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Archive for March, 2016

Took it from too great a distance. Yeah, there are anhingas in South Carolina.

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Brown pelicans!

The headwinds on the beach are really strong today, which means the brown pelicans are flying low.  So plenty of opportunities to photograph this most elegant of pelicans.

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Myrtle beach wildlife

I’m at Myrtle Beach for a few days. Here are some wild animals.

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Okay, not so wild…

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On the Primos Workhorse camera, eating goat pellets!

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Winter kill

I’ve known about this dead doe since about December. She fed the coyotes, ravens, crows, and blue jays fairly well. Maybe a bobcat or a fox stopped by for a snack.

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The coyotes have strewn deer hide and hair all over, and I think I’m going to set up the trail camera here. I’ll put some lure on the deer hair and on the bones to see if I can get the coyotes again.

This deer died at the confluence of two deer trails, and it will be the perfect place to set up.

We might get some really interesting animals!

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dog fight frans snyders

What follows applies to me as well, and yes, there is an apology coming.

If you spend more than an hour visiting the various forums and online media devoted to dogs, you’ll notice something very quickly.

Lots of people are unnecessarily mean to each other. You see people fighting over stuff that no one even thought to fight over ten years ago, and for some reason, the dog world is where it’s perfectly acceptable to be an asshole.

When you add to the dog world the appearance of  anonymity of the online experience,  you get to see what happens when the dog world meets the online disinhibition effect. What happens is that when people go online, people choose user names, and it becomes somewhat easier to feel that no one knows who you are. If no one knows who you are, then it is okay to let your hair down and fight as dirty as you like.

When you add all the controversies that exist in the dog world to this effect, you have a very toxic milieu in which one can discuss anything.

I admit it. I went down this path for a time, but to be honest with you, I came of age on this site when the whole damned dog blogosphere was nothing but poo-flinging apes writing screeds about how stupid “the others” were. I thought it was perfectly okay for me to be stroppy, and I wasn’t just stroppy:  I was cruel.

I apologize with deepest sincerity for that time.

I don’t think it helped anyone, and when you’re in your 20s, every man goes through an angry young man stage.  I’m finished with being so angry. I’d rather use this space to educate and discuss things I love, not things I hate.

Unfortunately, others will have never outgrown their angry young man stage. Finding men who write about dogs is kind of a tough challenge. Most people who write about dogs are women, and I think the reason is pretty simple. Men are way too into hierarchy with each other, and if two men disagree in the world of dogs (which is guaranteed to happen), there will be war.

Deep down, I am a beta male. I don’t like using the terms from the worst of the misogyny movement, but I’m not a chest-thumping silverback of any kind. I am not happy when I’m tearing someone down. It actually makes me miserable. And my guess is that it works the same way for those in the dog blogosphere who still think the best way to operate is to by bullying and Trumpizing everything.

And I’ve also hit the place where I know enough about dogs to admit to you that I don’t know enough.

And that should be good enough.

I’m done writing about stuff that can never be solved.

I’ve gone through a period of being disillusioned with lots of things, and now I am feeling that I’ve been able to clear away some of the thorny bushes and I can see more clearly into the forest.

What I see is better than what existed before, but it might not be to your liking.

That’s okay.

I’m fine with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After the stealth dog

stealth dog

After my success calling coyotes, I’ve decided to go for something quite a bit tougher.

I want to bring you photos of a gray fox that I’ve called in during the day.

This is going to be a challenge. Trust me.

I’ve seen coyotes abroad in the afternoon. I’ve also seen red foxes cross the road in front of me, and the only reasons I’m not focusing on them is that most people have seen them before and the area I’m working with is not superior red fox habitat.

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve only seen one gray fox out in the day, and I’ve written about it on here a few times. Let’s just say that I thought it was a cougar running down the hill at me! But then I realized it was awfully small.

This challenge is made difficult because gray foxes aren’t social animals in the same way coyotes are. Through howling with the diaphragm at night and getting some response howls, I was able to figure out about where the coyotes were,  and by trial and error, I was able to get myself into a spot where one could be called in.

Gray foxes don’t howl. They make some vocalizations, but almost all of them are signs of distress or aggression. The gray fox call I have, which is also a diaphragm, makes many odd vocalization. It’s actually very easy to make the raspy warning bark that these foxes are known for. Unfortunately, because that sound is an alarm bark, it really can’t be used to attract them. The sound I make is supposed to mimic a fox fight, which is supposed to tick off the resident pair to come in ready to fight the brawling intruders.

Coyotes tend to find resting places that are usually some distance from logging roads. That way, they aren’t going to be bothered by people as much. Gray foxes tend to choose the most inaccessible thickets in the steepest of hollows.  It’s not that you have to walk a long way. It’s that you have to be ready to do some mountaineering to get there.

So this weekend, I tried my hand at gray fox calling. I called one in, but it happened just as it was getting dark, and I honestly wasn’t expecting it. My camera was set to take photos a long distance out, and this thing just sort of appeared on a log about 8 feet from me. I couldn’t get the camera adjusted in time before the fox jumped off the log and ran off.

The challenge is that I’m after a small dog, which varies from the size of a Yorkie to the size of Jack Russell. It prefers dense thickets in really hard to access terrain. It is very rarely seen in broad daylight. It’s very stealthy in how it moves through the forest, and it’s gray. I don’t know if you’ve seen West Virginia in late March, but the entire forested landscape is gray. You can look out from a high point and see nothing but gray, gray, gray.

I know that some people might think this a bit odd. You see gray foxes in your suburban neighborhood all the time. What’s the big deal?

The thing is that those suburban gray foxes aren’t exactly like ones found here. The ones here are heavily pressured. They are deemed an agricultural pest because of what they can do to poultry. They aren’t as hard on poultry as red foxes are, but that doesn’t mean they never lift a chicken. Their pelts are worth something, and they often are caught in traps set for red foxes.

I am also beginning my gray fox quest just a few weeks before the vixens give birth. If the local gray foxes were trying to stay hidden before, they really are now. Very young gray foxes are at the age when they are most vulnerable to coyote predation, and instinct tells the parents that they have to choose really hard access den sites.

I also want to show you what a strange animal a gray fox actually is. There is no other canid quite like it. I have a deep lamentation that we call this animal a “gray fox” and not something that points to its uniqueness. This is the most genetically distinct of all dogs. It last shared a common ancestor with all the rest of the dog family some 9-10 million years ago. It’s the last survivor of its lineage.

This is the only canid in the Americas that is adapted to climbing trees, and it’s the only canid I know that has a black stripe running down its tail, which can be raised and lowered like a hackle.

I know this is going to be a challenge, but I think it’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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