Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dangerous Dan, Little Fuzzy, a New Squirrel, and some visitors

A gorgeous cool evening at High Scenic. Dangerous Dan, Burdock, and Little Fuzzy were all out in the sun when I arrived.

Dangerous Dan

Dan has an itch

Little Fuzzy dozes

 A new red squirrel joins our gathering, this one a male. He and the little female chatter at each other a bit.
 Some friends arrive to enjoy the evening.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Littlest Porcupine, March 28

It is a cool, drippy evening when I arrive at High Scenic. As I unpack, I hear teeth chattering coming from a rock cranny in front of me, one that I have not seen used as a den before. The chattering reminds me of a rattlesnake's rattle, and I wonder if it serves the same purpose—dangerous animal here, watch your step or move away. Porcupines seem to use it when they are nervous, but also to announce that they are about to start moving. As with rattlesnakes, the sound is not warning of an imminent attack, but just suggesting that anyone within hearing range pay attention to avoid mishap.
Dangerous Dan soon appears and has a snack, and then a scratch.
I hear the chattering of teeth again, and soon LF crawls out of her den, yawns and stretches and admires the evening.

A third porcupine can be seen climbing in a hemlock tree nearby. It climbs down, waddles over, and goes to sleep under a rock. Dangerous Dan has finished his apple, and decides to come over and inspect my belongings, one of the first times a wild porcupine other than Fretful has indulged his curiosity.
As it grows dark, the porcupine under the rock comes out, a tiny little porcupine! He (she?) is not much bigger than Burdock was when he arrived at my orphanage in the fall— about the size Dandelion was when she was two months old. Here is the fuzzy photo I managed to take before my camera batter died. He is climbing on the rock above Dan.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Spectacular Five Porcupine Night — March 26

Now that the ice is finally gone, I have begun to see more of the other residents of High Scenic, notably, the red-backed voles. To better observe them, I have started bringing sunflower seeds which I leave in small piles near possible rocky retreats. These seed are often discovered within minutes. The voles are shy and nervous if they notice me nearby, but seem to quickly deduce that I am not a threat.

Red-backed voles are the forest dwelling cousins of meadow voles. These little mouse-sized animals have smaller ears and eyes than mice, and shorter tails, and unlike mice, they are diurnal. Red-backed voles have a pretty chestnut color on their backs and sides. Voles are the main food source for many of the predators of our region. The voles of High Scenic enjoy the security afforded by the numerous rocky shelters where they are safe from foxes, coyotes, and hawks, though they must still venture out to find food.This vole is daintily shelling and eating a sunflower seed.

Once she is full, she takes a few at a time into her rocky shelter.
 The next to show up is a red squirrel. This is the third time we have met, and she already suspects that I am a benevolent visitor to these ledges. After scampering in a wide circle around me, coming in for a closer look at a few points, she sits down at a pile of seeds eight feet away.

This is a beautiful time of year at High Scenic. With no leaves out, the golden evening sun lights this west facing slope spectacularly.

In half an hour, I hear the chattering of teeth coming from a cavity in the rocks behind me. Soon Little Fuzzy appears at the opening in the rock, and then crawls out to feel the warm sun.

Little Fuzzy eats for about an hour, and then crawls back into her nook to digest and doze. An eager humming sound comes from the woods below, and soon Burdock is hustling over for a visit.

The dark porcupine in the prime real estate comes out onto his porch to soak up the warmth. You can see him at the entrance to the cave on the high ledges:
And here is a close up. This porcupine is quite dark, with white pantaloons. I think he could be Big East.

He soon climbs across the cliff face, tail down as a brace and gripping the top of the ledge with his long claws, and then wanders down to see if there are any acorns around. I am surprised that he is so bold. I suspect that Burdock's comfort with me reassures the other porcupines. He and Burdock ignore each other.

The sun has set and the warmth fades with the light. I am getting cold, but as I start to pack up, another porcupine arrives, a large porcupine that I have not seen outside of its den before. Big East retreated into Little Fuzzy's small cave at the sound of the new porcupine's approach, and I can hear LF complaining about it. The new porcupine sits down to eat an acorn at the entrance to this den.

Soon Big comes out and the two whine and squawk at each other.
The new porcupine makes room for Big (who is a bit smaller).

The two bark and whine and growl at each other. I am sitting just several feet away, and am beginning to wonder what it would be like to have fighting porcupines in my lap. I suspect that all of this bluster is highly ritualized and is not likely to result in actual violence. After all, these porcupines have been neighbors all winter and must have figured out how to get along. Soon, the biggest porcupine abandons his claim on the acorns on that level, comes down to where I am sitting, and proceeds to make himself comfortable.

Did I mention that I have not officially met this porcupine before? Did I mention that it is cold? Did I mention that I am already late for a commitment elsewhere? 

How am I supposed to pack up?

The answer is, of course, just start packing up, and the porcupine will move away, which is what I did and what he did. As I was leaving High Scenic, another porcupine crawled out of a den at the south end, Dangerous Dan. A five porcupine night!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Introducing, Little Fuzzy, March 25

Burdock crawled out of a new cave this afternoon, and sat there like a little Buddha chattering his teeth for quite a while. At last he started humming and wandered down to greet me.

He settled down for a snack on this clear-sky day.

Inspired by Burdock and the sunshine, Little Fuzzy, the young porcupine Burdock chased away on my last visit, emerges from her den nearby. 

She has become quite bold already, and is very happy to discover an acorn:
When she finishes, she comes over for a closer look at the strange animal that has been visiting so often.
Notice her long white guard hairs. She also has a distinctive long nose.

Burdock, Little Fuzzy and I enjoy the golden sunset, and so does the red-backed vole.
 Look at the apple-handling equipment here:
When the sun drops, so does the temperature, and as I pack up to head home, Dangerous Dan arrives, so I stay a little longer.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Burdock behaves rudely on March 20

Burdock and I enjoy a picnic on a high rock in the middle of the High Scenic den complex. He is feeling social and silly today.

I see only one other porcupine, or rather, the rear end of one, that has been in the same den every day for the past week.

On this day, however, just before sunset, the occupant emerges, and to my surprise is very interested in getting up onto the rock where Burdock and I are. This porcupine is the same size as Burdock, so likely also a juvenile. To my surprise, Burdock does not tolerate the approach of this youngster, but intimidates her (I do not know the sex of these porcupines, but this one looks feminine) into going back into her den by approaching her and squealing. I think what may be unusual about this encounter is that she actually retreats when he does this. Usually a porcupine will hold its ground and return insults.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

An Old Friend Found, March 7

Following the discovery made in the previous post—hungry beavers trying to chew their way our of their pond—I returned with a camp saw at dusk this evening. I dragged a couple of beech and striped maple saplings over to the hole in the ice, and set up just below the dam to await the arrival of the residents.

I decide, as I watch this beaver, that she is a young one, too small to be one of my familiars— the seven year old Snowberry, six year old Dewberry, or five year old Sundew. I have not seen any of these beavers since they dispersed from their natal colony.

When I am too chilled to stay longer, I pack up my things and climb up the dam to get my saw. When I look over the dam, I see the beaver sitting calmly on the other side eating an apple, not alarmed by my proximity in the least! I have always been a bad judge of beaver sizes. I unpack the rodent nuggets and place them on the dam next to me. This beaver finished her apple and came right over to me and began vacuuming up the nuggets. Snowberry never liked nuggets. This beaver must be either Dewberry or Sundew. I couldn't be happier than to have this assurance that Willow's genes are still in play in this wild place, and to be reunited with a member of my beaver family!
Beaver on the other side of the dam. Note tunnel dug/chewed through dam.

I doubt that I will ever know which of the beavers this one is, but no wild beaver would be this comfortable with me, regardless of how hungry, so I can pretty safely say it is one of the Dews.

With warm weather forecast for the rest of the week, and my deliveries of apples, nuggets, and saplings, this beaver has gone from rags to riches overnight! I wonder if beavers appreciate such swings of fortune?

Dew eats nuggets!

Beavers in Trouble, March 6

Expecting to find ice out at Jenny Lake, I hike up at dusk to see if I know the beavers living there. This pond is at the headwaters of a small tributary of the main brook, and while beavers have occupied this pond for the past two winters, I have yet to see if any of Willow's dispersed youngsters are in residence there. When I arrive, I am surprised to find this little pond still completely covered in ice. I walk around and see no sign that beavers have been able to get out from beneath the ice.
The food cache is over next to the dam, and I hear beaver noises coming from that area. I find that the beavers have been so desperate to get out that they have chewed holes through the dam. They must be hungry!
Note the chewed off timbers in the dam.
I see that the beaver noise I heard was from the beaver chewing a hole through the ice.
Beaver has managed to reopen a small hole in this refrozen area.
I break the ice, leave a couple of apples, and plan to return tomorrow with a saw to cut saplings to feed them.

Dangerous Dan Hums, March 3

I climbed up to visit the porcupines at dusk. I found Burdock in one of the lower rubble dens at High Scenic. He climbed up onto my lap and began noisily crunching biscuits. I soon heard the rustling of leaves as another porcupine approached from the woods. Just before it came into view, I heard the humming noise that is a porcupine's friendly greeting! Dangerous Dan is greeting me?! While Burdock and Dandelion, my orphaned porcupines, greet me in this way, I have not heard this noise from an adult porcupine since the reign of Fretful!  Looking at the color of Dan's quills, the obvious finally strikes me—Dangerous Dan could easily be a descendant of Fretful's, possibly even his son.

Mikie in March

Mikie, the little red squirrel that came in for care last September has made it through the winter in excellent condition. He continues to delight. The weekend I spent  nursing him through health crises has proven an excellent investment. Oh yes, his friend Julia the gray squirrel is thriving as well!

Leap day visit to Porcupines and beavers

On the final evening of February, I arrive at the High Scenic dens at sunset . . .
and find Dangerous Dan dozing at the mouth of the den, leaning against the sun-warmed rock.
I find Burdock down in one of the other rock dens. He enjoys an apple.
I stop by to check on Dangerous Dan as dusk arrives, he is eating an apple too.

It is now a beautiful starlit night. I have not actually seen Willow in a while, so head to the pond next.
The ice has left much of the pond in the recent heavy rain. Willow climbs up onto an ice shelf by the dam when I arrive. I sit next to her and admire the heavens while she admires an apple.

Burdock and Dangerous Dan cont. . . Feb 26

I set out at dusk, hoping to catch the porcupines before they set out on their nocturnal ramblings. As I worked my way across the ice covered hillsides, I could hear porcupine complaint squeals coming from the vicinity of the High Scenic dens. When I arrived, I heard the whining and crunching of a porcupine heading up the hill toward the dens.

Burdock came up over a rise, turned around and squealed. Dangerous Dan came right up behind him, and passed him, heading up a trail away from me. I called to Burdock and settled into the  cave where Burdock and Dan often sleep. Soon Burdock was on my lap and enjoying a snack.
Dan arrives

I was not surprised when, several minutes later, Dangerous Dan clambers up to the cave and wanders in.

Dan enjoys apples and acorns while Burdock complains halfheartedly.

I spend an hour with the two porcupines. When Burdock finishes his biscuits, he wants to play and I indulge him.
And finally, a momentous event! Burdock eats his first acorns!

Beaver pond afternoon, Feb 23

Dangerous Dan was the only porcupine at home on this sunny, cold, icy afternoon. He was not interested in having company. I headed over to check on the beavers next. All of the branches from my last delivery had been removed, and the hole had frozen over again:

The hole by the dam had reopened, however,  so the beavers were able to get downstream to their food supply and I did not need to provide them with more branches.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Feb 22, Another thaw

This day began with a couple of inches of fresh powder snow, which I enjoyed exploring Sunset Lake.

By the time I got home, temperatures were in the fifties. I was so grumpy about the weather, I headed out to the porcupine dens to see how Burdock was enjoying the unseasonable warmth. Someone might as well enjoy it, and I thought a porcupine might.