten to fifteen, and fifteen to twenty also show big changes.  When we reach about twenty five things seem to level off.  A twenty five year old can be friends and have much in common with a thirty year old or even older.  This goes on and the year span gets smaller and smaller. Think of it, there isn't much difference between a ninety five year old and someone who is one hundred. Truthfully I felt no different turning fifty than I did getting medicare at age 65.  I thought sixty eight must be the new forty eight because I was doing really well.  Then the seventies hit.  People my age were dying at a faster rate and were having serious medical issues.  Something changed.  It's very subtle.  Some of it is mental because we are told all the time seventy is old and some is physical because our original parts are wearing out.  We have less endurance, more aches and pains from doing minor jobs and frankly just feeling less energy, but in spite of that I still felt pretty capable and in control.

Except for the COVID-19 pandemic, life was rolling down that highway pretty smoothly although a little slower.  I noticed there were still a couple small branches hanging over the roof. 

We considered a ladder and actually carried it over, but being smart decided not to risk it.  I had the pole cutter in my hand and reached up but that was too much of a stretch so I brought is down.  As I was doing this, my foot got hung up in the rope.  I lost my balance,  and fell more more than five feet over a cement retaining wall and into a patch of berry bushes and weeds.  My balance has always been excellent but this time I couldn't recover.  This was my view as I went down. 

This was my view looking back up.  I can look at it now, but at the time I couldn't believe what just happened.

As a result, I broke my leg, cracked some ribs and got some scratches, bumps and bruises.  The lens popped out of my glasses but I must have hung onto the pole saw until I landed because it was right next to me on the ground.  Everything was in slow motion for myself but especially for my husband who standing right next to me watching this happen.  When I got up, I thought my foot hurt but everything seemed alright.  Mike went to our lower level and opened the patio door.  I hobbled in and crawled up the steps because putting weight on the foot wasn't working well.  I thought it was a sprain and was just going to wait it out.  Then my foot started to swell so I knew we had to go to the ER.  That was the last place we wanted to go during a pandemic.  After three hours in the ER it was determined that I broke my leg.  It was the beginning of the forth of July weekend so I couldn't see the orthopedic surgeon for five days. The X-Ray confirmed that I have a broken leg and have to wear a big black heavy boot that weighs a ton or I can get a cast.  I'm not sure what to do, but I think the boot will be my choice.  At least once a day, I can air out my foot and put on a clean sock.  In this hot weather we are having, a cast might get pretty ripe.  As of now my leg doesn't need surgery and unless it shifts, it should heal fine.  I also have cracked ribs which have to heal in their own time.  The ribs are the worse part.  They hurt like a son of a gun.  It could have been so much worse.  How many seventy two year olds can fall that far and not have worse injuries.  My daughter rented me a knee cart because I can't put any weight on the leg and a walker wasn't doing the job.  I was told from the emergency room that I could take the boot off to sleep but that absolutely isn't true.  I need to wear it 24 hours a day.  How I will do that will be interesting, but I'm alive and this was only a big pot hole in the road and not a Dead End.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

They May Be Cute, But Watch Out

No matter how hard we try, we can't outwit nature.  We can try, but nature always wins.  I enjoy watching the birds and the other animals.  I usually leave well enough alone even if I sometimes don't like what I see.  It is cruel.  At times however, I have to intervene.  I only step in when it affects certain things like the structure of our house or our foundation. 

My story starts with this adorable little woodchuck.  For years we have seen woodchucks lumber through the yard.  I usually take their picture and comment how cute they are.

Well unbeknown to me, this one was causing trouble behind the scenes.  We hadn't seen him for quite a while and pretty much forgot about him.  Then a week ago I went down under our deck to check on a wood duck that was nesting in a house we have in that area.  I wanted to see if there were any signs of the babies being hatched.  I saw fine downy fluff stuck in the bushes so I knew they had.  In that same area we store excess pellets for our pellet stoves.  I noticed the area was disturbed, and there was a pile of sand.  Then I saw the hole.  Something had dug a hole under the concrete slab we have.  We thought it could be a fox or a woodchuck but at that point we weren't sure.  I was hoping it wasn't a skunk.  I had heard that you just have to put mothballs where they have dug, and the smell will drive them away.  In my next grocery pickup order, I ordered a big box of mothballs.  They came in mesh bags.  I threw three bags into the hole, but the next morning two of the bags were at the opening of the hole.  It was time to go to plan B.  I got the big live trap from the garage and mixed up a dish of carrots, lettuce and celery.  Within two hours, I caught him. 

Before I set the live trap, I looked on the Wisconsin DNR webpage.  I found the following information.

If all else fails, woodchucks can be captured in a live trap with 10x12 inch access door, which are readily available at garden or farm supply type stores. A good bait to use is sliced apples or lettuce. Keep in mind after capturing it must be dealt with in one of two ways. Relocation is an option, however permission from the property owner must be granted before the woodchuck can be released. It is illegal to relocate animals to state-owned property. The second option is euthanization, which should be done by someone who is familiar with firearms and done in a location where firearm discharge is legal. Another option is to contact a nuisance wildlife contractor to assist with resolving your conflict.

I had permission from a person who owns a large woods a long way from our home, so we packed up the little critter and took him for a ride.  He was heavier than I thought he would be as I carried him to the truck, but he was fairly calm.  They make a click, click, click sound.  At our destination, we opened the trap and off he went.  What a relief.  Now we just had to fill in the hole.

Well it got hot and we had things to do.  I was dealing with calling the air conditioner repair person because our air wasn't working.  Neither was our landline.  I made three calls to Spectrum and had a technician to the house.  By the way, this person wore a mask the whole time so I was impressed.  They were taking the COVID 19 virus seriously.  We got a new telephone modem, but our phone was still not working properly.  As it turned out, it was the phone itself that was bad.  We could call out and get a dial tone, but no calls were coming in.  Since we are not brave enough to go into stores yet, our daughter went and bought us new phones. That has fixed that problem.  So five days had passed since we took Mr. Woodchuck to his new home.  We hadn't filled that hole, and I was a bit concerned.  I could smell mothballs in the lower level of our house.  I was wondering how extensive the tunnel was.  Then on the sixth day, I was sitting drinking my morning coffee and what do I see? Yes, A WOODCHUCK.  My first thought was that the one we relocated had come home, but that couldn't be possible.  I could barely find our way home.  This one went up on our deck, then down the steps to the famous hole under the slab.  I had smoothed the sand when I removed the trap just to be sure no foot prints appeared.  I went down to check and sure enough there were footprints in the sand.  I immediately got the trap out again and baited it with fresh produce.  I checked before bed and there was no activity.  The first thing in the morning I checked again, nothing.  Then about 8:00 am I checked again.  I had activity alright.  The woodchuck had removed the bags of mothballs.  The only thing in my trap was a bag of mothballs. 

So now it's war.  I set two cameras up in this location.  We don't know if he left or is way down in the hole.  Leaving the mothballs could be his last act of defiance or we are in real trouble.

The next morning I did another trap check.  Oh dear, there wasn't a woodchuck in the trap but a raccoon.  I don't know if it was living in the hole and the one responsible for tossing the moth balls out, or if he happened upon the bowl of veggies in the trap.  My inclination is that he happened upon the food.  I think this because he was checking out the camera I had set up.

The same rules for relocation apply for raccoons, so we packed him up and took another ride.  We will be getting out to fill the hole as soon as the rains have stopped.  We should know soon if the problem is solved or if we are in for another week of torment. *

* Update:  It appears the problems were not solved.  Our telephone is still not working.  We had a second technician work on it.  He was sure the problem was solved, but it was not.  Another is coming in a couple days.  I can only hope that five calls, three technicians and new phones will finally solve the issues.  As for the woodchuck, another was caught on camera.  I had filled the hole which was dug out again.  Here is the picture of the critter from the trail camera.  I filled the hole again and so far so good.  Hopefully he left for good, and isn't living under my house. 

He or she did not leave, but was enticed into the live trap by apple peelings and carrots.  I hope it enjoys its new home away from here.  It's been less than two weeks since we have been dealing with these woodchucks,  but it seems much longer.  We will fill the hole again, put the trap away and hope.

Our next problem is a bear in our neighborhood.  Obviously we can't relocate it, so we hope it moves on.  This is the first time we have had bear damage here in south central Wisconsin.  With environmental changes and the taking away of their habitat, it was bound to happen.  

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Sandhill Crane's Struggle Against Mother Nature

A few days ago we were very excited.  We observed a pair of Sandhill Cranes beginning to build a nest within a short distance of our deck.  This nest could be seen from several windows and even closer from the deck.  I believe this pair of cranes are the same pair we see every summer.  We usually know where they are nesting and can see them with binoculars, but this year they were right in front of the deck.  They worked together building a nest and soon the female laid her first egg.  The eggs are quite large, and I had never seen one before.  The land they chose is very marshy but recently the water was drying up slightly and it was the perfect spot or so we thought.  They took turns sitting on the egg.  It was so exciting.

The next morning we woke up to drizzle and cloudy skies.  She was on the nest and her mate was gone.  As it turned out, this was their pattern.  They took turns sitting on the nest while the other went off eating or resting, I'm not really sure where they were.  They did spend some time together, but not a lot.  The weather started to get worse and worse.  As the day continued the rain and wind were terrible.  The marsh started to flood and soon the nest was completely surrounded by water.  She endured and sat for a long time until she had to figure out what to do.  She started digging for mulch and throwing it on the nest.  She continued for hours even though the water kept rising.  I was certain the nest would be destroyed along with her one egg.  She didn't give up and by night fall she had built the nest up to a point where she could sit down again.  The male crane was gone the entire day.  I went to bed that night thinking the nest would be gone in the morning in spite of her efforts.

When I woke up the next morning, she was still working on the nest.  It was still raining lightly, but the wind had died down.  By 8 am her mate had returned.  He wasn't very helpful at first but he did stand guard.  The day before, as she worked, a red winged blackbird taunted and dive bombed her.  Perhaps the blackbird had a nest in that same area, but I was concerned it would damage the egg.  It's interesting how gently the big Sandhill cranes can move the eggs around with their beak, but I wasn't sure about the blackbird.

At some point the female decided she needed a break because she disappeared leaving him to take care of the nest and the egg.  He sat for quite some time but when he stood up I couldn't see the egg.  I thought he had lost it and was going to be in big trouble.  What happened was the water was seeping into the nest and covering up the egg.  He started digging and lifting and rearranging.  Soon the egg popped up.  I was relieved to see it.  He started breaking branches off the trees and throwing them on the water rather frantically.

Then he would use those sticks to beef up the nest.  I guess he's the carpenter in the family because up to that point she only used sludge from the bottom of the pond.  After five or more hours of working, the male started hollering.  The loud sound cranes have is familiar to a lot of people.  I think many of us have heard its distinctive sound.  Within ten minutes she was back.  I could see her about twenty feet away, but she took her sweet time getting over to him.  Slowly she came back and went directly to the egg.  He left shortly after that, and she sat on the egg all night.

Come hell or high water, this female Sandhill crane was determined.  She laid another egg that morning.  She was trying so hard to make it work.  She was soaked, and we were hoping she could dry out as well as the nest, but the nest was definitely sinking.  She started working again.  She  was now picking up sticks to make the nest stronger.  She was working her heart out.  The nest was in pretty good shape as she sat down for the night.

The next day seemed like a calmer day.   Her mate arrived before 8:00am.  The nest was pretty soggy because the water on the marsh was still very high.  The Fox River which flows into our marsh had risen a foot in a twenty four hour period.  She left again for a while, and he worked for three hours getting it back in shape.  Then when she got back, he left.  She was able to wander around a bit.  The day was sunny, and I thought the eggs were warm enough.  She returned to the nest, turned the eggs and settled down.  The nest is still pretty low in the water, but she could stand on it and it supported her. 

When I got up she was standing on the nest.  Everything looked in order.  They made it through another night, and I really thought things were going to be alright.  She had made it through some terrible conditions already, and things didn't look any worse.  I was wrong.  When I went to check a couple hours later, she was gone, her mate was no where in sight and several turtles were laying on the nest with the two eggs including a large snapping turtle.  The turtles were sunning themselves.  I checked off and on.  As the day wore on, the nest was sinking from the weight of the turtles or it was absorbing water.  I slammed the outside door to the deck so the turtles would leave.  There all alone, looking like two baked potatoes, were the crane eggs.  There was still time for the pair to return, but they did not.  Soon the snapping turtle crawled back onto the nest and the eggs started rolling to the edge.  Before I knew it, they were gone too.  Whether it was the turtles or the high water that caused the nest failure, we will never know.  The nest never sunk completely and every day since a few turtles use it for a place to sun themselves.

I felt really bad.  It was an emotional roller coaster for five days.  It was the first time I had witnessed close up the nesting process of these big birds.  I was hoping to see the eggs hatch and watch the babies grow.  Every year I would see the parents and their offspring walk across my yard, but I never saw the hatching process.  Maybe it's not too late for them to try again elsewhere.  I will know later in the summer if the parents show up alone or if they had a successful hatch. For now, I have to turn my attention to watching some baby bluebirds hatch.

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Tale of Two Bald Eagles and Two Great Blue Herons

My little story today is about two Bald Eagles and two Great Blue Herons.  They are both big powerful birds.  Little birds are always taunting the eagles, but someone must have told them to pick on someone their own size, and so they did.

Today was a perfect day.  Temperatures were in the mid 70's, and there was a light breeze.  I grabbed a glass of iced tea, the love of my life Fritos, my camera and my laptop and headed for the screened in porch. Earlier I moved a lot of my indoor plants outside.  I hope that wasn't a mistake, but I couldn't stand having them in the house one more day.  If some of them succumb to the overnight coolness, then so be it.  As I was watching the orioles come into the hummingbird feeder (yes they like the sugar water better than jelly) and seeing all the other birds flit around, I heard a loud screeching type noise.  I looked up and saw a Bald Eagle swooping down to attack a Great Blue Heron. 

The heron was caught by surprise and attempted to fly away only to be attacked by another back up eagle who swooped in from the opposite side.  As the first eagle hunkered down in the grass, the second one took over but the Great Blue Heron got away.


At this point the heron flew off to another section of the marsh.  It was nervous and another heron joined it.  I'm not sure where the second heron was during the altercation.  They are usually very skittish, and it's hard for me to sneak out and take photos of them.  I generally take pictures of them through the window.  They let out the same screech when I startle them as they did when the eagle attacked.  I guess the fear of the eagle was greater than their fear of me because both herons flew directly down from our deck.  The first one flew into the mucky swamp water which I am not happy about but it happens whenever the water starts receding.  The other landed on a place nearby where the turtles sun themselves.

The rest of the afternoon, the eagle circled and circled the marsh.  The other one either sat in the tree or  flew around.  Late this afternoon a fisherman came into the area and the eagles and the herons disappeared.  I'm sure they will be back tomorrow but hopefully they will be on better behavior.

Monday, May 4, 2020

My "Eagle-eyed" Plan For Today

As we approach eight weeks of being Safe at Home we are continually looking for things to do.  It's amazing how many little things were left undone before this.  It was much easier to make an excuse to go shopping or leave the house just because we could.  Now each day is divided up into what we should do and what we want to do.  I am afraid when this pandemic is under control and we are free to come and go, there will still be things to do that we have still put off.  It reminds me of the job jar I had for my husband.  I thought it was an awesome idea because every time I would have a project to do, I would write it on a piece of paper and put it in a jar.  Then he would reach into the jar and pull out the next project.  It sounds good in theory but only if you do that project.  I soon figured out that soon all the easy projects were finished and all the hard projects remained in the jar.  I hadn't made it clear that an unpleasant job could not be returned to the jar.  For the record, I had my own job jar too and I did the same thing.

Today is going to be an easy day to fill.  It is carp spawning season on our marsh.  The carp are very active today and that is fun to watch.  They splash around on the surface of the water and sometimes jump out of the water.  I have written about the carp bow hunters that come in at night to fish for these carp.  They come in very late so I wasn't looking forward to last night but it was way too windy and we actually got uninterrupted sleep.

As I was watching this morning, I saw two eagles sitting in the tree about half way across the marsh.  They are very patient birds and can sit for hours just waiting for that perfect opportunity.  I watched off and on along with them.  In situations like this, a longer zoom lens would certainly be nice.

I got some coffee and returned to glance out the window.  Oh my gosh, there was one of the eagles sitting right below our deck in the same location the turtles have been sunning themselves.

I grabbed the camera and got a picture before he flew off.  My first thought was that he was after a turtle, but I then realized that it was the carp he was after.  It was a buffet right in front of him.

As the young eagle flew off, he grabbed for a fish.  I didn't get a shot of him catching one, but that is what I plan for today.  Who knows.  I will be busy watching.

Friday, May 1, 2020

This Eastern Phoebe's Poor Choice

Our excitement for today involved relocating a bird nest.  A darling Eastern Phoebe was spending a lot of time on our deck rail.

They like building nests under the overhang of the house.  We have three nests right now that I didn't catch in time.  I checked often but this afternoon I saw her fly in directly above our patio door.  It was the worst possible choice because with us going in and out and disturbing her plus I didn't want bird poop dripping down the screen.  I put on gloves, a hat and got a small shovel.  I took down the nest, but to my surprise it had four phoebe eggs and a cow bird egg in the nest.

I have no idea when she built that nest and how she and a cowbird laid those eggs without me noticing.  Mike's chair is right on the other side of the door and he hadn't noticed her either.  I relocated it to another spot not too far away and under cover, however Mike said the phoebe eggs or the babies would not have survived anyway because when the larger cowbird hatches it either forces the babies out of the nest or they won't get enough food to survive.  The weird part is that it's illegal to remove a cowbird egg from a nest.  I hope this Eastern Phoebe doesn't try to build another nest in the exact same spot as before.  We may have a little conflict of wills if she does, but she doesn't know who she's dealing with and I will win.

I will monitor the nest to see what happens, but I did my best. 

Here is another reason I don't want the nest near the entrance to the house.  It's the reason I used gloves and wore a hat....mites.