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It's a wild, wild life


It's a rainy day at the farmette. More than a quarter-inch of water was in the gauge this morning. It was very foggy at three in morning when I was wide awake for no known reason. It's been a pretty active week wildlife-wise around the farmette. Yesterday, as we were heading out to pick up tomato plants for the garden, we were more than surprised that about a dozen turkey vultures decided to perch in the big black walnut in the back yard and atop the barn. I managed to get this cool shot of two taking off and two staying behind. These big, ugly birds are the cleanup crew of the fauna world, chowing down on road kill and other deceased critters around the county. Whether there was a carcass nestled in the back pasture or they were just drying out their feathers from a misty-moisty morning, we didn't know, but there was a full 'wake' of them (yes, that is a collective noun for them).

Being curious, I looked them up, and found out that they have very few predators. Of course, they do have a wingspan of about six feet and their nests are high on cliffs and treetops. As you can imagine, their breath is no great hell, and they're able to vomit partially-digested goop on their enemies. They also poop on their legs to keep cool. Nice. On the upside, though, they're pretty spectacular fliers, soaring on the thermals and nearly never flapping their wings.

For a few days, we had a regular black and white visitor rummaging around for grubs on the front lawn. We figured he was a young one - maybe even this year's vintage.

He would show up around 8:30, take his time ripping up the sod and saunter off within about a half-hour.

Skunks, too, are part of nature's tidying helpers. While their latin scientific name - mephitis - literally means smelly, they happily eat whatever comes within sniffing range, including bugs, small rodents and even plants. Generally, they're pretty benign, but when the family pet gets sprayed, it's no great fun, I've heard. Thankfully, it's never happened to the farmette felines. Knock on wood.

Last Tuesday, as I was doing my trail walk behind our veterinarian's house, I spotted a Canada goose family. Gander, mother and five babies, all gathered on the bank of the tranquil pond in the back yard. Cute, eh?

Much as we rue their slimy rectal discharges that seem to get everywhere under foot, you have to give credit to a species that, thanks to conservationists' efforts, has come back from the brink of extinction.

Plus, they're pretty amazing flyers, especially when they zoom over the farmette, honking away in their v-formations and readying for the fall migration. But that's much later in the year.

For now, I've got those tomatoes to plant and need to finish up sowing the beets and radishes and mesclun. Until next week.


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