Thursday, July 17, 2014
Corey stayed with us for a glorious week leading up to Phoebe's birthday. Wherever he goes, nature follows. Corey's mom Diane told us that, and it's true, it's true. And our streak of amazing nature karma, which includes flying squirrels and box turtles and gray foxes, continued unbroken. Aided and abetted by Corey's magical presence, his way of noticing everything.
He brought his Bushnell game camera, unbidden. I thought that was the coolest idea. Brought his fiddle too, but that's another story...
He and Liam went out to mount the camera. All I can say about this first shot is that Liam comes by his impishness honestly. It's 4:01 pm.
They all go out in the Honda a few minutes later.
Dad comes home in the Bird Watcher's Digest van at 7:23 pm.
At 11:06 pm, the gray fox we've been seeing shows up. You can tell it's a gray fox and not a red by the black tail tip. All color phases of red fox have a white tail tip.
It crosses the driveway.
Not much happens until 3:41 AM, when a raccoon patrols for tadpoles in the driveway puddles.
And then there's a long quiet spell until I come by, headed out for a late morning run, at 10:29 AM on July 8. I didn't even know they'd put the game cam out, but I saw it as I trotted by and thought I'd wave. I think this photo is funny enough to swallow my pride-gullllp!!-- and post it anyhoo.
Chet Baker is usually chasing bunnehs in the yard (up driveway to left in photo) when we start our run, and July 8 was no exception. He straggles along 12 seconds later. It is hard to catch Bacon on a game cam, but we succeeded.
So I get back from my run at about 12:45 pm, and Phoebe meets me at the door with the hugest grin on her face. WAIT 'til you see what we caught on the game cam!!! she squeals. And I'm thinking,
"Probably me, looking like a goober." True. But...
She opens the laptop and runs me through all the photos I've just posted. And then there's this one.
Taken at 11:42 AM, July 8, 2014, in our driveway. IN OUR DRIVEWAY!!!!! In MIDMORNING!!!
Well, after a moment of stunned silence when I was just gaping like a goldfish, there followed about five straight minutes of high-pitched squealing, jumping around like Daffy Duck on speed, and incredulous, hysterical laughter.
Let's have a closer look.
OMG OMG OMG OMG CatGods walk amongst us!!
Slowly, it turns out, because that cat triggered the camera three times in a row.
I just cannot get over the ornate inner leg barring, the spots on flanks and hams, the natty black and snow-white ear bars, the black-tipped tail with white trim. The soft, soft paws. It makes me smile to think that while we've got zero tolerance for feral housecats on this sanctuary, I would serve up wild turkey poults on a silver platter to this great slab-sided native cat without even thinking twice.
So I wanted to know how tall this animal might be. See that orange leaf just to its left? I went out and measured the leaf. Then blew the photo up and counted how many leaf-lengths the bobcat was from ground to shoulder. It worked out to 21.5" at the shoulder. Right in the median range for bobcat. And quite a bit taller than Chet Baker, as you'll notice. Let's hope they never run into each other in the driveway. I had not thought of bobcats as so...diurnal. But they're also about ten times sharper than we are, so they'll just melt into the woods when they hear us. Not worried in the least about an altercation. That beautiful cat would be GONE at the first footfall.
This is the last photo.
I believe it to be an adult female bobcat, because I think you'd be able to see its manparts at this angle if it were a boycat.
Not even an hour later, Corey and Phoebe walk out to see what the camera caught. Little do they know here...
The whole thing is so beautiful and perfect I just can't even believe it. I still can't believe it. Way to make my day, week, month, year, Corey!!
I've always known they were here. I photograph their sign. In fact, I'd taken this perfect track shot on nearby Dean's Fork just a few days earlier. If you click on the photo you can see the grain of its pawskin. It's 54 mm, or a little over 2" across. You can tell it's a bobcat by the overall roundness of the print, and the lack of claw marks.
And I shoot their scat every time I find it. This one, with a neat little rodent jaw embedded. Taken at a lair I found high up in some rocks over a creek on our property. There was lots of poo there. This is where the cat had lain and watched the valley below. Generations of bobcats have probably relaxed there, stubby tails twitching.
And this, bobcat scat, very fresh, made up of turkey poult feathers and bones. It's what's for dinner this time of year. Bobcat scat breaks off in squared, short sections. On our gravel road.
Three evenings earlier, on July 5, 2014, Liam, Phoebe, Corey and I were returning from a bike ride, coming down our gravel road. And as we rounded a bend I alone saw a spaniel-sized, jet-black, apparently tailless feline bound across the road and into the woods. After I realized it was not a giant black rabbit (the only thing my poor brain could produce, given that black bobcat wasn't on my radar at the moment), I knew it had to be a rare melanistic bobcat. Someone sent me this game cam photo taken in Vinton County, Ohio, a few years ago. They exist. They walk amongst us. Perhaps the one I spotted will be next on Corey's game cam!!
For me, these are powerful things. Visitations. Signs. Validations. I need them, so I'm taking them as such. I'm choosing to interpret a black bobcat crossing my path as the best of luck. And a red one, walking calmly up the driveway toward our house in late morning, as a gift from above, a tight hug from the Beyond. Bring it on.
Corey resets the camera, hoping to capture the cat's face on her way back out the driveway.
Reports back to Nature Fairy.
You made my momma's day. Thank you!