Sunday, November 1, 2009


I had two interesting sightings here on the unfarm yesterday. One was cool, and the other one was a bit strange, although somewhat appropriate given that it was Halloween, I suppose.

First - while working at the computer in the bunny room, I happened to look out the window and noticed a bird perched on the end of our deck. The fact that it was so close to the house, and just perching there, warranted closer investigation so I stood up to get a better view. Upon more careful study I determined that our visitor was a hawk. I know that we have hawks in the area - red-tails and sharp-shinned hawks - but red tails are usually only spotted circling the area, never just sitting out in the open. And the sharp-shinned hawks are even more elusive - they are a smaller hawk that hunts in forested areas, preying on smaller songbirds. You might have them around and never know it because they tend to stick to the trees and stay under cover. In fact, we never even knew we had sharp-shinned hawks around until a few years ago when we discovered one dead in our blueberry bushes. It had, apparently, hit the window in the dining room and then either landed or fell into the blueberries nearby.

(The dining room window is notoriously treacherous for birds because of the way the house was laid out - the dining room is open to the living room which has a large, three panel sliding glass door leading out to the balcony. This lets in lots of light, but it also means that when a bird is flying around outside, it can see straight through the house, in the dining room window and out the glass door, so it will sometimes try to fly through, not realizing there is glass in the way. We even bought a bunch of those stickers that are designed to make birds realize they're about to run into a window, and placed them all over the window and door, but they still occasionally run into it.)

Back to our visitor, I determined eventually that it is most likely a sharp-shinned hawk due to it's smallish size and coloration, which I studied in our bird book. It sat there on a piece of firewood for several minutes, during which I was able to get a couple pictures of it with my zoom lens on my camera, before eventually flying off.

The second sighting did not actually occur on the unfarm, but near it, in the pasture across the street. My brother and I had gone in to look for apples to pick, but didn't find any. I don't know if it was just a bad year for apples (which I've heard) or if the horses or deer got to the apples before we did.

At any rate, without apples weighing us down, we decided to go check out the progress on the beaver dam. I never actually manage to spot the beaver but he has definitely left evidence of his presense in the area. What used to be a small stream flowing through a forested area is now two small lakes, separated by a pretty sturdy little dam, in an open area. He has, so far, taken down probably 15 trees - at the very least - ranging from small, thin trees with trunks only a few inches around, to maples that were a good foot or two around.

Having inspected the beaver dam and having no luck spotting the actual beaver, we decided to explore further up the valley to see if we could find a path into the forested green space above our house. As kids, we spent hours upon hours in the forest, making trails, hiking, building forts and "campfires" (that never actually hosted any real fire) and exploring around. So we set out, moving through the mud and blackberries and came to a small clearing not far from the beaver dam which is where I came upon the second discovery for the day.

A large - extremely large - dead pig, which someone had attempted to "cover" with a few clumps of weeds, pulled up and spread over the top of the pig. It was a massive animal, and probably had only been dead a couple of days, judging from the lack of any significant decay or numbers of insects. I think what must have happened is that the owners; a family who lives down the street from us who keep geese, horses, pigs, and - several years ago - a large quantity of "meat rabbits;" must have walked the pig down to the lower pasture and out of reach of the horses (pig tracks indicated that it walked at some point, and pigs are not allowed out in the pasture), shot and killed it, and then tried to cover the body to some degree with plants. Not very well, obviously, but I don't think they planned on anyone walking around down there. (Disclaimer: I do NOT condone the shooting of animals, even farm animals, for any reason - humane euthanization is the least someone can do for an ailing or dying animal.)

All in all, it was an eventful day here on the unfarm - but then, with 13 animals, including ducks that wear diapers and sleep in the house at night - when is it not an eventful day on the unfarm?

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