Thursday, May 02, 2013


One advantage to owning two large German shepherds when you live out in the country is that they HAVE to have their morning walkabout.  In the last several weeks, we've had several "cold" snaps, accompanied by snow or freezing rain or ice pellets.  These are definitely NOT considered sufficient reason to stay inside by The Boys.  It doesn't matter how ugly the weather is, they need a bit of romp time...and so I "suit up" to suit the weather and out we go.

Although it's hard to convince myself of the positive side of these walks when I'm donning waterproof shoes and wind-and-rain-resistant coat, facing cold winds that will cut through everything I have on, I do get to see some things that I'd probably miss otherwise. 

Sometimes I even have my camera along to capture the experience.  Here, for example, is one such time....

Look closely at this photo.  See anything much besides a bunch of snags and last year's dead plant stems, waiting to decompose?  I took this photo a week ago, on the day we woke up to snow.  This was taken about mid morning, after most of the snow had melted but while the temperatures were still quite chilly.

Look more closely at the center of the photo, right at the top of the broken black willow, where the top part of the trunk heads downwards at 90%.  (Yes, it's ugly.  No, I shouldn't have had someone out to "take care of it."  And this is why!)

See that bundle of gray fur?  I think it's a raccoon, perhaps the one that I photographed a couple weeks ago, climbing up a nearby black willow that was similarly "past its prime."  It could, however, be an opossum.  Anyone who is better than I at identifying fur is welcome to chime in with a positive identification!

Whichever it is, this is evidently a favorite hangout, especially (weirdly) in cold, wet, spring weather.  I saw it again this morning, similarly curled up, with enough rain falling that I'd taken neither my camera nor my binoculars along on our walkabout.  There it lay, seemingly snug as a bug in a rug.

Raccoons denning in hollow trees.  Raccoons napping in snags.  Woodpeckers nesting in holes, drilled into standing dead trees.  Insects overwintering in standing dead plant stems or snuggled deep in leaf litter.  We humans may see dead plants as ugly trash, messing up our landscape, but wild amimals view dead plants as shelter - safe, comfortable places to weather storms and cold and rain.  Secure places to raise the next generation. 

So, before you automatically cut down that dead tree at the back of your property, stop a minute and really analyze the situation.  Is it likely to fall on a building or a person passing by?  By all means, cut it down, and the sooner, the better!  But if that dead tree is not likely to cause any harm, then consider leaving it as a sort of wildlife hotel.  You never know what may decide to take up residence there!

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