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All On a Summer's Morning

Monday, June 28, 2021

Every morning, Curtis Loew and I tromp out the meadow to see what we can see. June 12 was his seventh day of nursing a deeply gashed hind pawpad, and I have been pleased to see him using the foot a little more each day. This morning, he'd even done a short, frisky run on all fours as we embarked. He was coming back. You can't suture a pawpad; you just have to let it heal from within, and I could tell the process was extremely painful, as he held that foot up for nearly two weeks as he three-legged around the place. He spent most of the week sleeping indoors, which I thought was great timing, given the presence of a wobbly new fawn on the place. I try to see the bright side in every misfortune. Maybe Curtis' loss would be that beautiful doe's gain. 

First stop was the right meadow box, where my favorite pair of bluebirds, the ones who had a clutch by April 1 (!!) are well on their way with a second brood. Listen to how they peep as they hear me scratching at the door, but shut up instantly when they realize it's Big Mama, and not their real mom. Consciousness is creeping into the heads of these five-day-old babies. 


Finding all well there on this foggy morning with an indigo bunting singing and Curtis finishing his morning ablutions, I move on. 

Next we check a box with unhatched eggs. Then it's on to the lower path, where ten-day-old house wrens, six of them! await a check. It's always a kick in the pants to have bright shiny eyes looking back at me. 
My heart races as I think about how soon they will be fledging. Yikes! They've got two, maybe three more days in the nest and then boom! out they'll go. Hence my little woooo at the end of the video.


Curtis trots ahead of me, and I spot a surprise just as he gets wind of it. What a beautiful little turtle, her beak all sludged up with slug. I love to see them feasting on escargot --this is probably Arion subfuscus--on a nice foggy good-for-slugs-and-turtles morning. Her markings look like Chinese characters to me. Shiny-smooth, black and beautiful she is. It's a bit early for laying eggs, but the females spend wet mornings prospecting for open soil, testing it with a tentative dig.

A great spangled fritillary struggles up out of the grass as I approach. It's hard for butterflies to fly when it's coolish and wet, but it manages.The cardinal, indigo bunting and peewee cheer it on. How beautiful it is, blundering in the wet grass. And how high and thick the meadow has grown in a short month and a half! Lush! with habitat and hiding places for all.
It's going to be absolutely amazing by August.

I note with great satisfaction that the ragged fringed orchid Platanthera lacera that I found as it emerged this spring and immediately caged against herbivores is finally in bloom. I saw a rolled lance-shaped fleshy leaf and thought, "That looks like it's gonna be an orchid!" My next move was to walk to the garage for three old rusty tomato cages to stack over it, to keep deer and rabbits from nipping it off. As they do.

Isn't that cool? It's a life orchid for me! I've seen the purple fringed and the yellow-fringed (which is actually the color of a Dreamsicle, no joke), but this is my first ragged-fringed. Whoot! And it's in my orchard!

Update: The count is now up to 16, all in the orchard's deep shade but one. And that one?

It came up on an unmown patch right at the head of Bill's grave. I was absolutely thunderstruck to see it. Hundreds of yards away from any other, baking out in the hot sun...what was it doing there, other than saying, Hey Zick! I love you!

Curtis turns off the trail and heads into the meadow, a move that always makes me nervous. The hair on his spine is standing up; that usually signifies that he smells coyotes, or that he's otherwise unpleasantly alarmed. The way he circles and circles a big patch of higher vegetation makes me think he has a largeish animal in there. Uh-oh. I'm thinking fox. Coon. Skunk. Sandworm. I don't know. 

He makes a little stomp-lunge and a little whitetail fawn stands up, unable to hold its stance any longer.
I immediately collar Curtis and pull him away. I also immediately pick up that there's something wrong.
If you click on the photo you can see that the poor sweet thing has been injured already. Such a short life, and already something has had it. There's a puncture wound on its forehead, and blood in front of its left ear. 
I know it can't be Curtis who did that, because he's been indoors for a week--this is his first real outing.

Trailcam photo from early this morning shows the coyote is still out and about, hunting this wee baby.

Honestly, how do any of them survive? And how did this one get to the point of being grabbed by its head, and SOMEHOW escape? Did Mama pummel the coyote away from her fawn? Or was it something smaller, maybe a bobcat? I can only imagine. But what a rough and merciless entry into its world this fawn has had.

Oh, the night holds such terror for deer. I comforted myself by studying the photo and noting that it appeared the fawn's wounds had been licked clean by the doe. She licked them until they stopped bleeding. Undoubtedly it was she who saved it, and she who cleaned it up, and she who calmed it  and laid it down in the meadow. Had she not, it would be in a coyote's belly by now. I can only shake my head in wonder.

I snapped the photo and immediately walked a reluctant Curtis to the house. As we walked away, I watched the fawn slowly sink, like a grebe, back into the vegetation. Only days old, and already showing such wisdom.  Like a child at a bus stop, it has to wait for its mother. If it leaves, she might not find it.

Later, Curtis and I went back outside. I did my morning routine, keeping a close eye on Curtis. Not once, but three times over the course of the next hour, that dog watched me out of the corner of his eye, and when I seemed sufficiently involved in a pursuit, he tiptoed out toward the meadow. Three times I stopped him dead as he set foot on the meadow path with an AH-AH-AH!! --his least favorite sound in the world besides running bathwater. So much for those who think dogs can't plan ahead, or remember past goals. This one is a plot- hound.

He is sneaky, and he is a hunter to the core. He would not hesistate to kill this fawn, I know. 

So I stepped my surveillance up a notch.

I set his Marco Polo tracking unit, which keeps a connection to an electronic tag on his collar, to CLOSE, and turned the alarm on for the first time ever. If Curtis went outside a boundary considered close to the house, an alarm would sound until he returned. There is no shocking involved whatsoever--just tracking. 
When he's lying in his chaise longue under the Japanese maple, there's a 55% signal in the kitchen, where the base unit stays. 

Let him leave that circle, let the signal fade to 25%, and the alarm shrills. It works!

My job was to keep him under surveillance all day, until the doe could feed and move her fawn tonight. She would doubtless stay with it all night. 

Curtis Loew, you are being watched. 

He spent the afternoon either at my side outdoors or inside as I wrote. 
I was once again grateful, in an odd way, for his hurt paw. He was less likely to strike out on his own with a sore paw.

For out in that meadow, a wee fawn lies,

 waiting for its mother to return.



Thank you for showing us this world. I am glad to know it exists and you are there.

I'm not trying to be dense. Is the last photo the babe that Curtis wanted? Did Mother move it? Do we know? If you mention Ellen I will probably start crying. Love you.

What he said. :)

@Sharon, Far as I know that fawn is still with us. It was gone the next morning, and then Curtis put it up in nearly the same spot a couple evenings later. I heard it bleat and tore down there like the Seven Furies, called him and he came right back to me. Mama doe was crossing back and forth right in front of Curtis and I suspect she'd have beat him to pieces had I not called him back. I saw tiny hoofprints in fresh mud this morning. Somehow, it persists. Thank God!

This must be the year! My husband and I saw our first-ever ragged fringed orchid last week at Boch Hollow SNP near Lancaster. SO exciting! How did they all get the signal to bloom THIS summer?

It is so amazing to have a glimpse into a world many of us will never see. Thank you for giving us a peek at the lives in your part of Ohio.

Stunning post. And 'plot-hound'--love it!

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