Saturday, October 28, 2006

Otter, Deer & Another Foundling, Oh My!

The month of October has been a busy one for the wildlife of our habitat as they prepare for winter. In the middle of the month on one of our daily morning walks to the river we were rewarded by a most beautiful sight, the graceful movements of a river otter as it surfaced and then skimmed through the clear, shallow water. Other birds and animals make the woods and the river their home. On many mornings we see 10-12 wood ducks just up river from where we saw the otter. Five white tailed deer browse on strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), horse sugar (Symplocos tinctoria) and wild blueberry (Vaccinium spp.). The large great blue heron prowls in the shallows for fish. Up by our house the resident cotton tail rabbits hop about trying to avoid predators.

Now that the cool weather has arrived in Louisiana we are beginning to plant trees to replace the ones that were lost to Hurricane Katrina. We planted 2 Live Oak ( Quercus virginiana ) trees and 2 Native Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis). We also plan to plant some Red Mulberry ( Morus rubra ), Hackberry ( Celtis laevigata ) , Cow Oak (Quercus michauxii), Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), Buttonbush (Cephalanthus Occidentalis) and Crabapple (Malus angustifolia) trees. November is also a good time to plant Rye grass seeds which provides food for wildlife. All of the trees that we are planting provide food for a variety of wildlife, including song and game birds, butterflies and other insects and mammals. We also put out 4 bales of hay to give the wildlife extra food and shelter this winter.

We began seeing a beautiful, long-haired black cat in our neighborhood a few months ago, but it was afraid of us and always ran away or hid. But for some reason, on Oct. 11th, she came out of hiding and meowed at my husband. He ran inside to get food and she ate it. Within an hour she was letting us pet her and even pick her up. We made a place for her in an out-building and started calling around to try to find her a good inside home. No one we contacted had room for her and as we got to know her, we realized what a gentle, special cat she is. She met our 2 dogs and 2 cats outside and was very nonchalant with all of them. After we heard her in a fight with another animal one night we decided to bring her in and take her to the Vet. Cats can do so much damage to the wildlife. It’s in their nature to hunt and kill so now Star is one of 3 inside cats that only go outside on supervised walks. If you want to attract wildlife to your yard you must take measures to protect them from your pets.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

White Tailed Deer, Kingfisher and Plant Rescue

This morning, when we were half way to the river, we saw the white tails of 3 deer as they made a hasty retreat towards the Tchefuncte. All the corn that we put out for the wood ducks was gone. I guess with all the habitat destruction that has been going on around us, our property must have most of the browse plants that they need to prepare for the winter months.

When we reached the river we heard the chattering of a Belted Kingfisher. This fellow will sit right across the river and chatter until our dog, Rio, barks at him. The kingfisher will fly up river & back down to us as if he wants Rio to chase him. We’ve also seen a Kingfisher up at our pond by the house. The last few days we’ve seen what looks like some mallard ducks and also the resident wood ducks.

When we got back to the house we hurriedly prepared for a native plant rescue mission. One of the other members of the FNPS had alerted us about some beautiful wildflowers (including unusual, possibly rare milkweed, unusual large lavender asters, mountain mint and 20+ other species of native plants) that would soon be destroyed when another strip mall is built. We were able to move about 50+ plants today despite the rock hard soil. We plan to go back after we get a good rain, when it’s easier to dig. We will probably have to go on many more of these missions because St. Tammany Parish is in a building frenzy.