Thursday, May 30, 2013

Oklahoma Wildlife for 2013

I've decided to list animals I see on the property as a future reference. I wish I had thought to do it sooner, as some things have already gone for the season.

May 30, 2013:

Namely, turkeys. I can't say for sure that they've moved off for the year, but I'd say it's been at least a week since I heard a gobble. I'll report when I start hearing them again, but it seems like they came around last winter or fall, maybe November or December, and I've been surprised by how long they stayed. They hang out on the dirt road, in the pastures, our yard, out by the big pond, and then in the trees at night. We hear them at all hours. I haven't seen more than one or two at a time this year - though I saw the whole pack last year, and I remember two toms and maybe eight females. My neighbors said they saw the whole pack this year and they counted 14 including juveniles.

We have Mississippi kites in large numbers. We've had them for several weeks now. I saw them flying and looked them up in the Oklahoma bird database, and was unsure that I correctly identified them (sadly, because I thought anything so lovely probably wouldn't come here) but then I HEARD them, and I feel confident that they are kites. They sound like squeaky dog toys. They don't look quite like the majestic pictures that I've seen because they ALWAYS have food in their hands and are eating it as they fly. They fly primarily around the trees just to the south and the small pond to the east, very close to the house.

Son of Caveman saw a scissor-tailed flycatcher the other day. We used to have a fair number at our house four miles down the road, and we see them when we travel, but the one he saw is the only one we've seen in 8 months of living here.

The deer are ever present. We have a 50-foot circle out in the pasture that I call "deer thunderdome" because all the grass is trampled down at all times and the ground in wholly marked with hoof prints. There are also coyote and dog tracks through it. I see deer nearly every time I walk up the drive to check the mail or go next door to work on the remodel, and we see where they sleep in the pastures, areas where the tall prairie grasses are pressed flat.

The rabbits are everywhere. One that eats near the driveway doesn't even bother to run off at my approach anymore. I've heard people lament the fall in wild rabbit numbers, but I certainly cannot say that our population has suffered at all.

I haven't seen a roadrunner in at least the last month. I haven't noticed many squirrels this year, either.

The turtles have been out for at least a month, and they were somewhat spotty before that - they would only come out on the few days that the weather was really warm. The bass and the bluegill have been biting in the big pond, though we haven't had much time for fishing.

Caveman killed a copperhead under some sheet metal two weeks ago. The brown recluses have been in the house for the last two months or so. The ticks have been outside for about that long as well. Day before yesterday, SOC saw the first scorpion of the year outside, then saw a second one in our bed. As we have not been using any air conditioning (thus it is no cooler in here than outside, so is 60-75 at night at 75-90+ during the day) I am confused as to why they would be coming in the house. The hugest black widow I've ever seen in Oklahoma is living under the corner of the house to the left of the front door. I tried to smash it last weekend and it ran under the siding. I usually only kill brown recluses, but that black widow is just SO HUGE and so close to my door.

It was about a month ago now that I stumbled onto a coyote as I went out to check the blackberry patch. I got to within twenty feet or less before I got too close for him and he ran out of the cover of an eastern red cedar. I didn't know he was there until he ran off, and I made a mental note to take a dog with me next time. It must have been a coyote with a long winter coat, because it looked like a wolf. We have not heard the coyotes out at night in weeks and weeks.

I heard an owl very close to the house a few days ago. We have a great owl that hangs out at the ponds and flies off when I approach. His wingspan has got to be at least 6 feet. I don't know if it was him I heard. The owl I heard was a loud hoot, not the screech owl sound which I haven't heard in a while.

We haven't seen any evidence of raccoons, skunks, mice, or possums since we moved back eight months ago. When we were squatting in the travel trailer in late summer 2011 we saw evidence of quite a few as we had outdoor trash cans. Now, SOC takes all of our trash directly to his job site and puts it in the dumpster, which both saves us money for disposal services and discourages scavengers. We saw one skunk about two months ago, as did our neighbor in the last two weeks, though I don't count them as both were seen walking around in the middle of the day near humans, so we think it likely that they were rabid.

June 22, 2013:

The turkeys are here!

I don't know where, but they are here, making little turkey sounds out in the trees. I said last month that I didn't know if they had gone, though where they would go, I don't know. The neighbors report having seen them often in the last month or so, whereas I have only heard them. I do not know why they roam freely in the cooler months but stay hidden in the warmer months.

Sadly, the kites appear to have moved on. I've seen the Great Owl by the small pond once, and a fairly large owl of some sort on the walk to the big pond. I also saw an Eastern Bluebird on the walk to the mailbox - the first I have seen.

Caveman saw a family of coyotes, including the young, while walking with the dogs last week. I have seen deer tracks in recent mud, but no deer, which is unusual. The rabbits are everywhere. I was stopped by one in the SUV today as he simply stood and stared at me, then strolled off.

The grasshoppers are back in force. Looking at oak species on the property yesterday, I noticed the lower portion of the trees had rather moth-eaten leaves. I do not know if this is the work of grasshoppers, or some other insect. The affected trees definitely include the oaks and the persimmons, I did not notice whether or not they were defoliating the pignuts and elms as well. I also saw cactus bugs on the prickly pear on the way to the mailbox, and the plant looked ill.

Something fell on Caveman's head yesterday (in the house, fell from the ceiling?,) and he quickly brushed it off. It flew onto my face, then on the ground. Closer inspection revealed, of course, that it was a scorpion. The green milkweed and the butterflyweed (also a milkweed) are up and flowering, and the monarchs are out. I've also seen several Black Swallowtails, Oklahoma's state butterfly.

I stepped on a baby Massasauga Rattlesnake while mowing with my push mower last week. The funny thing is, I didn't initially run off, screaming - I just kept going back and forth with the mower like I was trying to kill it. If this was my intention, I certainly was not doing it consciously. Eventually I realized what was happening and ran off, screaming in little yips.

August 9, 2013:

No real point in posting about wildlife, I haven't seen anything since the last update.

Stephen has seen some rabbits in the mornings. Little sign of deer, even in thunderdome, which has started to grow little plants. Saw two doves the last couple of days. My neighbor told me yesterday that she's heard the turkeys, but I haven't.

August 26, 2013:

I've seen a number of kites since my last posting, but this morning, I saw two groups in formation flying east. They weren't flying very high, but I've never seen the kites fly in groups before, so I'm thinking that they know something I don't about upcoming weather changes.

View of the pond taken from halfway up a tree.
I've seen roadrunners a few times, but I've also seen doves. I'd never seen doves here before, and I tend to think of them as a city bird, so I was surprised. I found out from the Sunday local PBS show "Outdoor Oklahoma" that dove hunting season opens this week or next, so that makes sense, but I did not know previously that some doves migrate. I continue to not see deer, and have not heard turkeys at all. The grasshoppers have not been more numerous than other years, but they do seem to be much larger. The Shawnee newspaper ran a story yesterday that snakes are more abundant this year because of the substantial rainfall, although the headline read something like, "Man and Neighbors Kill 15 Poisonous Snakes." People here really hate snakes. My closest neighbor is positively terrified of snakes, like so terrified that it is surprising that she lives in the country.

She told me the story of her son, when he was a boy, who found a nest of little worms (You know where this is going.) He was going to keep them for bait, until she guessed what they were and went out to find that they were, indeed, a nest of baby copperheads. She told me that when they moved out here, she wanted chickens so badly because that was part of the country ideal, I guess. She was out gathering eggs one day. Saw a snake. Immediately abandoned the chickens. I don't even think it was poisonous. I think that she wishes I would mow more of our acreage just because she assumes there are a lot of snakes out here (which there probably are.)

February 13, 2014:

I haven't posted in 6 months because there hasn't been much to say. We've seen deer tracks, but almost no deer. They aren't sleeping near the house, and they've abandoned Deer Thunderdome. We hear coyotes, but haven't seen any. My neighbors say they heard turkeys last fall - I didn't. We've seen TONS of bunny prints in the snow this year.

As of New Year's, an escaped buffalo has been staying on our property. The owner is trying to get her used to eating in one area so she can be tranquilized and moved, but she rarely comes out where anyone can see her. No one who has purposefully gone out to look for her has actually found her. She's so wily. It's looking like there may always be a buffalo living here.

June 18, 2014:

Dude finally got his buffalo last month. We have seen deer since about March or April, and heard turkeys since about April. Around the end of April or beginning of May, we started seeing the roadrunners. Rabbits are plentiful. The kites came back around early May, and we had Eastern Bluebirds. I haven't seen any lately. No snakes yet.

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