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An Odd Year Around Our Place This Year
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Old 07-25-2020, 01:00 PM
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Default An Odd Year Around Our Place This Year

This has been an odd year here at my place, the COVID-19 hoohah notwithstanding.

Until about a week ago, I hadn't seen ONE moose on my property this year. There were a couple of sets of tracks in the snow this winter, but NO sightings. I think that's a first in 20 years.

This is absolutely the worst spring and summer for plants since I built the place. Others in The Valley are reporting similar 'agricultural' experience. I have almost nothing growing, and what is growing is very weak.

This is the worst year anyone can remember for mosquitoes. Bad enough to deter people from going out of their houses.

On the other hand, I have had some new critters never before seen at my place and some bird clutches better than ever before! As I mentioned here: http://www.thehunterslife.com/forums...ad.php?t=20661, a Wilson's warbler for the first time.

This morning, I saw what I think are ALL of this year's nuthatches at the feeders. There were EIGHT of them at once! Never seen that many, and never all of them at once at the suet feeders! Very cool, as I like to see nuthatches.

For the first year since they drilled the holes in my eaves, no woodpeckers - downy or hairy - nested here.

Finally, (so far), I have a sighting of genuine significance. It has always surprised me that Alaska has northern flying squirrels. First, because they are, as a rule, a "southern" critter. Second, their distribution in Alaska, unlike other critters that just barely "get up here", is NOT in the southern part of the panhandle, but in CENTRAL, INTERIOR, Alaska! Weird! Well, I caught two of them on my deck this year! VERY ODD. Their distribution does not include south-central Alaska. In fact, they have not been reported south of the Alaska Range. (The mountain range that includes Mt. McKinley.) My daughter and grandkids were visiting, and I had told the boys we could trap, kill, skin, and eat two of the squirrels marauding my deck. They could take the dried skins home with them. They were pumped!

I set two Havahart traps out, and NUTHIN all day! Very odd considering previous experience. I expected squirrels in the traps within minutes! However, I left them set over night, and in the morning, both had squirrels in them - one each of course. As I looked at them from my living room window, they looked 'strange' to me. Their eyes were too big. They were too 'fluffy'. They weren't the right colors. However, their eyes were just a little too big. Their 'fluffiness' could have been because they were fat from eating all the food I provide. Their color wasn't red enough, but they had the white belly and black stripe between the belly and the body. Also, their ears and tails weren't quite right either. However, we only have ONE species of squirrel around here. They HAD to be "pine squirrels" (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). (The "new" distribution maps show them into south-central Alaska.)

When the boys got up I went out and retrieved the traps and squirrels. Looking closely at them, it was clear that they were 'weird'. Finally, it dawned on me; they were flying squirrels! (Glaucomys sabrinus.) I had caught them over night because flying squirrels are genuinely nocturnal. Very COOL!

I told the boys that these were 'special' squirrels, and we were going to release them. We would reset the traps for the 'regular' red squirrels. Here are a couple of pictures my daughter took of the flying squirrels in the traps. They look a little bedraggled because it had rained a bit on them.




I haven't seen them since they were released, but as I said, they are nocturnal, so I probably wouldn' . However, I intend to stay up until dark, (midnight, these days), and see if I can't catch them, (metaphorically), at the feeders.

Back to strange. We didn't catch a red squirrel FOR TWO MORE DAYS! VERY strange! Nevertheless, we caught one in the younger boy's trap, (I shut the traps at night so we wouldn't catch the flying squirrels again). I asked them if they were sure they wanted to kill it, and I got, "YES! Kill it! Skin it! Eat it!" Well alrighty then! We killed it, skinned it, and ate it!


It was 'fat' from eating sunflower seeds and suet all spring and summer, and it didn't taste "terrible" for the same reason. (Usually, they taste like spruce cones because that's all they eat - except bird eggs and baby birds! ) I thought the younger - whose squirrel it was and the one that had insisted on eating it - would balk when it came right down to eating it. He's quite a picky eater. However, he dove right in, and ate his portion. Everyone, except the older boy, had a bite - mom, grandma, and grandpa. I skinned it and prepared the skin so he could take it home and tack it up in his bedroom wall."Prepared" was just scraping, salting, and changing the salt daily for a few days until it was dry. Then I stretched it by pulling on it, until it was at least somewhat pliable. It went home to be 'nailed to the wall'.

Anyway... like I said, it's been a 'strange' year. Honestly, my expectation is that it is going to get stranger. Y'all be careful out there!


Paul
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