Category Archives: Wildlife

Badger Wars

We have mentioned before Quail Run Farm at one time was home to a den of badger.  A couple years back, we found a badger den on the property.  It was a ways away from the house, and in an area that was not being currently used.  After some research we found that the badgers would help us with a couple of problems we may have on the farm.  They eat gophers, and also are know to kill rattle snakes.  So we left it alone and told the kids to stay way from the area.  Badgers have a large area they cover, and move from den to den.  They moved from our property a little while later and we have not seen them since.

Well, until we went for a walk just west of our property.  (We were taking some pictures of the flax that was in bloom.)  Then we found a badger battle zone.  We took some pictures to show that there was another active badger den, and that it declared war on some of the local pocket gopher mounds.

Here is the badger den.

Here is the badger den.

When also found some claw marks that were left close by.

IMG_6473 IMG_6477We then started looking around, and found several gopher mounds that had been dug out by the badger.

IMG_6479 Here is one where you can see the gopher has refilled its hole.

IMG_6481The battle was pretty massive, there are a lot of mounds that were dug up by the badger.

IMG_6482We have found that at times, the best approach is to wait and see what happens.  We try to keep a balance between nature and farming.  Unless the wildlife interferes with our farming, or causes a danger to our family or livestock, we will try to leave it where it is, and let nature take its course.

I don’t know if this is the same badger that was on our property a couple years back, but if it is, I am glad that we let it do its thing.  Anything that will help us take out the pocket gophers naturally, is a friend of ours.

Unwelcome Visitor

We try to live with nature as much as possible.  We will tolerate a pest until it becomes a danger to humans, pets, live stock, or our gardens.  And when it does become a problem, we try to relocate and discourage it, before we dispatch it.   We had such a visitor the other day, one that I would usually watch slither away, but because of the location of this visitor and because it was not letting itself be known, I felt it was a safety issue, and had to dispatch it.

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I am by no means a snake expert, but I believe that this guy is a Great Basin Rattlesnake or Crotalus oreganus lutosus.  Aimee and I stumbled on this guy when we were getting ready to get into the van.  Aimee noticed the pit viper head immediately and I verified it by looking at the tail.  I later identified it as the Great Basin Rattlesnake by it’s coloring and other pictures on the internet.

The color pattern usually consists of a buff, pale gray, pale brown, olive brown or yellowish brown ground color, overlaid with a series of 32-49 dorsal blotches. These blotches are dark brown to black in color, with pale centers and pale borders, and are often irregular in shape and wider than they are long. There is also a series of lateral blotches that are indistinct anteriorly, but become more distinct posteriorly and eventually merge with the dorsal blotches to form crossbands. Older specimens sometimes have a faded pattern, or they may have uniformly black blotches, with the dorsum of the head also being black [Source]

As noted above, I  would usually relocate snakes, but this one was within 10 feet of our front door, and was not using its rattle.  So I instantly felt like I needed to dispatch it, instead of herding it to another location.

It surprised me that this guy was not rattling.  He was coiled, just sitting there looking at us.  He was sitting behind our chipper/shredder, which I moved to take this picture and to figure out a way to get him to uncoil so that I could take care of the threat.  After doing a little more research, I came across an article (“Rattlesnake danger grows as more serpents strike without warning” July 22, 2001) that explains that rattlesnakes are now not using their rattles and are more likely to attack without warning.  The Great Basin Rattlesnake is also more timid.

The quickest, and best way that I have found to dispatch a rattlesnake is to put a shovel blade just behind its head and decapitate the snake.  But you NEVER want to approach a coiled pit viper.  They have the ability to spring and attack the distance of their body when they are in a coiled position.  So you want to get the snake to move on, so you can dispatch it while it is not coiled.  And this guy was not going to uncoil for me.  And he only rattled once, and that was for a second after I poked him with a sprinkler pipe to get him to uncoil and move off.

So, I figured that vibration/noise would make him move.  So I fired up the chipper/shredder.  He only looked at it, did not move an inch.  So I then turned the shredder so that it was now blowing at him.  This did the trick, the uncoiled and started to move away from the shredder.  I then walked up behind him and with a shovel decapitated the snake.

The problem with snakes, is that they still can move, rattle, and bite after they have been dispatched.  This one was no different.  After I removed his head with the shovel, I went to pick the head up, with the shovel.  His body-less head then bit the shovel.  Never, try to pick up a snakes head, even if it is removed from the body.  They always have the ability to inject venom through their fangs.  I then dug a hole, and promptly buried the head.  I then removed the rattle, and then put the body of the snake away from the house to let nature take care of it.

The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources in an article titled “Rattlesnake safety tips – DWR” lists several things to do when you encounter a rattlesnake and how to protect your property from them.  Rattlesnakes are actually illegal to kill in Utah (R657-53).  The law does have an exception for “reasons of human safety.”  -28(6)(a) “Great Basin rattlesnakes, Crotalus oreganus lutosus, may be killed without a certificate of registration only for reasons of human safety.”  I agree that they should usually be left alone, and would usually leave them alone, especially if it was in the wild, but because it was a safety risk for me and my family I dispatched the snake.

 

Interesting Visitors

Over the last few days we have had some fun visitors of the insect variety, they were unique enough that we had to investigate further.

Solifugae

The first one is called a Solifugae, or as some people would call them a camel spider, wind scorpion, or sun spider.

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There are a lot of urban legends about this guy.  Everything from them being big enough to eat birds, run at really fast speeds, and that they are deadly to humans.

Well, they are all false.  This guy eats ground-dwelling arthropods, and other small animals, does not pose a risk to humans.  It can run fast, but only at a top speed of 10 mph.  It does not have any venom glands or any type of venom-delivery apparatus.   But they can give you a very powerful nip with their mouth parts or their chelicerae, but it is nothing medically significant.  They like to avoid the sun, and will move to get away from it.

Carrion beetle

This visitor is a Silphidae  it is also called a carrion beetle or burying beetles.

IMG_0419This guy is one of natures cleanup beetles.  Specifically, it is know for taking care of dead animals.  These guys have wings but no longer use them.  They can be found worldwide and belong to a family of 183 species.  I have to admit, these guys, like the camel spider are also a pretty misunderstood visitors.

The Silphidae adults feed in a saprophagous manner: they colonize the carrion during all four stages of decomposition, which are fresh, bloated, decay, and dry. The main areas of decomposition for adults are during both the bloated and decaying stages. The Silphidae larvae mainly inhabit during the decaying and dry stages of the carrion. The primary food source for the subfamily Silphinae is the maggot mass present on the detritus. The Nicrophorinae will colonize the body earlier in decomposition in order to avoid competition with maggots. If there is a sufficiently large maggot mass they will not colonize the carcass. The parental care exhibited by this subfamily is that the adult beetles regurgitate food into the mouths of the young larvae until they are mature. Silphinae colonize later in the decaying process and the adults eat the maggot mass, sometimes leaving little maggot evidence left to estimate a post-mortem interval. In the case of the sexton or burying beetles, Nicrophorinae, the adults will bury small animal carcasses and lay their eggs on it. In some species, a slight depression is made on the detritus for maturing larvae that the adult beetles feed and protect. In both subfamilies the larvae are observed to eat the decaying organic material while the adults mainly consume the maggots. Flies are the major competitor of Silphiade for detritus. If a carcass is infested with maggots, many of the Nicrophorinae will abandon the carcass while members of Silphinae will feed on the maggots.[Source]

Sounds like something that Gil Grissom would really like to find during one of his Crime Scene Investigations.  These guys are not considered a nuisance to humans, they also have a large distribution.  They have been know to become pests to farmers and will use crops as a secondary source of nutrients.

An interesting side note to this guy.  I found him next to our garbage can as I was taking it out to the street for pickup.  In the garbage can, there were several gophers that I had trapped during the week.  Looks like this guy was just trying to find a new place to lay its eggs.

 

What is all the buzz? – Cicada

IMG_6669Cicada are an interesting insect.  And they are not something you see or hear very often in the high desert.  We have a couple of willow trees in our front yard, and they have been buzzing with the sounds of cicada.

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I guess the cicada like the sap of the willow trees.  You can hear them coming from other parts of the yard, but the number in the willow trees overshadows the other locations.  The cicada feed off the sap of trees and other plants.  They don’t usually don’t cause harm to the trees.  They don’t bite, or sting, so they are harmless to people as well.  I think the birds on the farm are going to find them very tasty.  I am tempted to capture one and see how well the chickens like them.

Here are a couple of interesting facts that I found out about cicada that I did not know until I started to research them.

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1- There are several different types.  There are the type that you only see every 16-17 years (periodic cicadas), and then there are a type that make their appearance every year or annually.   I believe that is the type we see here in Utah, because we hear them every year, but not in as great a number as this year.

2- They don’t rub their wings or legs together to make their buzzing noise, but they have special chambers that they have in their body that they then vibrate to create the buzzing noise.  The expand and contract these chambers which make a special adaptation of their exoskeleton vibrate.  The males are the ones that are making the noise. You can listen to their buzz or song here.

3- They regulate their temperature using a form of evaporation.  They will excrete the sap, in the form of water, that they feed on.  This makes them pretty unique because they are doing the same thing that mammals do, they are in essence sweating.

4- They also have a rich history in old texts, and lore. “Cicadas have been featured in literature since the time of Homer’s Iliad, and as motifs in art from the Chinese Shang dynasty. They have been used in myths and folklore to represent carefree living and immortality. Cicadas are eaten in various countries, including China, where the nymphs are served deep-fried in Shandong cuisine.” [Source]

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Adult cicada emerging from exuvia

Things that attract

IMG_40231At some point you may want to try to attract a specific animal, insect, or plant to live on your property.  I have heard people talk about wanting to have more birds, butterflies, and other things visit, and or live on their property.  Many times, people will plant a specific plant, put in a bird house, or a water feature in the hopes that they will attract wildlife.  But then they are disappointed when over time the visitor does not come.  I have learned that it can be tricky to attract living things to your property.  But there are some things you can do that will greatly enhance your ability to attract animals, insects, and birds if you first understand the living organism first.

Every living thing needs three things to survive.  Insects, animals, and plants all need these three essential things to thrive and live in an environment.  If you want to attract specific insects, animals, or plants to your property, you need to supply them with the correct, water, food, and shelter.

First, every living organism needs water.  If you can provide the water that the living system needs, you have over come the first obstacle.  Not only do they need water, but they need the correct, amount, type, and source of water.  Some animals need running water, while others need standing water.  When you research what water the living organism needs that you want to attract, you have to keep in mind the depth, flow, temperature, mineral content, and a number of other things. To make the environment livable for a specific creature, you need to supply the correct amount of water.  It is not about making water available, but about making the correct amount, and type of water available.

For example, if you want to attract bees to your property, one way to do that is to give the bees a shallow pool of water that they can stop in and drink from.  Most people only concentrate on the flowers or the food bees need of attract them, but water can also attract bees. This article talks specifically about bees and how to provide water for them: Thirsty bees

Source: Root Simple – low tech home tech

Purple-throated carib hummingbird feeding.

Second, all living organisms have a need food.  Everything has to consume some type of food to survive.  For plants it is not only minerals from the ground, but also energy from the sun.  If you can supply the correct type of food for the living creature, you can attract it, and encourage it to stay on your property.  Food sources could include plants, insects, and other animals.   If you want to attract certain types of birds, you may need to also attract the insects that they use as a food source.  Food sources can very drastically from one species to another.  It is very important that you research what food source, and types of food the organism needs that you are trying to attract.

For Example,  if you want to attract a specific type of bird to your property, you would need to research the type of flowers, that those birds are attracted to.  Birds are so varied in their food sources that research is key.  Hummingbirds enjoy different flowers than a swallow would enjoy.  And if you are trying to attract birds of prey, it is not the flowers that will attract them, but the animals that are attracted by the flowers.

Apiary in South Carolina

Third, all organisms need some type of shelter.  Shelter serves several purposes.  It allows the creature to stay out of the elements if it needs to.  It can keep snow, rain, sun and other elements away when they could become to harsh for the creature to survive.  But it can also provide a place for the creature to hide from predators as well.  Shelters will be different for most living creatures.  If you want to attract a specific type of bird, you will probably need a specific type of nesting box.

On thing that we have tried is to create an area where insects can find a home on Quail Run Farm.  We have created our Fairy Hotel to try to encourage insects to take up residence.  We have also encouraged Kestrels to take up residence on the property by having a Kestrel nesting box put in place.

CONCLUSION

If you want to attract a living organism to your property or yard, you need to do some research.  If you can find out what type of water, food, and shelter the organism needs, you may be able to get it to take up residence in your yard.

You will also want to eliminate habitat for the predators of the creatures you are trying to attract.  Pets can also keep certain creatures from finding your property a place they want to habitat.

The opposite is also true.  If you have a pest that you want to get rid of, you can declare war on that pest by eliminating one or all three of the things they need to survive.  For example, you don’t like snakes around your yard, then eliminate the food source, or the shelter for the snake.  You will find that you can do things to convince almost any living creature to move on, and find water, food or shelter in another yard.

Kestrel Cam

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CLICK GRAPHIC TO VIEW THE CAM

GREAT NEWS!  We have teamed up with the Eagle Mountain Kestrel Project, Legend Engineering, and a couple of other residents to bring you the Eagle Mountain Kestrel Cam.  We have picked one of the nesting pair of kestrels and have installed a webcam into their nesting box.  Shon Reed, an Eagle Mountain resident, has worked hard to get all of the elements needed to make it happen.  It should also be noted the Shon is a very excellent photographer, and you can see his work by going to his Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/shon_reed/

The Eagle Mountain Kestrel project is designed to help increase, and preserve the American Kestrel population in and around Eagle Mountain.  There have been a number of kestrel boxes placed around the city on public and private land.  Eagle Mountain city keeps an updated list of the location of these boxes:  http://www.eaglemountaincity.org/community/kestrel-boxes. Quail Run Farm currently has one of those boxes and is now helping the project spread the word with a 24/7 live webcam.  We are hoping to see this mating pair of Kestrels lay a clutch soon.

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The purpose of this post is to give you a little insight into how the cam is setup, and the effort that was taken to bring it to you.  One of the unique things about this box is that we also have a 24/7 weather station about 200 feet away, this station is collecting the weather data to go along with the video feed.  You can view this weather data, by going to our Weather Underground feed (Station ID: KUTEAGLE19).

The nesting box is on top a 30 foot pole, that was made from repurposed 4X4s wedged between 2X4s on either side.

The height of the box, and the poles materials has made it difficult to check the box, and putting a webcam in the box would be impossible without the donated time of Brian and Jordan, and the use of equipment from Rocky Mountain Power.

Brian and Jordan donated their time, and Rocky Mountain Power allowed them to use a bucket truck to help install the camera after hours.  I want to thank Brian and Jordan for donating their time after work, and Rocky Mountain power for allowing them to use their truck when they were installing the camera.

Rocky Mountain Truck

Rocky Mountain Truck

 

After we ran power to the pole, and extend our Wi-Fi coverage, we were able to install the web cam.  The webcam was purchased for the project by Lonny Reed the owner of Legend Engineering in Heber City, a Civil Engineering, Survey and Land Planning company.

Brian and Lonny Read looking at the camera and working on the strategy to install it with little impact on the falcons.

Brian and Lonny Read looking at the camera and working on the strategy to install it with little impact on the falcons.

Once the camera was prepped for install, Brian went up in the bucket truck to install the camera. Lonny and the rest of us were on the ground looking at the camera to help Brian find the best angle after it was installed in the nest. Shon was out of town during the install, but was being constantly updated on the progress and sent the live feed so he also could give input on the install.

Looking at the feed while Brian is installing the camera.

Looking at the feed while Brian is installing the camera.

Brian installing the camera.

Brian installing the camera.

Taping the cables in place.

Taping the cables in place.

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Kestrel pair watching as the camera is installed from a close by power line.

Kestrel pair watching as the camera is installed from a close by power line.

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Eagle Mountain can now enjoy the views from the webcam.  We have the feed available to everyone on the Quail Run Website.  You can view the camera by going to this link:

http://quailrunfarms.com/kestrel/index.html

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CLICK GRAPHIC TO VIEW THE CAM

The page includes a place where you can leave your comments, and start a discussion on what is being seen.  You can even share your favorite photo from the webcam in the comments section.

Let us know what we can do to improve the project, as well as learn more about these beautiful and powerful birds.

It should also be noted that we had some other birds watching us while we were installing the camera.

Red Tailed Hawks looking on from a near by power pole.

Red Tailed Hawks looking on from a near by power pole.

Once we were done with the actual camera install, we needed to complete the configuration, get the website setup, and make sure that it could be accessed via the internet.

Working on the wireless and port forwarding for the website and live feed.

Working on the wireless and port forwarding for the website and live feed.

Birds of Prey

Kestrel. Photo: Shon Reed

Kestrel. Photo: Shon Reed

Since we moved to Quail Run Farm three years ago, we have seen a variety of wildlife. There is usual the wildlife you would expect to see in the high desert.  My favorite sights is the majestic flight of the local birds of prey.  We have seen eagles, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, owls, and many other different types of birds of prey.  A lot of people have posted pictures of the birds, scenes and other wildlife around Eagle Mountain on the Scenes From Eagle Mountain Facebook page.

It has been fun watching a mating pair of Red-Tail Hawks raise their second season of babies on a high voltage power line in the agricultural lot next to us.  They have a nest in one of the cross beams, and can be seen perching on the power poles.

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Two Red-Tailed hawks, hunting near City Center in Eagle Mountain Utah. Photo: Shon Reed

We have seen other types of birds of prey including several different types of owls.  You never have experienced the full power of these birds, unless you are face to face with one trying to get it to exit your chicken coop.  You can read all about that experience here: http://www.momzoolife.com/2014/02/07/the-web-of-protection/.

Owl near Eagle Mountain. Photo: Shon Reed

Owl near Eagle Mountain. Photo: Shon Reed

One of my favorite Birds of Prey is the American Kestrel.  Eagle Mountain is home to many kestrels.  Driving though the city you may notice several poles, with boxes on them placed in locations in and around Eagle Mountain.

Kestrel nesting box. Photo: Aimee Kieffer

Kestrel nesting box. Photo: Aimee Kieffer

These poles and nesting boxes have been the product of the Eagle Mountain Kestrel Project, which Quail Run Farm has had the pleasure of being part of.   If you are interested, you can find the location of these boxes by visiting the Kestrel Pole Location map. The mayor of Eagle Mountain, Christopher Pengra talked about this project in his February 2016 State of the City blog post.

Preserving our natural beauty extends to our birds of prey, too.  This year a resident by the name of Shon Reed worked with Austin Robinson, an Eagle Scout, to build nest boxes for American Kestrels.  Shon also worked with Brian Smith from Rocky Mountain Power to get utility poles in the ground for mounting the nest boxes to.  He also organized volunteers to place these boxes throughout the City.  The next step is to get those boxes on a map so residents can observe the birds as they use the poles and boxes.  This work is a testament to the selflessness of the people who live here. – Mayor Chris Pengra

Kestrel sitting on a nesting box on Quail Run Farm. Photo: Aimee Kieffer

Kestrel sitting on a nesting box on Quail Run Farm. Photo: Aimee Kieffer

The Forest Preserve District of Kane County also has a kestrel box program that they are working on.

The Forest Preserver District of Kane County has about 30 kestrel nest boxes in the field.  Occupancy was just 8 percent in 2015 but the district remains optimistic.  it checked with Audubon chapters around the Midwest with similar programs and learned that kestrel box programs often have low success in the first few years, followed by dramatic improvement once a few boxes become occupied. – Jeff Reiter (Dailyherold.com)

Giving the kestrels places to nest is just part of the equation.  There are a lot of factors in increasing the kestrel population in an area.  Nesting boxes are the first step, but not only do we need to give them a home, we need to protect and increase their hunting areas.

Eric Cirino, for the Audubon, recently wrote an article entitled, “Are Kestrels the New Poster Species for Pesticides?”  The article points out that even after the ban on DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) the larger birds of prey have seen an increase in population.  But the population of the American Kestrel is still on a steady decline.  “According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, there are about 4 million American Kestrels living in the Lower 48, Mexico, and nearly all of Canada and Alaska. That’s 66 percent fewer kestrels than there were in 1966.”  Eric continues to draw the conclusion that the reason why the kestrel populations are still declining is because of the urbanization of its hunting grounds, and the use of other pesticides that kill the kestrels main source of food.

Wohler confirms that kestrel populations in Long Island have dropped significantly over the past several decades, too. Rampant development and pesticide use on farms and suburban lawns in the area could be the root of the cause.  [Source]

Kestrels have a wide variety of food sources, but the majority of their food is insects.

American Kestrels eat mostly insects and other invertebrates, as well as small rodents and birds. Common foods include grasshoppers, cicadas, beetles, and dragonflies; scorpions and spiders; butterflies and moths; voles, mice, shrews, bats, and small songbirds. American Kestrels also sometimes eat small snakes, lizards, and frogs. And some people have reported seeing American Kestrels take larger prey, including red squirrels and Northern Flickers.

Current declines stem from continued clearing of land and felling of the standing dead trees these birds depend on for their nest sites. The American Kestrel is also losing prey sources and nesting cavities to so-called “clean” farming practices, which remove hedgerows, trees, and brush. An additional threat is exposure to pesticides and other pollutants, which can reduce clutch sizes and hatching success. For kestrels in North America, a larger problem with pesticides is that they destroy the insects, spiders, and other prey on which the birds depend.- allaboutbirds.org

Quail Run Farm is doing what it can to help protect the habitat and hunting grounds of the Kestrel, and we would like to ask you to help us with this goal.  There are two major ways that residents of Eagle Mountain can help increase the kestrel population.

First, keep open land that is ideal for kestrel hunting areas.  We can let the City Council and other elected officials know that we support keeping areas as agricultural and open for kestrel habitat.   We recently had a developer propose a 60+ home development on what is currently agricultural land in close proximity to Quail Run Farm.  A group of residents got together and were able to stop this land from being rezoned from agricultural to residential.  In doing so, we have increased the chances that the kestrel population in Eagle Mountain will grow.  I am not talking about improved green space, that most developments are required to put in.  I am talking about preserving the native, natural green space that attracts the kestrel to the area.  One of the things that makes Eagle Mountain unique is the natural habitat we have.  There is no need to manicure, develop, and plow down all of the areas in Eagle Mountain.  Eagle Mountain currently has an area of 41.7 Square Miles, there is plenty of space for development, as well as keeping native open space intact.

Eagle Mountain has a large power and gas corridor that runs from the north end to the south end of the city.  We as residents need to try to keep that corridor free of residential zoning.  Keep it zoned so that it stays native and is the ideal location for kestrels and other birds of prey to hunt.  Lets preserve as much of their natural, native hunting grounds as possible.  By placing nesting boxes along the power corridor, we can encourage the kestrel population in Eagle  Mountain.

Second, don’t kill insects unless you have to.  Not all insects are bad or evil.  As long as insect populations are kept in check, they can actually be beneficial.  And the majority of the time, the balance is kept if left to its own devices.  If the insect is not causing a health risk, then we should maybe think about not using insecticides to eliminate it.  Insecticides are non discriminating killers.  By using insecticides to get rid of spiders, you are also eliminating other beneficial bugs as well.  Kestrels require insects to survive, and as development continues, residents will spray their manicured lawns, and properties to eliminate the possibility that there may be a harmful insect.

The next time you spray an insecticide to kill a bug, think about the other bugs that may also be eliminated from the overspray, or what animals may be effected by the loss of that insect.  If it is not a health risk, think about leaving it as is.

An article by Caroline Cox titled “Pesticides and Birds: From DDT to Today’s Poisons” in the Journal of Pesticide Reform discusses the dangers of pesticides and birds.  Besides a long list of pesticides that kill birds, Cox discusses the secondary poisoning of predatory birds, the indirect effects of starvation and predation, and the more sub lethal effects.  She concludes by saying:

Pesticides will continue to kill birds, reduce their food resources, and disrupt their normal behaviors as long as pesticides continue to be used. The only way to eliminate the effects that pesticides have on birds is to use nonchemical resource management techniques. On farms, in forests, on lawns, and elsewhere that pesticides are used, managers are finding that these techniques work well and make economic sense. Our job is to see that they are implemented more widely.

This is not a simple task, but one that is essential if we are to seriously heed the message of our miners’ canaries.

Everyone can do their part to help increase the kestrel population in Eagle Mountain.  We can help the Kestrel Project by monitoring, installing, and facilitating the use of nesting boxes.  We can help by encouraging the City Council and developers to leave natural and native open spaces.  We can help by thinking twice about using pesticides, insecticides and herbicides on the properties we own or maintain.

Kestrel Facts

  • The kestrel does not build a nest but instead relies on taking over crevices, hollows in trees, and the nests of other birds. This makes it easy to attract them to nest boxes.(a)
  • The lack of suitable nesting sites is often the greatest limiting factor for kestrel populations.(a)
  • Kestrels prefer nest boxes over natural cavities, mainly because most natural cavities are more cramped than manmade boxes.(a)
  • The kestrel is an inhabitant of open fields, croplands, and orchards.(a)
  • Once widely known as “the sparrow hawk”, the name kestrel is now more commonly used.(a)
  • Although kestrels generally migrate southward in the winter, they return to their previous territories and nest sites year after year.(a)
  • Females tend to winter farther south than males.(a)
  • A kestrel family will eat upwards of 500 voles or mice per year as well as numerous grasshoppers and locusts.(a)
  • Kestrels generally begin breeding in early April or May, but often breeding activity reaches its peak in early June.(a)
  • The common name, American Kestrel, is used to distinguish the species that lives in North America (Falco sparverius) from its old world cousin, the European Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).(a)
  • Unlike humans, birds can see ultraviolet light. This enables kestrels to make out the trails of urine that voles, a common prey mammal, leave as they run along the ground. Like neon diner signs, these bright paths may highlight the way to a meal—as has been observed in the Eurasian Kestrel, a close relative.(b)
  • Kestrels hide surplus kills in grass clumps, tree roots, bushes, fence posts, tree limbs, and cavities, to save the food for lean times or to hide it from thieves.(b)
  • The oldest American Kestrel was at least 14 years, 8 months old.(b)
  • Kestrels were once hunted by gamekeepers. However, they are now one of the few birds of prey that gamekeepers and farmers tolerate as they eat the rats, moles, and insects that farmers see as pests.(c)

Fact Source Websites: (a) barnowlbox.com, (b) allaboutbirds.com, (c) nottinghamshirewildlife.org

Photos:  Shon Reed allowed us to use some of his photos on this post.  You can follow him on instagram.  He has taken a lot of cool pictures of Birds of Prey around the farm and the Eagle Mountain Area.

The following is a small gallery or showing of the birds of prey that have been taken by Shon Reed and posted to various Eagle Mountain facebook pages.

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Books about Kestrels

Of Fairies and Things

I have a confession to make.  I believe in fairies, and many other mythical creatures of the forest, desert, streams and lakes. I always have, I just didn’t ever dare say.  I love the stories and folklore, the magic of it all and I often tell my kids about the fairies and other creatures that live among us.  We have slowly named areas and landmarks on our land, some names are quite practical, for example: the chicken yard, the garden, the drive way, or the wood lot. Other names are a bit more magical (and I’m always thinking of new ones), we have: The Mother Tree, Little Tree, Orchard Meadow, Greenman, and the Shay.  The Shay is a small area of land that we intend to keep wild, with very little modification, there is one Juniper tree that stands in the area, who is the guardian, he has yet to be named, and we plan on planting a few more (native of course).  In the Shay we are very careful not to leave any trace we have been there, unless they are gifts to the fairies that make it their home.  The kids have made small fairy houses out of bits of bark, moss and other natural materials and on occasion they will leave little bits of food, crusts of bread from a picnic or crumbs from a cake, to keep our fairy folk happy so they will bring us good luck.

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This weekend a bit of whimsy washed over us and we decided to build us a fairy castle, of course made of the finest material available.  We found a fairly flat area in The Shay, collected materials and went to work. (I got the idea here: http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/wildlife-wall)

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In all practicality what we were creating was a habitat or home for beneficial insects and places for smaller mammals and birds to hide.  A land that is teaming with life, from bug to human, is healthy, nourishing and giving.  Just the thing we are working to create.  When a land is sterile of all the little creatures it is dead, physically and spiritually, it cannot nourish.

Inviting the fairies invites life. IMG_5951 IMG_5952 

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Those Darn Rabbits (or are they Hares)

The purpose of this post is not to discuss the difference between rabbits and hares, but to discuss a way to keep them from killing the trees in your orchard.

We noticed that one of our apple trees had some bark damage several inches above the snow line.

Rabbit/Hare marksWe don’t know for sure if it was the Cottontails (rabbit) or Jack Rabbits (hares) that are doing the nibbling.  But for sure the tracks say it was either a rabbit or a hare that was making a treat of our apple tree.  So we needed to solve the problem.  The thing you want to do is to make it so that the rabbit either can’t eat the bark, or is unable to lift itself up comfortably to eat the bark.

To solve this problem, we used some old hardware cloth.

IMG_5658I cut the hardware cloth into squares, and then created a circle around the base of the tree.  I also made sure that I put the cut ends up.  This would make it so that if the rabbit/hare tried to rest on it to get above it, the sharp ends of the wire would keep them from resting their paws on them.

IMG_5659I did this around all of the trees in the orchard.  I would like to note, that we do have black flex drain pipe around the bottom of the trees to protect, but with the recent snow and drifting, the snow is now above the drain pipe.

IMG_5660Maybe not the most elegant solution, but time will tell if it is a productive solution.  Hopefully this cheap fix will keep the rabbits/hares are bay and help us be able to survive the winter and bring us fruit in the next few years.