Sunday, November 13, 2011

Commensalism in St. Marys.

One thing that I've really enjoyed about living in St. Marys is the commensalism exhibited by many species of wildlife.

I got to thinking about this after an observation this past Friday night. I was returning home at dusk from another delicious seafood platter at St. Marys Seafood & Steaks. Out of those woods located in the south east quadrant of the intersection of Osborne and Julia Street flew an owl with a rat in his talons. That set me to thinking about all of my encounters with wildlife right here in the city limits within the last 18 years.

When I lived in Park Place, there was a time when the pond right out my front door was teeming with fish.
I used to watch an osprey perch in a tall pine on the edge of the pond while watching for a careless bream near the surface. The fish were so thick that one day, he actually lifted out of the water with a bream in each talon. My guess is that the was as surprised as I was. I ran outside to watch him fly off. I was curious to see how he would manage the two fish because they always turn one fish around so that it is head-into-the-wind when the are flying back to the nest. Sure enough, he tried to do just that and, in the process, dropped both fish over in Sugarmill. Little grebes used to visit that pond every winter. Cormorants and great blue herons also found good eating in the pond year round.

Where I live now, the land was, for all intents and purposes, clear-cut to build the subdivision. No big loss. All the trees were pulp pines with a DBH of about 3-4 inches. The result is that the cleared sky is great for bird watching. About the first week I was here, I saw, right out of my kitchen window, a Cooper's hawk in hot pursuit of a pileated woodpecker. As I wrote at the time, I thought that the woodpecker was a goner but just before the hawk could close the distance, the woodpecker made it into the remaining thicket of young pines behind me. When it came to weaving in and out of those closely packed pines like a pinball, the woodpecker way outclassed the hawk. Rather than bash his brains out the hawk wisely gave up the chase.

That same hawk - or his twin - is still in the neighborhood some three years later. He has attacked feeding doves in my back yard several times. The doves escaped at the last second during the two diving attacks I've witnessed but I've also come home a few times to find the ground near the feeder strewn with dove feathers. He can also take down larger prey. One day, when I was taking CJ for his walk, we were passing some adjacent vacant lots which, combined, are a little bigger than a football field. Up near the road, I saw a bunch of white wing feathers which I immediately recognized as belonging to one of the seasonal white ibises that were in the neighborhood at that time. As we rolled on a few yards, I picked up movement closer to the tree line. There was the Cooper's hawk tearing strips of flesh off of the featherless
ibis body. Oh, just recently, I saw him just barely miss a crow. Lots of crows around here.

Back before they cleared the thicket behind my house, I had lot's of birds at my feeder year round. Now, my busiest time is about now through whenever the migratory birds head north on the spring. I've seen just about every kind of songbird imaginable that lives here or migrates through here.

The large retention pond in the center of my subdivision has a flock of Canada geese for a large part of the year. They feed off of every one's lawn and make a bit of a mess but they are beautiful. This past spring, our local mallard couple hatched about a dozen ducklings. They're all pretty much full grown now. I love to watch them all cirle in tight formation and land on the pond.

Before they cleared the land behind me, one year, a doe and fawn were quite often out on the lot right out of my bedroom window early in the morning. About a month ago, on a Sunday afternoon, just at dusk, I was taking CJ for his walk. A fairly strong wind was blowing into my face. Between the wind and my ultra quiet wheelchair and Ninja pup, we were apparently totally undetectable to the best ears upwind of us. Just as we cleared the edge of my neighbor's house, there, standing maybe 25 feet away, at he edge of the adjoining woods, was a really nice buck. I know he had to be a 4 to 6 pointer and probably went somewhere between 175 and 200 lbs. Surprised, we both just stared at each other for a second then he turned and rather unhurriedly, made his way back down the trail he had made. He no doubt feeds out in the three lots between my house and that neighbor's. My neighbors have seen him since then.

Oh,and back to birds, one day, right in the middle of a dozen or so buzzards circling high over the apartments behind me, was a bald eagle circling right along with them. I also looked out my kitchen windows several months ago and saw a scissor tailed kite circling lazily over the neighborhood.

Oh, and not long ago, just after dusk, I saw a doe and two yearlings feeding on the side of road about half way between the original Krayons Academy and Mary Lee Clark.

Yes, I really enjoy observing the activities all of the the wildlife that lives among us.

If only I could say that for all of the Homo sapiens of St. Marys.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful essay, Jay.

Jay Moreno said...

Thank you.