The summer of 2013, we shared our yard with an whiteEastern 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.
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.
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.
We often found Whitey eating and digging under the shrubs next to our side patio.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
It was a cool, wet morning so I was not surprised to find bees sleeping on the liatris. Actually, I was happy to find them sleeping because when they are awake they fly around too much for me to get a good photograph of them.
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.
Five years ago, we planted a small native wildflower garden in our back yard. Every year we add more native wild flowers. One of the first plants we planted was Purple Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia). They have established themselves and are slowly spreading.
There are the remains of several dead trees in our back yard. The moss-covered remains a large weeping willow cover the ground in the southeast corner of our property. This year, I discovered that Spotted Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis) was now growing on the moss-covered logs.
Another tree blew down in a thunderstorm only a year ago, yet, already plants are growing from its remains. I’m not surprised, however. The tree trunk that fell down last year was the last trunk of three. The tree had been dying for years and there was a considerable amount of rotten wood in the core of the tree.
Every few years, usually in the spring, a wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) will wander through the yard. Occasionally, they make their way over to our back patio where they help themselves to water from the bird bath or black oil sunflower seeds scattered on the pavement below the bird feeder.
Back in May, 2009, this turkey wandered through and helped itself to a drink.
I enjoy discovering new plants in our yard. Since we purchased this property 12+ years ago, the diversity of plant life has noticably increased. This is partly due to our not using herbicides and just letting nature do its thing.
This has a generally positive consequence, with native species gaining a new foothold on our property. For instance, Impatiens capensis (Spotted Touch-Me-Not, Spotted Jewelweed) has spread from no plants when we first moved in to hundreds of plants spread across the property.
Unfortunately, we have encountered our share of invasive species. Some, like buckthorn, are fairly well known while others, such as Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), are not as well known by the general public.
I first learned that Garlic Mustard is an invasive species when I posted pictures of it to my Facebook page, asking others if they knew what the plant was. To my chagrin, my friend Jeffery F. identified it as Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata).
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a noxious weed (illegal to transport off of your property) and takes over forest floors, killing all plants around it with the chemicals it excretes (allelopathic plant) and outcompetes all the native plants and tree seedlings as well.
I swung into action the following weekend and removed all Garlic Mustard I could find on our property. I knew I had to act quickly because it would soon be flowering. Mustard plants produce hundreds of seeds and, if I waited, I ran the risk of spreading the seeds all over our yard.
I filled two bags with garlic mustard plants.
Since that day in late April, I have checked periodically for any plants I may have missed. So far, it appears I got all of them.