Mother Nature’s Shuck and Jive

by Noey Vineyard

Well, never let it be said that Mother Nature does not have a sense of humor. According to the calendar it should be winter but for most of the past couple of months you would have a hard time proving it. We did have a couple of weeks of frigid weather and a pretty decent snow, and it looks like for at least the next week, temperatures are going to be what we normally associate with winter. But not only has she confused us, she has confused much of the wildlife and forest plants as well.

I personally cannot remember a winter like this in my lifetime, I saw three snakes in December and that is unheard of. Just last week I was noticing that the trees on the mountain and some of the ground bushes were starting to develop small green buds at the end of their limbs, and green grass is already started pushing through last year’s mulch. A mild winter it has been indeed, but Mother Nature can be fickle, and I do not believe for a second that she does not have some surprises for us in store. The Farmer’s Almanac will tell you that if it thunders in January, it will snow in April, and I did hear thunder in January.

The balmy weather, however, has given me the opportunity to witness some things that I may not have seen otherwise. Just last week, after all the animals here at 30 Coveys had been fed and cared for the evening, Festus and I sat on my back porch. As I sat in the rocking chair with my feet up on the railing something in a treetop about 75 yards away caught my eye.

At first I thought it was just a squirrel playing in the trees. But after watching for a few seconds, I thought “that squirrel is playing a dangerous game” as he was climbing on the smallest limbs at the very top of the tree. But something just didn’t seem right, so I walked inside and got my binoculars and it wasn’t just a gray squirrel after all. It was a flying squirrel, and just as I got the binoculars focused on him, he took flight and glided to the next treetop.

Now I have seen many flying squirrels in the wild, but usually all you see is a quick flash, just enough for you to know you just saw a flying squirrel. But for about 10 minutes I was able to watch this little squirrel through my binoculars as he went about his business, noticing that he stuck to the very top of the tree on branches too small for regular squirrels. I also noticed that he was out and about after most of the regular gray squirrels had gone to bed. As he finally glided from my view, I wished him well and hoped that our pair of resident Horned Owls did not catch sight of him.

I am also happy to report that our wood duck box is finally occupied. I have only seen them on the pond but hope to catch sight of them going into the box. I have only seen it on TV, but how those ducks hit that small hole in the box in full flight is a mystery that I want to observe firsthand.

Despite the odd weather were having, life here at the 30 Coveys Animal Reservation remains much the same. We welcomed a newcomer, another dog that someone had just dropped off or had left behind, and he fits in with the rest of the crew just fine. He loves having the run of the hundred acres here and is absolutely convinced that he can bark a squirrel out of a tree. I don’t know what the world record decibel level is for a dog’s bark, but I assure you that Bronson comes close.

One of the most common questions that people ask me is “Do I believe that these animals know that they have been rescued and do they appreciate it?” I like to answer that question with stories like this. The newcomer that we named Bronson, is a full-blooded red nosed pit-bull that has not been neutered. He is larger than any other dog on the property by a good 10 pounds, and yet at feeding time, when all the bowls were put down for all the dogs to eat, the oldest, most frail dog we have nosed him out of the way and started eating his food.

Any of the readers out there familiar with the pit-bull breed should know what normally would have happened. But Bronson even though obviously hungry by the way his ribs stood out, simply moved aside and stood wagging his tail, seemingly happy just to have somewhere to call home and be loved. So even though the weather is quite odd and I have no idea what it means for the normally beautiful spring here in the mountains.

Life at the 30 Coveys is good. See ya next month.

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