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The Lesson

Foxy Mom knew exactly what she had to do. Her kit were far too playful and dependent, and they needed quick to grow up.

So she went out and snatched up a hapless ground squirrel.

foxWhen she returned to the den she dangled the limp squirrel like a toy in front of her children.

foxesOnly one of the siblings, however, was mature enough to escalate the game into a persistent tug-o-war.

foxesFoxy Mom was delighted and let her brave & adventuresome son chase her around as if this was more than just a game.

foxfoxfoxLike a good mother she eventually let her son “win” and carry his prize back to the den.

fox

SPOILER ALERT: read no further unless you can stomach other than a happy ending.

The badger mentioned in a previous post https://oopsjohn.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/foxy-lady/) returned with a vengeance.

Foxy Mom and the Bad-to-the Bone badger engaged in a vicious skirmish, pictures of which I don’t have but which from others have surfaced online.  The badger managed to enter the fox den and remained there for several hours, until it got dark and photographers and observers were no longer able to see what was happening, and went home.

Foxy Mom and occasionally even Foxy Dad were seen the next morning camped outside the den, keeping watch, staring inside, apparently waiting for the culprit to emerge.

Momma Fox had also sometime during the night dug another den some 30 yards away. Whether or not the two kit were safely tucked deep down inside their new bunker or not is unknown.

Two days later, however, no badger, still no kit. Foxy Lady sits forlornly outside her second den and no kit have been seen for days.

The Law of Nature in its larger Wisdom has apparently claimed these two playful youngin’s.

foxes🙂🙂🙂

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Foxy Lady

What with her winter coat in tatters and the strain of having recently given birth, she struggles (not altogether unsuccessfully) to retain her regal appearance.

foxHer two kit are delightfully rambunctious with a penchant for teasing and harassing each other.

foxfoxFoxy Lady is a no-nonsense kind of Mom but she tolerates them, for the most part, as they climb and jump all over her.

foxesfoxesBut patience, even for the biblical Job, has its limits.  A good mother has to be constantly alert, and pay attention to the possibility of hurtful things well beyond the limited experience of her playful youngin’s.

foxes

I watched her stress level skyrocket as she ran back and forth for several minutes with nose high, jumping up on logs and boulders to scan the surroundings.

Something was not quite right, and she sensed it.

Sure enough, a badger suddenly scampered past the den and her unsuspecting kit.  Fortunately, it was single-mindedly on its way somewhere else.

And sometimes, like with this badger incident when her nerves are frazzled, the kids simply get too much underfoot and snap at her once too often.

foxesfoxesFoxy Lady probably wouldn’t want me to post this picture but here she is losing her cool.  I mean, like, Junior was “only” chewing harmlessly on her back leg.🙂

foxesTense relationship moments ensue.

foxesJunior is properly repentant.

foxesA little begging for affection from stern Mamma never hurts.

foxesfoxesMamma weakens and all’s right with the world again.

foxes🙂🙂🙂

swan on nest

The Chauvinistic Cygnet & His Obtuse Sister

A swan with a secret is a thing of beauty.

swan on nest

If you wait patiently until she stretches you might just catch a glimpse of why she is so radiant.

swan eggs

The five eggs in this clutch each weigh @340 grams and will take 34-45 days to incubate.

swan eggs

Imagine her shock when her first born turned out to be not at all like herself!  Then she remembered the story of “The Ugly Duckling,” and smiled.

swan cygnet

But if First Born was not yet handsome at least he was inquisitive. Right away he demanded to know where he came from, and spent many long cygnet-hours staring at his beginnings trying to piece together the age-old puzzle.

swan chick and egg

Then, once he sort of understood the “chick ‘n egg” thing, he had a chat with his mom about that long neck of hers that reached so far up into the sky.

swan chick with momSuddenly, barely 24 hours old, First Born had a yolk-slimy little sister to contend with!

swan cygnet

Like any good older brother, he decided to teach ‘Lil Sis a thing or two from his vast experience.  “This is a twig,” he showed her.  “One day you will need these to build a nest.  See if you can pick it up.”

swan chicks

But ‘Lil Sis couldn’t coordinate that clumsy beak of hers and only managed to poke herself in the eye.

swan chicksNevertheless, First Born was still optimistic and decided to share with her everything he had learned about eggs and how baby cygnets come to be.

swan chicks contemplating broken egg

But alas, his sister was not much interested and obviously did not possess the requisite talent for existential conundrums.  First Born gave her a good ‘tongue-lashing’ and made sure his mom was nearby so she would understand how smart he was compared to his obtuse little sister!

swan chicksFirst Born realized that another sibling was due any moment now and he hoped it would be a smart little brother that he could bully and educate rather than another dumb sister who was no fun at all. So he sat down to wait…

swan chick with egg

Oh, no – another girl! With the same passive features and vacant stare!

swan cygnets

First Born always carried himself with dignity.  He stuck his little neck up as far as it would go and watched everything his mom did so one day he could grow up to be tall and competent, just like her.

swan cygnets

In quick succession two more siblings climbed out of their shells.

swan cygnets

But First Born didn’t have a chance to find out if these two were brothers or sisters because a mean lady came and snatched up the entire clutch and whisked them off to foster care.

The parents were bereft.

😦😦😦

Fair and accurate reporting is usually dull and boring. It is far more interesting to craft narratives with villains and rough edges.

But I would be remiss not to point out that Samantha and the Parks & Recreation Dept. are trying to do the right thing. Last year not a single swan hatchling survived on Lake Morton.

This year, therefore, they are taking the cygnets into protective custody in the hope that they can be nurtured to maturity and re-released back into the wild in due time.

samantha and swans

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The Innovative Egret

egret with fishWading birds, I always assumed, stood quietly on long legs and waited patiently for tasty snacks to wander within range of their sharp beaks.

But recently I observed an interesting “grab ‘n go” technique by a hungry-looking snowy egret intent on snatching a ‘happy meal’ from a shallow pond.

He would launch himself from shore and glide low over the water.

snowy egret flying

Then, somewhat puzzlingly, he would drag his feet lightly across the surface.

egret dragging feet across wateregret dragging feet across water

egret walking on water

What’s that all about, I wondered?  Surely he can’t grab fish with his feet!

At times he almost seemed to be “walking on water.”

egret walking on water

Suddenly I understood.  At the last moment he would dig in and use his feet like rudders to maneuver his body and brake his momentum!

egret🙂 Brilliant strategy for the hunter, bad news for the hunted.😦

egret snatching fishNOTE: I have since learned that this is actually a tried & true technique that goes by the name of “dip-fishing.”

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Tiers État

Commoners, peasants, serfs – in the world of Nature, gulls and their cousins are card-carrying members of The Third Estate.

Pests!

Scavengers!

Walmart shoppers!

girl running thru seagulls

Oops! Not so fast…

My mantra has always been “art teaches us to see.”  And I like to proclaim with only a little hyperbole that “you can find beauty in a mud puddle.”

🙂 Maybe it’s time I took my own advice!🙂

Dignity  –  Beauty  –  Grace

seagull

gull divingseagull snatching foodgull swallowing fishseagullBesides – if I don’t stop stereotyping and refusing to see the uniqueness of these commoners, they just might begin plotting a Revolution.

sunshine skyway gullsLiberté, égalité, fraternité

seagullAnd what if there’s a Reign of Terror and I get sent to the guillotine along with tens of thousands of other “enemies of the revolution”?

😦😦😦

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Lil’ Bit Goes For A Walk

sandhill crane

“Too Tall Papa” took his son “Lil’ Bit” for a walk.

“Lil’ Bit” was excited because now he would have a chance to learn to use those ungainly legs of his.

sandhill crane

“Lil’ Bit” bravely tried to mimic his Papa’s every move.  He didn’t know left from right but what’s so difficult about putting one foot in front of the other?

sandhill crane

He stumbled a few times.  Turns out manipulating those appendages is easier said than done!😦

But finally, if you discount the occasional wobble, “Lil’ Bit” managed to shuffle & strut just like a grown-up!

sandhill crane

sandhill crane🙂🙂🙂