The Local Wildlife

“Farley… drop it!

That’s me, talking to my darling cat who stood on the stone bench outside with a wild rabbit clenched in his jaws. His tail switched back and forth. He looked at me out of narrowed predator’s eyes, but amazingly enough, he dropped the bunny.

I took a step forward to investigate, dreading a repeat of the last cat-induced bunny drama- wherein the tiny creature died in my hands from shock and a broken back.

But this bunny was bigger, more substantial. Surprising both the cat and I, he suddenly took off in a mad dash across the driveway and into the tangled thicket of thorny blackberry bushes across the way.

Safe.

I feel relief. It is uncommon for a small mammal to walk (dash?) away from a run-in with a cat. A cat attacks just like a tiger attacks, latching its jaws to the thinnest part of the vertebral column and crushing down, to render its victim paralyzed. Farley was actually carrying the rabbit by the neck, so its ability to run away from the scene was something of a miracle. Lucky bunny.

My cat has been very active this summer, bringing moles and poor, unidentifiable feathered creatures to the doorstep. I wasn’t even aware we had wild rabbits in the woods nearby until he caught that first one.

Somehow I don’t think Farley was responsible for the live bird that ended up, inexplicably, in our living room a few weeks back. I don’t know quite how it got in, but I knew there was something in the house because the animals were all freaky. They would ram their faces behind the couch, sniffing and gurgling, then turn to me with piteous sounds of appeal to move the furniture. The scene was like one of those cartoons where everytime I looked away, there’d be a flurry of activity, but when I looked back again, there was nothing save Jordy and Farley giving their best interpretations of what dogs and cats do, respectively, when excited beyond endurance by a winged morsel that is beating them at hide and seek.

It was when I sat down to watch t.v. that the bird came out. She kind of exploded from behind the couch, and went in this mad flurry around the living room, careening off windows, bumping into doors, making the cat rush all over, and the dog actually bounce several feet off the ground like a pug/chihuahua version of an indian rubber ball.

The bird finally perched on a small, empty bread-basket on top of the refrigerator. I put Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum out in the garage (to which they most vehemently protested) and then I did a very Winnie the Pooh kind of thing. I laid my head in my hands and went “Think, think, think.”

How exactly does one catch a very small, high-strung, winged creature without killing it?

I don’t happen to own a butterfly net, alas.

I was still waiting for inspiration 20 minutes later, and decided to simply set out a bowl with some seeds and bread-crumbs so that it could at least have some food, when the bird took care of our problems for me.

She made another mad flight around the living room/kitchen, and flew head first right into the big picture window above the couch. She hit really hard, and then fell, down between the couch cushions.

I still had the bowl in my hand and I cautiously approached to see if the bird was okay.

It lay right where it had fallen, kind of wedged between the back of the couch and the cushion, and sort of upside down. I was afraid it had killed itself. It was obviously stunned.

Moving slow, slow, slow, I slipped the edge of the crumb filled bowl an inch or so under the bird then pulled the cushion forward so it slid into a resting position in the bowl.

It still didn’t move, but it was obviously alive. The body and feet were pointed up, and I could see the motion of its chest as it breathed rapidly.

When they are flying about, birds have a certain presence to them. They seem to take up some space; but lying there motionless in the bowl, it is impossible for me to convey the fragility of the creature I was gazing at. It was practically weightless, and the details, from the tendons in its wing to the extremely small beak and blinking eye seemed too small and delicate to really be parts of a red blooded creature.

I walked gently outside and stood, with the bowl in my hands, leaning over the edge of the deck. Almost as soon as we were outside, the bird got to its feet, and sat upright in the bowl. It just sat there for a couple minutes, doing nothing, and then suddenly took off, flying to a nearby tree.

Safe.

Lucky bird.

This post is getting really long, its less a page now than a chapter, but there are two other local wildlife items I want to share.

One is rather tragic, and it’s to do with the black bear. Apparently, this is a very poor season for wild berries due to the wetness of the spring season. This may be part of the reason why there has suddenly been an influx of black bears in the cities of the central Oregon Coast. In Yachats and Florence they have had to shoot six bears in the last week. Biologists are astounded by these numbers of bears coming into human territory. I’m linking to the story in the Sunday Oregonian:

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?base/news/1216263316107370.xml&coll=7

This might seem like a ‘Duh!’ thing to say, but please remember: Never, ever, feed or accidentally provide food for a wild bear. Making a bear unafraid of humans may or may not mean danger for human beings, but it will most certainly mean tragedy for the bear.

Finally, just a picture. This is a moth who came to rest on the window beside our front door today. In flight, it seemed like a fairly ordinary moth, but on close inspection, I often find moths are anything but ordinary. Unlike a spider which is ‘the other’ from close up or far away, there’s something faintly humanoid about the face of a moth. It’s two eyes take you in, and seem to evoke the wisdom of ancient forest dwellers. Its arms reach up to hold the glass, the feet point down. Only the markings on the thick, round body recall that this was once a slow plodding caterpillar.

So here’s our visitor, the white moth.

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13 thoughts on “The Local Wildlife

  1. Oh, my. That moth is really something. My parents had a Death’s-head moth land on their house about ten years ago (yeah, the kind from Silence of the Lambs ) and I suggested, since they are so rare, that they call the Reed College biology department to tell them about it (they live three blocks from the college). Biology students came by all day to look at it … it had just emerged from its seed pod, or whatever you call those things, and its wings were too wet for it to fly. It was huge … larger than my hand.

    Re: birds in the house … my childhood cat did that all the time … brought live birds into the house. There was something tragicomic about it; she was so offended when we rescued her prey. She was a Siamese, so we heard about it at great length, and in some detail.

  2. Great post, I’ve got a phobia about butterflies and moths after a horrible experience as a child but that face is very cool, just like you say, a forest dweller with some strange wisdom…..Okay David, I just read your comment while I was thinking of what to type and felt slightly ill, bigger than your hand? God, all Amuirin’s humanising work undone…..ugh. Our last house was very old and had a glass conservatory on the back with a grape vine hanging from the ceiling….birds couldn’t distinguish it from outdoors so I had to get at least one a week out in summer, tricky, like you say. We even got a sparrowhawk in one day, fortunately that one found the exit by itself, as it was sharp. Right, I’m off on holiday for ten days, keep on keeping on.

  3. Very pretty, snowy moth, but hard to look at one without thinking of Silence of the Lambs. We have the same comic adventure in our house a couple of times a week, but with lizards. They will never learn. They are always tailess by the time we discover the object of our kitties’ stares. Sometimes they are almost black and on the way out of this world. We only hope that my husband’s hands breathe a little life back into them on the way outdoors.

    We can learn to make room for these creatures after we move in with them, though. It’s the least we can do. Good job you are doing.

  4. The moth is amazing. Hey, didn’t you once take the most magical photo of a moth similar to this one? I have a vague memory of that.

    I’m so glad Farley didn’t kill this latest bunny. That is so sad when it happens. So much wildlife out there for him to go after. My dogs, especially the roadrunner terminator Rafie, go after lots of critters. A raccoon, recently. Very sad.

  5. We once had a cat who would capture moths on summer evenings and play with them for hours. The poor moths would stagger off later, beat up but still alive. I think cats who never learn to hunt just like to play with whatever they can find. Silly cats.

    The bear report is awful. Six bear! We camp near Florence occasionally and I bet campers are pretty wary right now.

  6. Photo Buffet- Hi and welcome. Yeah, that is one of the sort of chilling things about cat ownership, that my sweet loving kitty will toy with and torment other creatures. I wonder how that got built into cat’s evolution?

    A total aside, but I’ve read that bears will actually live on moths when other food sources are scarce. They can live for awhile with those tiny winged creatures as their main staple. I thought that was kind of amazing.

    ybonesy- Yes! You remember. Good memory. The other moth photo was taken almost a year ago! I can’t believe it has been that long, but it’s at the same window at night time. They’re very different kinds of moth, but they had a similar attitude of seeming to actually *look* into the house and take in the going ons there.

    https://bugbear.wordpress.com/2007/08/25/oh-yes-youre-alluring/

    anhinga- Yeah, silence of the lambs really gave moth-kind some poor P.R., but Barbara Kingsolver undoes some of that horror and reignites a little moth wonder in her book ‘Prodigal Summer’. Give it a look is you haven’t already, I really love B.K’s fiction. Tailless lizards! Yikes, reptiles would be more disconcerting than birds, I bet. Well, lizards wouldn’t be so bad, but snakes, be they East or West coast snakes, I think if Farley brought those home he’d soon be an outdoor cat.

    jo- Well, now I’m curious. I can not figure out what kind of horrible experience would come from butterflies and moths, and I’m almost afraid to know. I’m sure some types might be poisonous, but still… I wonder if you’ve read Barbara Kingsolver? It seems like she’d be someone you’ve read, I don’t know why I think that. Have a wonderful holiday, enjoy your time.

    David- I would have liked to have seen that. I wonder why they call them ‘Death’s head moths?’ That might have been in the movie, but I’ve forgotten. Wiki power.

    Oh, that’s pretty straightforward. They do look more intimidating, even without the skull pattern on the back, but their worst habit seems to be disguising themselves by scent as bees so they can raid bee-hives for honey. Death’s head moths are pirates!

    I couldn’t help but wonder, when I read that, if when you talk to Siamese, you use a different dialect? :)

  7. I’m so glad to read that the bird is indeed OK. WHEW! What a relief.

    Regarding the bears, my brother lives in Juneau, and they have that same issue…do not feed the bears (lock your garbage cans, etc.), or they will get shot. Last year we went camping up in Yosemite, and the bears were all over the dang place looking for a hand out. Same thing. They lose. So we were VERY careful not to leave anything that might encourage them. Didn’t matter much, they foraged through our campground all night anyway. There were a lot of people there, so I’m sure someone was stupid.

    Sigh.

    cool moth.

  8. No doubt about it, cats are Satan incarnate. Mine is too old to hunt any longer, so she just crawls up on our bed and pisses all over it… our penalty for being ten seconds late in filling up her bowl, no doubt. Calicos are the undoubtedly the gnarliest…

  9. I’m so glad the bunny escaped, I have a particular fondness for bunnies since having one as a pet. Glad the bird recovered too, its amazing how often a stunned bird will completely recover. Lovely moth photos too, I love moths, I like your observation about their ancient wisdom

  10. Anyday now the news networks will run a special on CATS: The Predatory Killers In Your Very Home!

    Cue sinister music interspersed with shots of Tiddles running away from the camera!

  11. I read this and thought I’d commented, but it seems I didn’t.

    I like moths. That may be due to Barbara Kingsolver. They’re fascinating creatures.

    I have a photo somewhere of some idiot in West Virginia trying to feed a black bear. Duh! It took place near Blackwater Falls, at one of their cabins. The black bears would come through every day, getting into the trash bins that people stupidly didn’t close up tight. Then they’d wonder why the bears kept coming back around, hanging out on their porch. Some, like above mentioned idiot, started thinking that they could feed the bears in the same way they were feeding the deer (another very bad idea, if you ask me).

  12. I was reading Anhinga’s comment about tailless lizards. We have skinks (a variety of lizard) here. They can drop their tails when cornered. And then regenerate them. I was just reading that the ground skink has occasionally been observed biting off its own tail and eating it.

  13. It is good to get back here for a visit. Finished my burst of paintbrush for hire and I have time to read about bunnies again while I watch the baby play the hand waving, kicking moving thing and try not to drop the laptop in the tub. oops, she bellows.

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