Sunday, September 27, 2009
The unromantic reality of life in the country
Many people see a superficial view of life on a small farm and think its idyllic. They buy vegetables or fruit or pick up their chickens or turkey and wax lyrical about how wonderful it is to live here. And in many ways it is. But there is another side of life that people don't know about and don't want to know about in many cases. Its a side of life that makes you deal with death and predators and disease.
This morning was a prime example. I woke around 6ish to crows cawing loudly and incessantly from a tree in the yard. There are always crows around and I love crows. I think they are intelligent birds and have never had problems with them taking things they shouldn't (well a little duck feed from the pen now and then) or getting into garbage. They go about their crow business and I go about mine without friction.
The one huge benefit of having crows when you have livestock of any kind is that they become the air raid siren when predators are around. Hawks, eagles, foxes, coyotes are heralded by lots of loud cawing and they don't stop til the intruder is gone.
So when I heard the crows this morning I knew something wasn't right. I instantly thought of the remaining three ducks still in the pen in the field. These three ducks were the last three (besides BD) that I have. They were badly injured in the last mink attack and couldn't be sold with the last batch that went. So they went to the 'rehab' pen in the field and were slowly getting better but would never be quite 'normal' as the injuries affected muscle and tendons.
It first it was thought that it was a fox in the pen, with the brown colour and the early light, but when it raised its head there was no mistaking. It was a Great Horned Owl sitting in the entrance to one of the duck shelters in the pen. He (or she) had obviously gone into the shelter to attack the ducks who go in at night.
The remaining duck was quickly shut into the other pen but it took quite awhile before this owl was going to leave. The owl sat on the ramp to the box dozing off and on, not scared by people at all. Crows joined forces and continued to scream at the owl and dive over his head to scare him off but it took several hours before he slowly made his way from the pen to the field then to the trees at the end of the meadow. Crows continued to harass him and blue jays joined in. The noise was pretty loud as you can hear from the quick video clip that I did. I didn't get too close to the owl as I'm not sure if it would attack or not and those talons are very big!
The remaining duck was rescued from the box in the pen and put in the barn, so hopefully the owl won't be back again with nothing there to attack. Of course, the two ducks that he killed were females, both egg layers and lots of people always want duck eggs. No more.
So while this isn't pleasant for me and may not be pleasant to read, it is reality. The animals on the farm aren't as pet-like as most people's idea is, but they are well cared for and it isn't good when this happens for several reasons. I don't think there are many more predators left to come and visit. We've had hawks, a bald eagle, foxes, coyotes, mink, weasels and now an owl. The only thing left is likely a black bear and I really don't want to see one of them!
The positive thing out of this? I have some good photos of a Great Horned owl.