The differences between Ki Ki (the last bobcat) and Stella (the ever present bane of my life) are staggering. They both came to me at about the same age (one to two weeks old). While Ki Ki was more laid back and had minimal hunting skills at 11 weeks, Stella has already made her first unassisted kill. (Granted the pigeon could not fly well, but it was more than half her size.) Today I was watching her in the back yard. Believed to be more opportunistic hunters (waiting for prey to wander by), we had noticed, definite cat like stalking by Ki Ki, but bird kills were minimal. Stella however was sitting by the gate, hoping a pigeon would succumb to it’s obesity, and fall within her grasp.
It didn’t happen. Instead, she looked over at the feeder platform that sits on a three foot high fence post. As usual, it was filled with fat squirrels and a peacock or two. It was what she did next that blew me away.
She crouched down, ears erect and hopped like a rabbit over to the feeder, with her size and coloration, including the white tip on her tail, even I would have mistaken her for a cotton tail or hare. The other animals completely ignored her approach, where if she had crept in while in stalking mode, they would have. (Not that they would have moved, but remember these are fat, lazy squirrels , who don’t move unless you set off dynamite. I thought how well this behavior would work in the wild. It has always been a mystery to me who a cat in the wild could travel her territory with a litter of kittens and keep them all fed. Stella’s hunting abilities explain that. Some of the kittens feed themselves and probably their slower siblings.
Rabbits are not exceptionally brilliant animals. They are probably the dumbest of prey animals. There are also lots and lots of them, especially in my yard. You will often see two or more feeding in the same area. They don’t have a particularly great sensory system either, except for their hearing. Now picture a group of feeding rabbits, ears erect to hear any incoming predators. What looks like another rabbit and sounds like a rabbit, hops up to the group. They don’t pay much attention. All it has to do is wait for an unsuspecting rabbit to get close enough to pounce.
Nature is ingenious.
You go Stella. I could use a few less rabbits in my yard. When you are done with that, I have this chipmunk in the laundry room……
I had not realized the sheer scope of the rain that fell last night. I heard it on and off all night, pounding on the metal roof. I expected some water this morning, but it went well beyond puddles.
The first thing I noticed was the standing water in the front yard. Now this is not unusual. It frequently floods in the spring. However, this is October. It’s a good thing that no one tried to mess with my Biden display as all the extension cords were fully submerged and they might have gotten a big surprise. I really hate finding singed bodies in the front yard. It upsets the neighbor.
I opened the back door to feed and give bottles and was met with soggy deer. They had no desire to stay outside in the rain and barged past me to the dog food dish. The bedraggled peacocks were standing in ankle deep water in their feeder, as waterlogged sunflower seeds floated about them. Damp squirrels growled at me from the top of the fawn pen. The only ones that seemed dry were the pigeons and they smugly preened while I drained the feeder.
Everyone glared at me like this was somehow my fault. I don’t control the rain boys. I was briefly grateful that I could not see the expressions of the porcupines that I released this week. Wet porcupines are especially grumpy and vindictive.
The chickens fared a bit better, though their run was muddy, and I’ll have to scrub the eggs tonight, the coop remained dry and so did their food. They gave me a more pleasant greeting.
Next up, the bunnies. I noticed the path was a bit slick and I was grateful for my favorite Crocs as they have no holes and keep my feet moderately dry. The rain had leaked into one of the hutches and the six cute, little white bunnies, were not so white and giving me dirty looks from the corner. I fed them quickly and knew I at least didn’t need to refill their water.
The path makes a bit of a downhill run from the rabbits to the turkey pen. I discovered that it was safer (and more fun) to slide sideways like a snowboard to the grass. There seemed to be a bit of water at the end. That was unusual….
It was then when I saw the turkeys. High and sandy on one end of the pen, the area with the feeder is unfortunately low and of a texture hard to describe. Mucky, might work for this purpose. Instead of greeting me with spread tails and full struts, the drenched birds were standing, knee deep in mud, around the feeder. With eyes narrowed and shoulders hunched, they glared at me. No drumming, no friendly gobbles, no winks and nods. This did not bode well. It didn’t help that I pointed out that there was a perfectly dry shelter with fresh straw that they could have been in . Turkeys are non-compliant and never take responsibility for their actions.
Now, we designed the feeder, so I would not have to actually enter a pen full of 40 plus pound amorous turkeys that think I am, well, “Real Purdy”. There is a long PVC pipe that enters through the fence and dumps the feed into a covered feeder. The feeder was filled with water. Shit. I would have to enter the pen and empty it before putting fresh feed in.
I scooped up a pan of corn and called cheerfully to them. I tossed the corn into the drier section to distract them. As hoped, they all ran to the corn and started eating…all but one. The biggest Tom stood by the feeder waiting. He’s been waiting since puberty for me to enter that pen. He wasn’t giving up his chance.
I opened the gate. He raised one eyebrow and let his snood fall over the other eye. He took a deep breath and gave me his sexiest drum. I swallowed hard. I had no desire to be the unwilling partner of his intentions. I stood there armed with my tiny tin pan while he stood his ground with all the strength and determination of unrequited love…and lust.
I started for the feeder. I underestimated the quagmire I would have to cross to get to the there. Going was slow and it gave him time to make his plan. As I approached, he shook the weight of the excess water from his feathers and pulled his feet from the sucking mud. I got to the feeder and scooped like mad all the while sinking into goo like a cowboy in quicksand.
The feeder was empty (though far from dry) just as I felt his beak get a firm grasp on the back of my shirt. I had to get out fast and do it now. The other turkeys had stopped eating now, and all stood watching with their beaks open to see who would win this battle of the sexes. I’m not positive, but I think I heard bets being placed as the white hen worked the pen like a seasoned bookie.
I jerked my shirt free and turned to run.
I lost a croc in the muck.
I considered leaving it, but not only was I wearing new socks, but the image of him gently caressing my shoe as he slept was not something I wanted to carry in my brain. Again we eyed each other. I heard dramatic music in my head, Clint Eastwood in a poncho flashed before my eyes. I wanted my croc. The turkey wanted me.
Calling up all the grace and balance from years of Tai Chi, I took a long breath. Still standing on one leg, I reached slowly for the crock. I managed to hook one finger in the strap and began slowly pulling it from the slime. I could DO this!
Just as I heard the familiar drum (And I know, a sly snicker) from behind me, I remembered that Tai Chi was a long time ago and I was never that good. There was a bit of a wobble in my stance and the turkey hit the back of my standing leg. I lay there for a moment. Face down in the combination of mud, turkey shit and fermented grain. I thought of trying to escape, but realized that ship had sailed. At this point, I was prepared to give up my dignity and let the turkey have his way with me.
Not even an oversexed turkey wanted a piece of that.
He snorted, walked across my back and went to tell the others that I wasn’t worth his time. I was humiliated. I was not even a “Swipe Right” in the turkey world. Drenched with shit and shame, I left the pen.
It was on the way to the house that I finally registered the actual amount of the 16 hour rainfall. We have a plastic kid’s pool that we let the ducks play in. When I fed the turkeys last night, it was empty. It was now overflowing. The pool is six inches deep. SIX INCHES! That’s a lot of rain.
I briefly considered stripping down and rinsing off in that pool, but it was a fair walk to the house and the neighbor is home on Fridays. If he’d been looking out his window, he was already traumatized (or entertained) enough. I took off the remaining croc and my socks, sloshed them about in the water to remove the worst of the muck and continued my walk of shame. I stripped down in the laundry room and made a necked dash to the shower upstairs.
It all would have worked out if I did not live with a bobcat.
I now have happy face band aids on my fanny and need to get these damn deer out of my living room.