This section of our blog will be devoted to documenting some of God’s creatures we encounter in or near our garden. The list includes in part squirrels, chipmunks, songbirds, hummingbirds, crows, hawks, turkeys, buzzards, groundhogs, rabbits, foxes, deer, opossums, skunks, coyotes, turtles, frogs, and snakes.
2017-03-02 – Red-tailed Hawk Along Our Creek
A beautiful Red-tailed Hawk has made its home along the creek behind our mountain house for several years. I have heard it screeching all day as it soared high above our garden. I managed to capture a brief video of it sitting on a limb in very late afternoon surveying what might be available for dinner. It is a wonderful reminder of how soon spring will be here and that the two to three fledglings that will be born to the female will be taking to the skies on their own. Thank you God for your amazing creation!
2016-03-01 TURKEY TIME – 8 Gobblers Visit Us
This morning we were privileged to have 8 wild turkeys visit with us at our mountain house. We regularly hear them gobbling in the nearby wooded areas, but don’t get to see them close-up like this that often. They hung around for about 30 minutes and then moved on. They particularly enjoyed the berries on one of our holly trees … jumping to the lower limbs to get fresh ones.
Click on this link to see the video.
2015-05-14 Update – adding deer and bear pics and video
The deer love our Chinese Chestnut trees. They heavily produce thousands of nuts almost every year drawing as many as two dozen deer to our property when they mature in September of each year. This picture and the video that follows were captured by one of our motion activated game cameras. We get a big kick out of the fact that our little orchard (in the background) and our raised bed garden are protected by fences. The orchard fence is electrified with a very low powered solar device capable of delivering only .15 joules. That is enough to scare them and not enough to hurt them … though at times when they damage the wire strand fencing I wrongfully hope that they got a really good shock.
Video by Jim Davenport – Note the young deer frolicking while others eat!
Before we installed the electric fence, the deer gorged themselves on our apple trees. Here two videos I captured on my game camera of a deer standing on its hind legs to reach apples still on the tree. They can wipe the lower limbs clean in a matter of days.
Video by Jim Davenport – Deer Standing on Hind Legs to Eat Apples from Tree.
Video by Jim Davenport – Deer Browsing Apple Tree
Over my lifetime of 70+ years black bears have not been present on Lookout Mountain. They were eliminated by the early settlers long ago. But over the past 5-8 years we have been hearing more and more about them with positive proof that they have made their way back on to the mountain. The Little River Canyon Preserve (as pointed out in numerous articles … this is just one) located on top of the mountain off of state highway 35 east of Fort Payne, Alabama has many documented instances of bear encounters and has even tagged some of the animals to follow them. As reported in this article: “Auburn researchers begin trapping, putting GPS collars on 20 black bears; Little River Canyon joins statewide study.” The article was written by on November 04, 2014 at 7:00 AM, updated November 05, 2014. Quoting the article “… research shows that Little River Canyon National Preserve near Fort Payne has been home to 26 black bears for at least two years, according to Todd Steury, an associate professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University.
Just for the fun of it, this pic shows a black bear (not on Lookout) sitting on a deer stand. Guess this proves that hunters on Lookout have a new concern. We haven’t spotted nor seen signs of bears on our property, but we are within close proximity of the Little River which serves as a pathway for bears to traverse from their more normal habitats in Tennessee amidst the Great Smoky Mountains. Captured bears will be outfitted with advanced collars with GPS tracking devices included to monitor the travels and range of the bears as they continue to move southward.
Video by Jim Davenport
As soon as the sun goes down I sometimes hear the coyotes howling. I have even seen one run across our open field in the broad daylight. You don’t see them much, but you know they are there and they prey on small animals. Here is a brief video I captured on one of my game cameras. They are not a welcome animal in our area as they are known to attack cats and small dogs. This article by the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service offers a great explanation of the coyote in Alabama, including Lookout Mountain.
The animal that causes us the most grief is the bushy tailed rodent known as the Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). According to this article, “…it is the most common squirrel in Alabama. Known as a tree squirrel, it is found in deciduous forests everywhere. The fur is usually gray with a white underbelly and a tail that is bushy and gray. Gray squirrels are most active in the early mornings and late afternoons, and most often viewed in the treetops or on the ground searching for food. Its diet consists of acorns, nuts, pine seeds, fruits, berries, buds, flower bulbs, insects and even garden vegetables. Breeding takes place in February and again in late summer.” The main problem we have with them is related to our bird feeders. The squirrels simply destroy the feeders to get to every last seed. We have squirrel proof feeders, but they can only do so much. In the early fall they invade our property from the surrounding forests. They particularly like to dig in our raised beds and plant the Chinese chestnuts. Each year I remove up to 15-20 seedlings that start from the buried nuts! I have given some of them to neighbors to plant on their property. I suppose there is something good that these little varmits do other than get into your attic!
Among other small animals that I have trapped and released is the everyday Possum (Opossum, Didelphis virginiana). They are nasty looking and seldom seen alive. According to this article the Opossum is one of the oldest surviving animals alive today. It is the only marsupial (animal with a pouch where babies are nourished and protected) on the North American continent. “The opossum lives in a wide-variety of habitats including deciduous forest, open woods and farmland. It tends to prefer wet areas like marshes, swamps and stream and river bottoms. The opossum can be found in most of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and on the West Coast. It is also found in Mexico, Central America and British Columbia, Canada.”
There are a number of skunks in close proximity to our garden. We have inadvertently captured three in our squirrel cages and believe me, I had no fun in getting them removed from the cage. As advertised, a cornered skunk has a secret weapon and once activated the immediate and after effects are no fun. Suffice it to say that only one of the three was safely removed … and that one was taken care of by someone else other than me. Here is a link to a great article about the striped skunk.
Rabbits are so common on our property. We have a fence to keep them out of the garden or they would eat everything that the deer didn’t. We usually see them early in the morning or at dusk each evening. It is fun to watch the little baby rabbits frolicking around as their mother feeds. Just like all other baby animals they go all out chasing one another expending endless energy that is only to the young.
Steven W. Barnett, Certified Wildlife Biologist at the Alabama DCNR writes the following in his article Alabama DCNR launches wild turkey studies. “In the early 1900s wild turkeys were rare or nonexistent in most of Alabama. With a population estimated to be as low as 10,000, the birds were scarce in many areas. These alarming conditions prompted Alabama’s key role in implementing what has come to be known as the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation. Landowners and hunters assisted state biologists to lead the charge for restoration, protection, management and research of wild turkeys. These efforts bolstered the population from the abyss to an estimated 400,000 today.”
I can personally attest to the statement about the low population as late as the 1950’s. I was a boy of twelve and was on a quail hunt with my father and my uncle, Gordon Allison. On that hunt we encountered three turkeys as the bird dogs continued to trail and point the rapidly moving turkeys. They flushed into flight when a deer ran right through them just ahead of us. My uncle Gordon commented that he had not seen turkeys in years … and the deer were just as rare. Uncle Gordon was a country-trained vet well into his 50’s at the time and knew all about wild animal populations on Lookout Mountain.
Now we commonly see wild turkeys on our property near our garden! They have even been in the yard in front of our house. I was able to get a picture of them and will try to find it and post it on this page. We often see 10-15 together at a time as they feed in the open spaces in our woodlands. We often hear them calling. At one time a hen laid her eggs in our pasture and was discovered when the field was bush hogged.
Turkey Vulture aka Buzzard, John Crow, Carrion Crow – Cathartes aura
Not a day goes by that we don’t see the buzzards swarming overhead. They keep the landscape clean of any dead animal. They compete with the crows and other animals for the spoil. They will not be rattled by other animals. Here the young deer, being herbaceous, offers no competition and seems to be curious about what is the big deal.
The article resulted from research that I did on how to identify “poisonous” (for the purist … “venemous”) snakes in Georgia, and thus our garden located on Lookout Mountain just five miles from Georgia.
How to Identify the Six Venemous Snakes Found in Georgia
By: Jim Davenport
We often encounter snakes on our Lookout Mountain property and do our best to preserve them. Several have entangled themselves in the deer netting that we use to surround some of our flower beds. God put them there for a purpose and it is for a purpose other than to scare the dickens out of us.
I remember as a boy my Grandmother hollerin’ for help while repeatedly hackin’ the ground with her garden hoe. She had encountered an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake while working in her garden vines and her response was immediate. That was the first time I ever saw a Rattlesnake up close and in person … but at the point I saw it, the snake was no longer in one piece. When measured by my uncle it was almost 8 feet long and had a significant number of rattles. I will never forget seeing the “rattle” on the end of that snake, nor the terrified look on my grandmother’s face.
I suppose the remembrance of that story is what led me to do some research on the poisonous snakes found in Georgia. Hopefully this will help someone else along the way.
There are 41 species of snakes in Georgia. Only 6 are poisonous (venemous). 3 of the 6 are Rattlesnakes and have rattles! The others are the Copperhead, the Cottonmouth (aka Water Moccasin) and the Coral. The Coral has bright color bands of red, yellow and black. If the snake does not have yellow rings, then it is not a Coral Snake. Here’s a good rhyme to help identify the Coral Snake: (“If red touches yellow, it will kill a fellow. If red touches black, it is good for Jack.”)
The Cottonmouth has a white mouth on the inside and a bulky body. The Copperhead is a thick snake with an easily recognizable body pattern (see pic). Other than the easily recognizable Coral, the other 5 venomous snakes all have a diamond-shaped head which narrows at the neck and vertical slit eyes. Non-poisonous snakes do not have vertical slits for eyes.
Too many people who encounter snakes simply kill them. That is senseless. Snakes control rodents and when snakes are absent rodents prosper. The best thing to do when you encounter a snake is to leave it alone. Snakes are rarely aggressive.
I suppose this is my 2014 contribution for preserving nature. I am not sure what prompted me to assemble this photo collage and write the verbiage. Maybe it will help someone and save a few of God’s creations!