One of the great joys of living in Northern Michigan is being able to observe a variety of wildlife right outside your back door. Every season brings challenges to both man and beast. Presently it is winter. Snow, wind, and below freezing temperatures are a daily event. Many Michiganers flee to the warm sun of the south, for me, I enjoy the peace and solace of winter, and make no mistake there is plenty of action outside.
One of my greatest adventures occurred several years ago. The crows were alerting the world of some sort of event in the yard next door. My neighbors yard is not just any yard but a large field adjacent to a grape vineyard and apple orchard. I walked over to see what was of such great concern. There on the snow lay a dead white tailed deer. The deer lay on its side completely intact but for a large wound in its thigh. The crows collected in the orchard and surrounding trees by the hundreds announcing this hearty meal.
I visited the carcass daily taking pictures and observing tracks. There was a wide assortment of large bird activity. I observed both crows and vultures in the area. On my next trip I noticed a dog like tract which I later learned was coyote. I have never seen a coyote in the area being the shy creatures they are, however they are very much here. Over the first several days the carcass became smaller. On one visit, to my great surprise, the carcass had been moved a few yards closer to the hills. Eventually it was torn in two at the hips and dragged to two different locations close by. On the final day of my observation the two pieces had been carried off to a den or community place I am not a part of.
This was a superb example of ‘the transfer of energy’ a concept I taught my students when studying ecosystems. The deer received its energy from the grasses, fruit, and grains it foraged. They received their energy from the sun, soil and water. The crows, vultures and coyotes received their energy from the venison etc. I have decided not include a photo of this raw but fascinating side of nature.
My bird feeders, the deer block and the apples and peanuts I leave here and there are also of great interest to a variety of creatures. I check these areas for live action. I find birds, mice (he or she lives in the birdhouse – scared me when I tried to clean it), American red squirrel, gray squirrel (we have an albino gray squirrel here), rabbit and deer tracks with each new snow. I also find mouse, vole, or other small rodent trails under the snow….funny little subway system.
After the next snow fall explore for tracks. They are fun to find and identify.