The news around here is that there have been very, very few animals caught in the nighttime camera. In fact for the last five days we have only “caught” the cottontail bunny, coming and going on his schedule, despite high wind and temperatures in the teens. The lively, flocks of very small birds at the feeder has been testament to their remarkable adaptations for New England weather. Apparently they find protected communal roosts at night, shivering and sharing body heat, then spend every waking moment finding food. Some can lower their metabolism to a state of torpor when it is very cold.
The ordinary can be extraordinary. On this gray day we had visits from several huge flocks of birds. First dozens of robins descended on the cedar berries and dug around in the leaf litter. Of course the resident flock of turkeys was ever present with the two biggest males strutting. Just now we counted more than thirty mourning doves, well camouflaged in the meadow.
A couple of times a month our nighttime camera catches a fisher. We see these secretive members of the weasel family so rarely – even though we read that they are active in both day and night – that every photo fascinates us. They are BIG, about two feet long, with long tails and big feet. Last night the tapetum of this one’s eye reflected light of the full moon. There were so many images of fisher last night we believe TWO visited, one larger and darker.
For the last few days, right before the pond surface froze, hooded mergansers have been visiting, fishing all over the pond and congregating near the wood duck house that is nearest our house. Sometimes there are several females and sometimes several males. Last year thirteen hoodies hatched from that duck house and we wonder if some have returned to their birth place.
Three otters spent two weeks on the pond, dipping and diving, catching bass and sunfish on almost every dive. We saw one full sized adult and two smaller, shorter tailed animals, and so surmised it was a mother and two pups. When we stood outside we could hear them chattering to each other and when we disappeared inside the door they slipped up on the dock, exploring the shoreline and kayak.
Starting with Halloween night we noticed coyotes – more than one – yipping and howling in the darkness. The night camera caught them traipsing back and forth from evening until dawn. Two animals were easy to distinguish in the nighttime photographs, a very large male with dark fur, a black line between the eyes, a prominent black spot on his tail and black splotches at the base of his legs, along with a smaller, lighter furred companion, we presume a female.
One night coyote howls were close, and more insistent than usual. In the morning we saw, with binoculars, a carcass on the far southwest shore of the pond. Closer inspection revealed a kill site, a young deer disemboweled and half eaten. That same morning we found a large patch of ground at the north end of the pond, covered with deer hair – maybe from the tail or belly of a deer.
With Thanksgiving approaching, our annual visitors arrived – a large flock of wild turkeys. At this time of year these birds sleep in the tall pines at the edge of the pond and glide down in the morning to check the grounds for seed and to nestle in the sunny meadow, sheltered by the woods. In the late fall and early winter, the females and younger males hang out together and the two large males swagger around on their own.