Fox and armadillo

I have mentioned before that we have foxes around the neighborhood, some of which regularly visit our driveway to poop and eat catfood*. I recently saw more of the family. This was about halfway down Lavender Trail from our house to the driveway of our new property.

fox kit 2

This fox kit watched me and the dogs approach for a while, but dived into the brush before we got close. The image is fuzzy because I took it with my phone from a good distance, and the phone camera has a wide angle lens. The scale is not obvious here, but the kit is quite small. I think it would fit into two hands cupped together, with maybe a little overflow.

About two weeks ago I saw two fox kits. This time I saw only one. I’m pretty sure the den is somewhere in a thick patch of kudzu that grows beside the road. There is an obvious path through the kudzu leading into the darkness beneath the growth.

On Monday morning as I walked the dogs I looked into the path and saw this.

armadillo skin

It’s the skin and the tail of an armadillo. The picture is fuzzy not because of distance but because I was holding the phone at arm’s length and wasn’t as steady as I might have been. It was also dark down there.

It was gone when Leah and I walked the dogs Monday evening.

I assume that the mother fox brought it either to feed one or more kits or to eat at her leisure. I don’t know how the fox came to have the armadillo. I would have thought an adult armadillo would be too large to be fox prey. Maybe the fox found one killed by a car, or maybe it found the remains of one that a coyote had killed.

* Edited to clarify exactly what the fox eats. Thanks, Scott.

The hummingbird, the fox, and the snake

We’ve had a few small wildlife events around here in the last few days. The first was the return of the hummingbirds, and the first time this year that one of them trapped itself in our garage.

hummer on a wire

This is the best shot I could get of the little bird. She (I’m pretty sure it’s a female because I can’t see any red on its throat.) was bumping up against the ceiling of the garage, as they always do when they fly in, and perched on one of the garage door opener wires for a rest. It’s right up against the ceiling.

I was not optimistic about doing anything for it, although we have rescued a few in the past. I finally decided to close the garage doors and turn on the overhead light. I put a step ladder under the light and climbed up with a towel. The hummingbird flew immediately to the light and I grabbed it as gently as I could. It was not tight enough, though, and the bird escaped. It came right back and I folded the towel around it and got it. I then opened the garage door and took her outside, where she flew away as soon as I opened up the towel.

The second event, or series of events, is our continuing story of the foxes. One, we think, makes our driveway a regular stop on its rounds. It comes by in the morning when Leah feeds the outdoor cats their breakfast, and it comes by in the evening when she gives the cats their supper. Sometimes it gets catfood, and sometimes it doesn’t. Zeke is usually on the front walk in the evening. When the fox appears, Zeke scrambles down to the gate and barks. Lately that seems to spook the fox so it leaves.

Leah is quite annoyed at the fox because we can’t leave catfood out, but, at the same time, she says she feels sorry for it. I think that’s because she worries about whether the fox is getting food. I have assured her that it’s a wild animal evolved to find natural sources of food, but she has her doubts.

On my morning dog walk Saturday, I found an example of the fox’s natural food. Just down the street from our house I saw a fox dive into the poison ivy at the edge of the woods. Zeke didn’t see it, fortunately. When we got to the point where it had been, I saw it watching us from a few feet away in the woods. I grabbed a quick shot with my phone.

fox in the woods

It’s very hard to see the fox, so I zoomed in some.

zoom fox in the woods

This is a bad shot, but it was the best I could do while holding the dogs’ leashes in one hand. The fox watched from here for a while, then, when it realized I was watching it back, it retreated deeper into the woods. When I looked down, I saw a dead chipmunk at the edge of the pavement. I think we scared the fox away from its kill, and it was reluctant to leave. The chipmunk body was gone when we came back, so I assume the fox returned and got it.

Along the way back, one of our neighbors stopped to warn me of a “rattly” snake in the road near her home. Her house is up the street from us, so not on our regular walk, but, obviously, I had to go up there to see the rattly snake. I saw the snake but I couldn’t get a picture. I wish I had been able to get some shots, because this was the first time I have seen crows harassing a snake. They were diving at it in the road, but not getting too close. The snake was in the process of slithering off the road into the weeds when I first caught sight of it.

I’m sure it wasn’t a rattlesnake; it was some kind of black snake. The crows flew away when we approached, so the snake got away.

Snakes on a road

Leah and I saw this snake last week when we took the dogs for a short evening walk.

ringneck

This is a blurred shot. It was past sunset so the light was bad, and all I had to take the shot was my phone. On top of that, this little snake was really moving. I didn’t recognize it. In fact, I’m not sure I have ever seen one before. I searched online for a black snake with a white ring around its neck and quickly found that it was – surprise! – a ringneck snake.

This link leads to an article about the ringneck snake at the Savannah River Ecology Lab website

According to the SREL site, ringneck snakes are 10 to 15 inches long. The one we saw was less than six inches, so it was almost certainly an immature example, or possibly a hatchling (see the image of a hatchling ringneck in a person’s hand at the SREL site). SREL says that the ringneck snake has one of the largest ranges of any North American snake. Its range spreads from Florida to Canada, across the US Southwest and up along the Pacific coast.

Wikipedia says, “Ring-necked snakes are believed to be fairly abundant throughout most of their range, though no scientific evaluation supports this hypothesis.” However, SREL cites a capture-mark-and-release study by Henry Fitch in 1975 that found densities greater than 700 to 1800 per hectare (2.47 acres) in Kansas. That’s a lot of snakes.

This small, shy snake seldom shows itself during the day, which probably explains why I had never seen one. But then a couple of days later I saw another one when I took the dogs on their morning walk. This one looked like it had been run over at the edge of the road, but when I nudged it with my foot, it raced off into the weeds.

I should have taken a picture before I nudged it, but I didn’t want to take a picture of a dead snake. Dead snakes are not uncommon on the roads around here. Just last week, in addition to the live ringneck snakes, I saw one large black snake and a large copperhead that had been run over. Both had apparently been sunning themselves in the road after a cool night. That was probably what the little ringneck was doing as well. Since they’re small, the ringnecks aren’t as good a target for our local drivers as larger other snakes.

Catching up

This is a catch-up post for a few things that have happened recently that don’t really merit their own post.

First, we finally got our building permit last week. Two things surprised me about it. The first is that they handed me a permit right after they confirmed that I had all the documents they require. They didn’t require any kind of approval prior to giving the permit. The second thing that surprised me was the cost of the permit. The cost made it clear to me that the building inspection department uses permits as a revenue source.

The permit box, full at last

The permit box, full at last

So now the building site has an official document allowing us to proceed with construction. Unfortunately, it has been raining so much that neighbor John, who will excavate for the basement and foundation, hasn’t been able to work. We have a chance of rain through next Tuesday, and then, at least for now, a forecast of several sunny days. Those days will come right about when we leave for a few days on vacation. John isn’t sure whether his helper will be back from his own vacation by then, so maybe they won’t be able to work until I get back. I really need to be there when the work is done. I expect some questions to come up, especially when they hit bedrock a few feet under the surface.

The second event was Zeke’s most recent bid for freedom on Saturday. I opened the door onto the deck so that our little dog Lucy could go out. Some time later, after we had forgotten about the door being open, Zeke apparently squeezed out. We didn’t realize he had escaped until at least an hour later when we called the dogs to get some table scraps and Zeke didn’t come. He was out about five hours. I drove around looking for him, but never saw him. Around 10 pm I took Lucy out for her final walk and found Zeke in the back yard.

When he saw me he glanced around, like he was considering running, but something stopped him. That something was a fairly badly sprained right wrist joint. He had some real difficulty walking, and some obvious pain from it. Here he is looking sheepish back on his bed in the living room.

sheepish zekeNote the wet spot on his bed next to his left foot.

I gave him an NSAID prescribed for the back pain he has sometimes, and that seemed to help, at least by the next day. He has recovered enough that I can take him on a short walk, which he seems to tolerate, but an hour later he limps a little more. I won’t go back to our regular walks until next week.

I also discovered that he tore his left dewclaw again. He did that originally a few months ago when he wandered away from me while I was working at the new house site. He has been licking his wrist and his dewclaw since then.

This nail is not supposed to be this color

This nail is not supposed to be this color

The last item is another turtle report. We found this one crossing Huffaker Road as we returned from our weekly huevos rancheros fix at our favorite Mexican restaurant. (We do it often enough that our regular waitress came to the table with one sweet tea, one unsweetened tear, a bowl of lemon slices, one bowl of ranchera sauce and two bowls of regular salsa in addition to a bowl of chips, even before we ordered.)

We went back to help him across the road. I know it was a “he” because of Wayne’s previous help with that identification.

Turtle, giving me the evil eye

Turtle, giving me the evil eye

He was just small enough for me to pick him up with one hand. He ducked into his shell at first, but came back out to look around as I moved him to the side of the road. He was not exactly feisty, but he was also not shy. I put him in the grass on the side of the road he had been heading towards. I hope he won’t remember any business he left undone on the other side.

An unfortunate start to the hummingbird season

I wish I could start the hummingbird season with a happier story.

On Saturday we had left the screen door to the deck open for the cats and dogs. Unfortunately, a hummingbird came in and trapped itself against the sliding glass door. I drew the curtains across the window, hoping to help it find its way back out the open part of the door. I looked from the outside, but all I saw was Lucy between the door and the curtain. I hoped that the bird had found its way back out, but a few minutes later when I looked in Lucy’s kennel, I saw this sad, little body.
dead hummingbird

Sorry to subject you to that.

I guess the hummingbird dropped to floor level after I closed the curtain and Lucy went for it.

I was not happy. (Leah says I went ballistic on her.)  I know, Lucy is a dog, and dogs are predators, so they will kill animals under the right (or wrong) circumstances. Sylvester, one of our cats, has also killed a hummingbird. Sylvester routinely kills anything he can, from lizards to birds. I expect it, but I still don’t like it. We have already had to take down a bird-seed feeder because Sylvester was using it as a hunting ground. I don’t want to have to stop feeding the hummingbirds.

I don’t like it when one of our cats or dogs kills anything around here, but I especially don’t like it when they kill hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are one of my two favorite birds. Even aside from their beauty and amazing flying ability, they seem to be interested in us, at least a little. Sometimes when I’m out in the yard, one will fly up to me and hover at eye level, staring at me. It seems to be sizing me up for something. It finds it, or not, and then flies away. A few days ago one flew up to the same door that proved so deadly a trap on Saturday and stared inside. That door is where we hang the hummingbird feeder. It seemed to be letting us know they’re back. I’m anthropomorphizing, but still, the most interaction we get with other birds is when they fly away when they see us.

My other favorite bird is the pileated woodpecker, and I think it’s for exactly the opposite reason. The pileated woodpecker seems supremely uninterested in humans and their petty activities. They’re busy and just can’t be bothered.

I get the sense that they think they’re better than us. Maybe they are