Ramble On

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Winter Flock and Other Visitors

Raccoon prints on the brick terrace.
With the change of seasons, I went out and bought a new set up of bird feeders and ten pounds of bird seed.  The old ones had facded and worn out so much I thought it would be a good idea to just replace them, and I've let the old hummingbird feeders hang out for too long.

Our winter flock at Hawksbill Cabin includes a mix of titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, and downy woodpeckers - they are the regulars.  On some mornings, I'll see a bunch of junkos mixing in, and there is a crowd of sparrows off someplace in the woods that will get word of the feeders being refilled, so they'll show up.  Less regularly featured are some cardinals, blue jays, and flickers.

Red berries popular with the cardinals.
As I was taking care of the chore with the feeders, I noticed some paw prints on the deck railing that surrounds our brick terrace.  On closer inspection, these are raccoon prints - we have had a few over on that side of the house closest to the stream; I've seen one once or twice scampering off into the woods as I approached.

But that's not the worst of it...at least these critters were outside.

When we arrived at the cabin Friday, as I was unloading the car and making the last haul into the house, I met Mary out on the brick terrace.  She said, "There is a snake skin on the sink in the kitchen.  Of course, the next step for me was to go in to investigate, and then figure out how to get the reptile back outside.

The first thing I noticed was that this skin was just a piece of a whole shed, and it was brittle and yellowed.  So, not fresh - I've seen them keep a grayish tint for a whole season.  Still I carefully opened every cabinet door and every drawer in the kitchen - no sign of a snake.  What I did find was a mouse nest in one of the lower drawers near the stove.

We pulled that out - it was sitting in a little box that we used to store candles - and proceeded to clean and disinfect everything that the mouse might have scampered over.  We replaced all of the D-con.  And while we did this, we analyzed the construction of the mouse nest we'd found.

Included with the usual materials, such as paper towels and other scrap materials gathered from around the house, were more pieces of snake skin.  I found this very interesting, as the snakes usually hunt the mice...asking around, people gave me varying opinions about this, including the very creative "it's a kind of mojo to keep other snakes away" explanation.

Here's what I figure.  Hawksbill Cabin had been infested with snakes for several years before we bought it.  The elderly fellow who lived there at first wasn't able to keep up with things, and so the termites got out of hand and then the other "pests" moved in.  The folks who bought it from his estate were in over their heads on basic maintenance chores, and so the snakes and termites continued to live amongst them.

It wasn't until we moved there that the wildlife was given notice to move along (for a hint at the extent of our repairs, take a look at the "Big Projects" label).  There was some big time clean up to do along with the repairs. 

Still, there are a couple of nooks and crannies in the house where an old snake skin or two might lay hidden, and that is what I figured happened here.  In the mouse-frenzy associated with building winter quarters, the snake skin was just another material going into the creation of a cozy den. 

We didn't see any other traces over the weekend.  Hopefully Mary is all settled down by now, too.

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