Entries in vole (2)


Close Encounter with a Hawk

I recently was pruning a shrub when Lou, who was standing nearby, whispered, "You have a visitor."A Red-Shoulered Hawk, photo taken in my garden on another day

I looked around, and not ten feet from me on a low tree branch, sat a large hawk. My heart thumped a bit, for he was clearly watching me. Sizing me up for prey? I doubt it; I would have been more than a mouthful!

He was nearly level with my head, and for a few moments I found myself locking eyes with him, briefly transcending the gulf that naturally separates humans from wild creatures. Finally, in no hurry at all, the hawk lifted his wings and took flight.

My garden is blessed with several predatory bird families, including both hawks and owls. I am thankful, for they help keep the vole and chipmunk population down. Voles have been the nemesis of my garden, destroying the roots of many valuable plants.

The chipmunks are much cuter than the mousy-looking voles, but they are cohorts in crime.He just looks innocent!They have dug an extensive series of underground tunnels for themselves, and the same tunnels are also used by the voles who want to snack on my roots.

This was not the first time predatory birds have shown an interest in us. An owl once followed Lou around the garden, flying from tree to tree to keep him in sight. Maybe his nest was nearby; maybe he was just curious!

It is always a delight to be outside this time of year, as the birds and other creatures go about the business of building nests and making babies. A symphony of twitters, chirps and calls of all sorts greets me every morning. New life is emerging along stems and branches, and many plants are blooming. Spring's verdure seems premature this year. We are expecting freezing temperatures this week, but the birds are telling me: No worries; spring is here!



The Hunter and the Hunted

There were three different types of birds in the dogwood tree near our patio this morning, all at the same time, devouring the berries: bluebirds, cardinals, and titmice. When they were done, there were no berries left.We have many types of birds in our garden including, clockwise from top left: bluebirds, cardinals, titmice, and Red-shouldered hawks.

I am especially happy to see bluebirds setting up housekeeping in the bluebird house by the arbor garden again. (Click on the link for tips on attracting bluebirds.) This is a  newly refurbished house, and it should provide them with a secure, safe home, as safe as it can be out in the wild. The Cooper's hawks have returned to our garden, and, unfortunately, songbirds are on their menu. Today I watched one swoop down for a kill. I think he got a vole, which is fine by me. Just leave the bluebirds alone. 

Voles are on my hit list, because they consume plant roots. I have lost so many hostas to them that I hesitate to plant these beautiful shade-lovers, except in pots. The hawks will have competition for this particular tasty meal. Autumn, our cat, is extremely affectionate and outgoing toward humans, but she is a fierce tiger at heart. She loves to hunt. She will catch chipmunks and play with them, carrying them around in her mouth like a kitten, them setting them free in heavy foliage for seek and chase. She will repeatedly catch and release the same chipmunk until she grows tired of the game. The poor chipmunk, if he doesn't die of fright, has a good chance of escaping in the end.

Not so a vole. This creature is dead meat within moments after she catches it, and she will consume it in just a few bites. We feed her well, but understand, this is a delicacy she will never forgo. Autumn was in hunter mode when I took this photo.

This vole would be a tasty meal to either our cat, Autumn, or to the Cooper's hawks who live in our garden.Our weather continues to see-saw between pleasant sixty to seventy degree temps one day, down to upper twenties the next, but the increased activity of birds and other wild creatures, both the hunter and the hunted, is one of the signs of approaching spring. Every day more bulbs emerge. Flowering quince and hellebores are blooming. Surely spring will be here in just a few weeks!