Friday, December 31, 2010

Turkey Dinner

Wild Turkeys dined on corn on New Year's Eve

and enjoyed birdseed on Christmas Day

Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) have been honored guests here for many years now, and it was a privilege to see them during their recent visit right before Christmas. As is their custom, they tend to show up seemingly out of nowhere, stay a few days and then disappear. This afternoon, as dusk was falling on New Year's Eve, they appeared again.

Their appearances and disappearances are not nearly as random as they seem. Wild turkeys wander through large territories and remember areas where food, water and nesting sites are plentiful. Often, those that seem to disappear have simply flown up into the trees to roost for the night. I recently discovered that a flock that I thought had left abruptly after spending the afternoon in my woods was actually right above me, roosted high in a towering oak near the house. Watching them slowly rouse the next morning and begin to look lively as I spread seed for the songbirds and filled the birdbaths was akin to preparing breakfast for a hungry bunch of kids.

The debate continues as to whether allowing these wild birds access to supplemental feed is wise, but since their visits here in winter are rare, I don't consider it an issue. I am also mindful that as these birds and other wildlife continue to lose their native habitat to humans, their natural food sources decrease as well.

Five days ago a monster blizzard dropped a foot of snow in these parts. The turkeys that visited today were mighty hungry and seemed grateful to find a decent meal. Tomorrow's temperatures are expected to rise into the 50s, a welcome respite for them as well.

I am always delighted to see these beautiful and intelligent birds, and their visit today seems like an auspicious way to begin the new year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do the right thing

House mouse

We've had mice in the house, on and off, for years. They can squeeze into the smallest openings where the foundation and clapboards meet and it's very difficult to seal every entrance. I won't use pesticides or chemicals, but in the event of an infestation, I will use traps, as long as they are quick and humane. The quickest death is the most humane.

There are lots of ads for mouse traps that deceive consumers into thinking that some of the worst traps are the best: "no fuss, no mess, nothing to do but throw the trap in the garbage and you never have to touch a mouse or even see one."

But, the truth is that most of these are glue traps, and for any mouse unfortunate enough to encounter one, the result is a long, drawn out and horribly cruel death.

Recently, the cities of New York and Chicago were praised for using humane traps to deal with serious mice infestations. Those charged with the task of removing the mice were willing to become fully informed and learn the most humane trapping methods. Read more at the end of this post to learn why using glue traps is wrong and why doing the right thing is also the most humane.

For minor problems with mice, I recommend what I have found to be an extremely effective deterrent: peppermint oil. Mice hate it. I fill small containers with cotton balls sprinkled with peppermint oil and keep them in the cupboards that mice have frequented in the past. I add more oil when needed and guess what? It works!

New York, Chicago lauded for humane killing of mice