Serene First Days of Summer? Perhaps Not
Submitted by Art & Barb Straub
An azure sky interrupted by a few cumulous clouds, late afternoon chores accomplished, time for a welcome break for Vern Bienfang and brave yard-dog, Spice. ‘Twas not to be.’
As assorted ducks and ducklings were escaping the voracious heat, huddling under low-limbed red cedar trees; young turkeys shared a shady truck hood, gossiping secrets of lush grasses, juicy crickets and who was chasing whom. Even the handsome blue-green peacock ceased his jungle clamor for a bit. Suddenly, silently piercing the skyways on broad noiseless wings, a great-horned owl dropped from seemingly nowhere to claim one of Vern’s obese goslings. Grasping the unfortunate fowl with razor sharp talons, the spirit of the goose flew heavenward in a matter of seconds leaving a lifeless body and thunderstruck observers behind.
Spice, faithful guard dog, was struck dumb! Never had his domain been attacked from the air in broad daylight. Sir Peacock emitted a scream to end all screams! The sacred sanctuary of the poultry yard had been breached from above. Fencing securely encloses a spacious yard, tucking over a hundred fowl safely inside. Who would have expected an attack from above, especially by a normally nocturnal creature? Before dawn, yes, at twilight and beyond, of course, but 4:00 of a simmering summer afternoon? No way, Jose!
Vern’s barnyard creatures were stunned, a deceased gosling’s body remained behind, while a great-horned-owl quickly fled. Never before, never again would there be an unprovoked vicious attack such as this….until…. very next day, same time, same station, same end result, leaving a young turkey dead and forgotten…except by the shocked occupants of the farm. Who, what, which would succumb next? A day later came the answer, a cocky banty chicken, plucked from a far corner of the yard, this time the body carried off to some owl nest not too far hence for a formal dinner presumably attended by a young family of owlets. Adding insult to injury, poor Spice, ever-vigilant lone dog vigilante, didn’t hear a raccoon slipping under a far corner of the yard in the dark of an ensuing night, destroying an entire nest of Moscovy duck eggs destined to hatch in days. Security at the Bienfang hacienda has always been tight, but Vern is puzzled as to what measures he may have to take soon. Any suggestions from our reading audience?
Wild turkey poults are out and about, carefully chaperoned by hens. Often, wild turkeys lay a clutch of a dozen eggs. We are told that if they survive their first five days of weather and slinking predator risks, their chances of reaching adulthood are good. A year ago, two broods of a dozen each survived the summer into autumn. After that? Camouflage is a key factor, along with a hen turkey’s guardianship, as evidenced by the eight poults which stop by each day under the bird feeding stations in the forest to glean seed spillage.
Beneath those same bird stopovers, black, gray, fox, and little red squirrels fight for leftovers. Our photographer, hidden in her battered blind, spotted not one but two unusual newly- minted squirrels on a steamy day last week. Were they gray squirrels with white tails, or little reds? We’ll leave that decision to our readers. Twenty-four hours after first observed, just one remained…the other a victim of lack of camouflage or driven off by larger squirrels? Thus, life on the farm and forest goes on through the awesome summer days. Earth-bound fowl had best keep eyes on the skies! P.s. (Hot flash! Seven swan cygnets still sail safely.)