Acorn Bombardment

We have a dozen White oak (Quercus alba) trees on our property, several of which are large and overhang the house, patio, and sidewalks. Starting in August, there is a constant staccato of knocks on the roof when the oaks drop their ripe acorns. When the wind gusts, the bombardment from the falling acorns is particularly heavy. And this year, the bombardment has been especially heavy, even on calm days with little wind.

Last year, the oaks produced a very small crop of acorns, so much so that I don’t recall seeing any on the walkways. This year, as if to compensate for last year’s meager output, the oaks produced a copious quantity of acorns. Regardless if we sweep the walkways once or twice a day, by the next morning, they are covered with acorns.

An image of acorns scattered on a sidewalk.
Acorns scattered on a sidewalk.

This morning, the bombardment by the back steps seemed strangely intense and concentrated. Looking out the window, I saw two acorns hit Lizzie in quick succession. When I went to investigate, I saw a gray squirrel up on a branch. It was the cause of the intensified bombardment!

After the squirrel had ran off to a different tree, I ran inside the house to retrieve my phone so I could take photos. Returning with the phone, I squatted to take pictures of the acorns scattered on the sidewalk when I was hit on the head by an acorn! Unbeknownst to me, the squirrel had returned while I was inside and had renewed his bombardment!

An image of acorns scattered on a sidewalk
Acorns scattered on a sidewalk.

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

This summer we have sighted a numerous American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) in our yard. There have been so many that occasionally it can be difficult to walk through the yard without stepping on one.

An image of an American toad
An American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) in Lizzie’s water bowl.

Whenever Lizzie shows interest in a toad, we tell her to “leave it” because we don’t want her to harm it. However, their prevalence and their using her water bowls to relax in makes that task somewhat difficult.

An image of an American toad.
An American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) in Lizzie’s water bowl.

Images from the Game Camera, Part 1

I bought a game camera with the hope of recording the coming and going of a nesting pair of White-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) that were nesting in one of our nest boxes. For various reasons, that didn’t work out to my satisfaction. Looking for a use for the game camera, I placed it in various locations in our yard to discover what it might record. Below are a few images captured by it.

As expected in east central Minnesota, there are plenty of Eastern Gray Squirrels to be photographed.

A picture of an Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
An Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) looking for lunch on our patio.

Another frequent visitor to our yard is the American robin, often with an eye towards the ground, looking for worms to eat. While gardening, I place any grubs I find on a stump for birds to eat. Robins are usually the first to snatch them up.

A picture of an American robin (Turdus migratorius)
An American robin (Turdus migratorius) foraging in our yard.

The Chipping Sparrow is a regular summer-time resident. I frequently see them hopping through the grass, looking for seeds and insects. They appear to be fairly bold birds, approaching within a few feet of Lizzie. Lizzie, for the most part, ignores them preferring to hunt for rodents.

A picture of a chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina)
A chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina) foraging for insects and seeds.

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.