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Green Darner

Green Darner Dragonfly

While working in one of the bottomland farm fields today, preparing to burn the last brush pile from the land clearing, I noticed I was surrounded by hundreds of dragonflies flitting around and feeding.  They were green darners – so named either because they look like darning needles, or because their flight path is reportedly back and forth like a knitting needle’s action – take your pick.

What I was witnessing was the annual migration of these creatures.  Surprisingly little is known about their US migration – where they are coming from and where they are going.  A research scientist in India, however, has documented them migrating there over 10,000 miles, over 4 generations, from north to south and back again to rinse and repeat.  What little is known in the US from one short-distance study is that they appear to follow the same migration patterns as songbirds – how long they fly, how long they rest, the general direction they are headed.  The dragonflies during their migration apparently depend primarily on local food sources like mosquitos and aphids.  Importantly,  the annual hawk migration follows right along with the dragonflies – the hawks apparently depend on the dragonflies for the fuel for their migration.

Otherwise, little is known about these creatures migration, which is surprising to me.  As far as I know, the only other insects that migrate like this are a few moths and butterflies (Monarchs being the most charismatic example).  Given that dragonflies are rather charismatic in themselves, and that they are voracious feeders of many insect “pests” to humans, like mosquitos, one would think they would deserve a bit more study to ensure they stay with us. Meanwhile, I’m very glad they decided that CRF was a good stopping place and feeding ground for them going from who knows where to places yet unknown.

 

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Mama Bear

We’ve been seeing bears off and on at Crooked River, and signs of it (scat) for the past couple of years.  I’ve offered a 6-pack of beer to the first guy who actually got a picture of one, and Jamie Scott, our crew lead, finally caught this one today.  She had a cub with her, but Jamie couldn’t get a picture with her.

Bears are becoming a much more common sight in Floyd lately.  Even though there are fewer bear hunters than in years past, “harvests” have been up almost 8% per year or the past decade or more here in the VA mountains.  In fact, it’s reported that there are more bears in Virginia now than anytime in the past 400 years.

All the neighbors have reported bear sightings.  As a female bear’s territory ranges anywhere from 1 sq mile (640 acres) to 50 sq miles, we could all being seeing just this one bear.  But since territories can overlap, we may be seeing more than just this one.  One nearby neighbor reports a “problem bear”, one that gets into his garbage, pet food, bird feeders, or any potential food source he leaves out.  Since we currently feed some of our cats outside, and have numerous bird feeders, we’ll likely have to change our practices when we move to Crooked River.

Interesting tidbits about black bears – 90% of the food they eat is vegetative, but most of the protein they get comes from insect larvae such as ants, termites, and yellow jackets.  They don’t really hibernate – they can be easily roused in the wintertime, which is when they also bear their cubs, anywhere from 1-5 of them, but only every other year once the female reaches sexual maturity.  There are now an estimated 1 million black bears in North America – the largest population and largest range of any bear.  Unprovoked black bear attacks are extremely rare, and there reportedly has not been a single one in Virginia.

So we’ll be more than happy to “home” this bear, and will appreciate seeing her when she deems to make herself known, and be very careful not to tempt her from her wild ways with such freebies as Purina cat chow on the porch.


 

Turkeys

 

Around 1900, wild turkeys in North America were verging on extinction.  Thirty five years ago, there were only about 1.5 million of them in North America.  They have been on the continued upswing – today, there are about 7.5 million of them.  They are very cool – they can run up to 18 miles an hour and fly at 55.  We have a couple of gangs of them on the farm and it does my heart good every time I see them.  Here, one of the gangs feasts on recently dropped dogwood berries.


Here’s a close-up of the bobcat caught on the game camera.

Bobcat

Bobcat


Well, the deer who had been hit by the car didn’t live even 24 hours.  So what to do with him?  We thought about burying him, but decided to deal with it as if we hadn’t intervened.  Brad, one of the lead carpenters on the Sticks and Stones crew is an avid outdoorsman, and he drug the body up into the woods  for it to return to the earth in the way it would if it had died a natural death.  He put a game camera on a nearby tree to record what happens.

The most remarkable picture, perhaps, is of this huge bobcat.  It looks half the size of the deer!

Bobcat

Bobcat

Most all the pictures taken at night were of raccoons.  Several of the pictures had the big cat in them as well.  So for those of you who think that raccoons only eat garbage, bird seed and dog food off your porch, here is documented contrary proof.  The raccoons pretty much only came at night.

Raccoons

Raccoons

And then of course are your usual suspects –

Vulture and Crow

Vulture and Crow

Neighbor's dogs

Neighbor's dogs

The dogs drug the carcass out of range of the camera, so we weren’t able to document the rest of the process, where the mice are fed too.

We’ve got several game cameras set up all around the house site to catch 2-legged predators if they just so happen to wander in uninvited when no one else is around.  Just found this week some bear scat near the house – might have to check those cameras to see if we got any pictures of him.  We’ve seen him.


I’ve been meaning to start a wildlife thread on this blog.  We’ve of course got a huge assortment of wildlife at CRF, dozens upon dozens of deer, turkeys all over the place, as well as beavers, bear, racoons, ‘possums, squirrels, chipmonks, mice, coyote, etc.  And the birds are incredible as we are right on that “edge habitat” of woods, pasture and water – herons, ducks, woodpeckers (including pileatted) and dozens of other species abound.  Been snapping pictures every once in a while, just not got around to posting any of them yet.

So will start this section with a young buck we found this morning on the road that was injured and couldn’t stand.  A neighbor, Tammy, and I tried to pick him up and ease him off the road, but his legs just collapsed under him and he could do nothing but  flail around.  So finally picked him up and put him in the truck and took him home and put him in the barn.  He stood for about 30 seconds, took a couple of steps and then collapsed half-way in and halfway out into the feed-trough.  After a couple of hours he managed to climb into it completely and now seems perfectly content.  He’s totally trusting that we are trying to help him – he just sits there calmly while we talk with him and pet him and reassure him.  Put out some water, grain, and alfalfa hay for him, but he seems totally uninterested at this point.  No idea what’s wrong with him yet – perhaps just bruised and banged up a bit?  Time will tell over the next coupla days….

Injured Deer

Injured Deer