I posted some pictures of a flock of turkeys that crossed our yard a while ago. Another flock made our lot part of its regular route recently. There were at least three adult females and probably close to 20 young turkeys. No toms as far as I could tell. I took this shot last week.

This is down towards the front of our yard, an area that we are currently allowing to grow wild.

I haven’t seen the turkeys in the last few days. I suspect that the young turkeys have left the flock to go off on their own.

We get to see a good variety of wildlife here. We’ve seen just about every large mammal that lives in this area at one time or another. That’s just one of the things I like about living here.

Cats and birds

We were beginning to worry a little about the cat we found on Monday. She apparently had not relieved herself since we found her, even though we took her out and put her down into the flower bed, where there is a nice layer of mulch for a cat toilet. We were worried about leaving her in the house alone for several hours on Wednesday (potential explosive situation), while we out having our regular huevos rancheros and making a grocery run, so before lunch I went and bought a cat litter box.

We set it up in the hall, because we really don’t have a suitable place for a litter box, and she almost immediately went in took care of pending business. There are two bad things about this development. The first is that we don’t want an inside cat that uses a litter box. The second is that she passed something that looked like bright, red blood. Our vet has been closed since Saturday and will reopen on Thursday. We’re taking her in then.

Here she is relaxing on the leather recliner in the living room.

Not long after this adorable shot, she turned around and clawed the chair’s arm, leaving four or five punctures in it. This does not make us happy.

On a cat-related note, a few weeks ago we noticed what looked like an aborted bird nest about three feet off the ground in one of the crape myrtles we planted beside the house. Looks were deceiving. This is what I found when I looked into the nest on Tuesday.

I think there are three baby mockingbirds, being very quiet. The mother was perched in a tree some distance away, looking like a concerned parent.

I looked in the nest because I had seen the mockingbird flying around in the vicinity, although never lighting in the crape myrtle itself.

This is obviously a problem location for baby birds. I don’t think any of our cats have located the nest yet, but as soon as the birds fledge, they will end up on the ground with a limited ability to fly. At that point, a cat, most likely Sylvester, will kill them.

I wish I had destroyed the nest when I first noticed it, before the mockingbird had a chance to lay her eggs.


One of the less pleasant parts of walking the dogs up and down the mountain is seeing all the dead animals that people driving cars almost always overlook. There is a little of almost everything — snails, salamanders, snakes, turtles, birds, squirrels, armadillos, possums, dogs and deer. The dogs and deer are usually murdered elsewhere and the bodies dumped along the road. The rest are victims of our transportation system.

I almost never take pictures of the deceased, but a few days ago I saw a snake that showed no obvious sign of its cause of death (in other words, it wasn’t smashed), and was such a beautiful specimen that I did it anyway.

This is what I believe to be an Eastern Milk Snake. Curious Zeke is in the image for scale. This is small for a mature milk snake, so it is probably a juvenile. According to the linked site, the Eastern Milk Snake and the Scarlet King Snake sometimes intergrade in northern Georgia into Tennessee. Make sure you have followed the link to see the picture of the king snake, it’s magnificent. The coloration of the unfortunate snake I saw here seems to be somewhat brighter than the image of the milk snake, so maybe it’s one of the intergraded snakes.

What a shame.

Snakes alive

Leah and I found a snake crossing the road last week on our way into town. It was stretched out across the centerline of the road. I passed, then turned around and came back. It was around three feet long.

Usually all they need is a little nudge to get them moving, but this one didn’t want to be nudged. He coiled and reared his head as I approached. When I got closer he began to lunge and strike. I was sure enough that it was not venomous that it didn’t worry me, but I still didn’t want his little snakey bites, so I got a collapsible umbrella out of the car to nudge him. No dice. Usually snakes just want to get away; this one just wanted me to get away.

While I was busy trying to move him, my uncle and aunt pulled up and stopped. Uncle Tommy said it was a chicken snake. After googling I found that it was a gray rat snake. Here it is at the side of the road, where it’s hard to see.

It’s actually a beautiful snake. The markings remind me of Southwestern design. I didn’t find anything online about the rat snake’s temperament, but “grouchy” seems appropriate.

Another person stopped. A young man jumped out of the car and ran up to the snake. He looked like he was going to stomp it. I told him not to kill it, but all he wanted to do was hold it down while he grabbed it and tossed it towards the edge of the road. I’m not afraid of snakes, but for some reason I just don’t like handling them. I can do it with gloves, but not barehanded. I know how to pick them up, I would just rather not.

A few days later as I took the dogs out just before dark, we found another snake on the driveway. It was too dark for me to tell what it was, but when it started striking at Zeke when Zeke was still about five feet away, I figured it was a gray rat snake. Zeke barked. I told him not to bother, but he felt it was his duty. The snake eventually slithered off into the tall grass at the side of the drive.

That tall grass is just a little bit worrisome now. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Georgia Poison Control Center says that snake bites are up 40 percent over last year, mainly because of a mild winter (what winter?). Copperheads seem to be the worst culprits. I’m not a herpetologist, but I knew the rat snake was not a copperhead. The rat snake’s head is small relative to its body. The copperhead’s head is larger, like an arrowhead.

The tall grass at the side of our drive is the result of seeds that were in the wheat straw I put all over the yard last year. I imagine it provides an ideal environment for snakes. I have been avoiding getting into that grass mainly because of ticks, but now I need to worry about snakes as well.

It was almost a relief on Wednesday to see this little green snake on the dogs’ morning walk.

This snake acted like he was supposed to. I nudged his tail and he slowly edged his way off the road.

When is a blade of grass not a blade of grass

I have been happy to learn that we have lizards around our new house, just like the old one. I have been unhappy to learn that the cats still kill them. I saved what might have been an eastern fence lizard from Sylvester on Wednesday. Sly was casually lying in the driveway, not showing any real interest in the lizard lying equally motionless about 18 inches away. I wasn’t sure it was still alive, but I scooped it up in a plastic container and dropped it near a pile of rocks on the other side of the driveway. The lizard disappeared very quickly under the rocks. One lizard saved, but since I didn’t have a camera or my phone with me during the rescue, I don’t have any documentation.

After the rescue, I took the dogs down the driveway. At the bottom I noticed a blade of grass at the edge of the pavement. It wasn’t a surprise, since there is a fair bit of tall grass that has sprouted from the wheat straw I scattered all over the yard. When I got closer I realized it wasn’t a blade of grass at all, just a green anole pretending to be one.