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!

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