Almost Made It

Our mailbox is a curbside mailbox and, as a result, gets knocked down on a regular basis by snowplows. After having our mailbox taken out two years in a row, we got a PO box at the local post office and now have most of our mail delivered there.

After the city had replaced our mailbox several years in a row, they must have talked to the snowplow drivers because the snowplow drivers now leave plenty of room between their plows and our mailbox. We haven’t had any snowplow mishaps with our mailbox for a few years now.

But the good can’t be allowed to stand. Last fall, I came home to discover our mailbox had been hit and knocked askew. After carefully inspecting the damage, I determined that some jackass backing out of our driveway had probably backed into it. It is a daily occurrence in which a driver pulls into our driveway to turn their car around to go the other direction. I’ve watched many of these lost souls and it is clear to me that they are more than just lost. Indeed, they are barely in control of their vehicles and that operating them in a safe manner is a great challenge for them.

After I had straightened out the mailbox, we had no incidents for half a year. I was beginning to hope the mailbox would survive winter when one last snowstorm came. It was one of those rare April snowstorms we seem to get every ten years or so. The night of the snowstorm, some jackass lost control of his vehicle going up the street. By up, I mean that the street inclines towards the west. Since we are on the south side of the street, this jackass, who was either drunk or driving a vehicle with bald tires or both, crossed over into the oncoming lane and drove up onto the curb and took out our mailbox.

A picture of tire tracks in the snow on our curb
The path the car took on the sidewalk. The black triangle at the top of the image is our mailbox.

The reason I suspect the driver was drunk was that it takes a lot of effort to lose control of a car on our street such that it crosses over into an oncoming lane of traffic, hops the curb, all while going up a hill! And, on top of that, the driver got out of their car, walked up our driveway and around to the side of our garage to relieve his bladder!

A picture of boot prints in the snow.
Boot prints in the snow on our driveway. They lead to the side of the garage where the driver pissed on our garage.

Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)

While looking through photographs captured by my game camera, I was surprised to see that it had photographed an Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit early one morning before sun rise.

A picture of an Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit
An Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit hopping through our yard.
A picture of an Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit.
An Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) eating seed.
A picture of an An Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit
The Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit leaving after eating seed.

Spring Flooding

My recent post about ducks hanging out in our backyard during the Spring reminded me of when an unusual amount of water flowed through the drainage area at the bottom of our property.

There is a small drainage area between our property and the neighbors. In a normal spring, there is a small flow of water. However, in 2013, there was a markedly larger flow.

A picture of water path the neighbor's fence
Water flowing past the neighbors fence.

The water pooled in our backyard.

A picture of the flooded area at the bottom of our property
Our flooded backyard.

A picture of our flooded backyard
Our flooded backyard.

And it pooled in our neighbor’s backyard.

A picture of our neighbor's flooded backyard.
Our neighbor’s flooded backyard.

The water encroached on the neighbor’s garage. Their backyard was very soggy that spring.

A picture of our neighbor's flooded backyard.
Our neighbor’s flooded backyard.

Although I have no photos, the mallards could frequently be seen paddling around in pond that had formed in ours and the neighbors’ yards.

Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos)

Every Spring, a pair of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) visit our yard. They hang out in our yard for several weeks before moving on to where ever they go. They can usually be found at the bottom of the hill in our backyard, where usually there is flowing water. Occasionally, however, they come up the hill, closer to our house.

I took this photo in 2012 when a drake and a hen mallard ambled along the sidewalk between our house and garage.

A picture of two mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) walking down our side walk
A drake and hen mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) walking on the sidewalk between our house and garage.

Two years later, I took this photo of a drake mallard hanging out on the roof of our garage.

A picture of a drake mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) on the roof of our garage.
A drake mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) on the roof of our garage.

Whitey the Squirrel

The summer of 2013, we shared our yard with an white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) that we called Whitey. White and black squirrels are morphs of the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Unless they have pink eyes, white squirrels are not albino.

A picture of a white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) eating a nut
A white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) eating a nut.

Whitey had balance issues. He never seemed capable of running in a straight line. As he ran, he would veer to the right. He would then stop, correct his direction, and start running again, only to veer to the right. He also had issues staying upright on his hindquarters while eating. He often tipped over.

A picture of a white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) digging for nuts.
A white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) digging for nuts.

His being white was a marked disadvantage when it came to escaping predators. The local hawks often hunted him. We did our best to protect him by chasing off the hawks by throwing rocks at them. Unfortunately, Whitey lived with us only a year before he disappeared. I suspect a hawk got him despite our efforts to protect him.

A picture of a white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) digging around under shrubs
A white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) digging around under shrubs.

We often found Whitey eating and digging under the shrubs next to our side patio.

A picture of a white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
A white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis).
A picture of a white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
A white Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) hanging out with a Tiki.

Lizzie and the Game Camera

I recently bought a game camera, a ruggedized motion-activated camera used by hunters and wildlife watchers. I plan to use it to record the comings and goings of the birds using one of our nest boxes. Since the nest boxes are not yet being used, I’ve been using it to record activity of our back steps. I was hoping it would record the activities of squirrels visiting the feeding stations but all it seems to record is Lizzie coming and going.

A picture of Lizzie playing in the backyard.
Lizzie playing in the backyard, probably chasing a snowball.

Early one morning, Lizzie walked out the back door and knocked the camera off the steps. The camera captured her looking down over the steps at the camera.

A picture of Lizzie looking down at the knocked over camera
Lizzie looking down from the steps at the camera she just knocked over.

Lizzie has a Sleep Over at the Vet Clinic

On Monday morning, I wandered into the living room and discovered that Lizzie had thrown up at some point during the night. I cleaned up the neat pile of partially-digested food but didn’t think much of it. I assumed she had mild stomach upset after an afternoon of energetic play with Starla, a black lab mix owned by a friend of ours. I’ve seen this before with dogs that have played especially vigorously. After refilling her food and water bowls, Kat and I headed to the MN State Fair for the day.

Sadly, upon our return, I realized that Lizzie had more than a mildly upset stomach. She had vomited in multiple locations and had diarrhea. After a mostly sleepless night during which she vomited numerous times, we decided to bring Lizzie into see the veterinarian. At 3 PM when I was done with work, I loaded a noticeably lethargic Lizzie into my car and drove her to the veterinary clinic.

A picture of Lizzie at the veterinary clinic
Lizzie was so tired that she fell asleep at the veterinary clinic.

After running several tests, the veterinarian was unable to determine the cause of her vomiting and diarrhea. She did discover that Lizzie’s intestines were inflamed and hemorrhargic, that is, she had acute, severe hemorrhagic gastroenteritis in addition to being dehydrated.

After discussing the issue, the veterninarian and I made the decision to keep Lizzie overnight at the clinic so that she could be put on a rehydration IV and to have medicines administered to stop the vomiting and soothe her intestines.

I received a phone call from the veterinarian on Wednesday morning in which I learned that Lizzie had improved overnight but that they would like for her to stay at the clinic until at least 3 PM so they could continue monitoring her and caring for her. I was disappointed but concurred. I really wanted Lizzie home with me!

At 3 PM, the veterinarian called to say that Lizzie had recovered enough to go home. I was ecstatic and quickly drove over to the clinic to get Lizzie.

Before discharging Lizzie, they gave me medications for her along with care instructions. I was to make certain that she ate. If she did not, I was to call them or bring her back in. And I was to bring her back immediately if her vomiting or diarrhea returned.

A picture of Lizzie watching for squirrels
Lizzie at the front door watching for squirrels. She has a bandage on her left front leg where an IV needle had been inserted.

As of now, she is sitting by the front door, trying to stay awake while watching for squirrels. It is good to have her home.

Lizzie and the Clumsy Eastern Gray Squirrel

Lizzie enjoys chasing Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) around the yard. Most times she is not close nor fast enough to be more than a nuisance to the squirrels. That is, until this morning.

Lizzie was laying down inside the door off of our living room. We have a magnetic screen door to allow easy egress while keeping out insects such a mosquitos. She was laying justing inside the screen door, watching for squirrels when she saw one crossing the yard from one tree to another. Leaping into action, she sprung from her spot and ran across the yard at full speed.

Despite being a fast dog, Lizzie normally poses no threat to gray squirrels. And like previous times, she wasn’t a real threat to this squirrel. The squirrel easily made it to a tree and scaled it to get out of reach of Lizzie.

This time, events played out unexpectedly. The squirrel fell out of the tree.

It fell out of the tree, landing on the ground in front of Lizzie. Lizzie looked at me with a quizzical look, as if to ask, “What should I do?”

The squirrel quickly righted itself and ran towards a different tree. Lizzie reacted quickly and gave chase. At this point, the squirrel was in desperate straits. When it attempted to climb another tree, Lizzie leaped and pulled it down. Lizzie chased the squirrel around the tree several times before the squirrel tried to run for the fence. Alas for the squirrel, that was its fatal mistake, for Lizzie easily ran it down and caught it.

After catching the squirrel and tossing it around a few times, it was clear that Lizzie didn’t know what to do with the squirrel. This resulted in a wounded squirrel that probably would not survive on its own. I put it out of its suffering by executing a cervical dislocation to sever its spinal cord.

Thus is the story of the first squirrel caught by Lizzie.

Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis)

A few years ago, I was clearing a garden of debris when I was startled by movement. To my surprise, I had disturbed a Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis).

Picture of prairie skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis)
Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis)

Prairie skink prefer sandy soils and open grasslands with loose soil so that they can construct their burrows. Our soil is mess of clay, sand, rocks, and humus and can become quite hard when it dries out. I usually see the skink in or near our gardens. Perhaps my working the soil in the gardens has created enough loose soil to provide a suitable habitat for the skink.