www.RogerWendell.com
Roger J. Wendell
Defending 3.8 Billion Years of Organic EvolutionSM
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Backyard Wildlife
Golden, Colorado

Buck helps me work on the car!
"Buck" enjoys helping
me work on the car!
We're pretty lucky in that we live near a chunk of Green Mountain open space that brings all kinds of deer, coyotoe, fox, raccoon, skunk, snakes, birds and other creatures into our backyard. Nevertheless, even when our first house was deeply surrounded by city we made sure all these creatures were welcome by keeping plenty of water, birdfeed, and natural cover available for "anyone" who wanted to stop by!
 
 

 

 

Click on any of this page's "Thumbnail" images for a larger view:

Woody Woodpecker:

Sometime in the very early 2000s one of the large Aspen trees, on the north side of our house, died and dried out. Much to our delight, the woodpeckers started hammering on it each spring - better that than the wood trim around our house! Anyway, in the first two photos I was able to capture one of the birds "working" during Spring, 2005 (if you click on either photo, and look closely, you can make him out pretty well...). I noted that by fall they were gone so I resolved to take some close-up photos, the next fall, assuring the birds were long gone and wouldn't be disturbed...
Bird One Spring 2005 Bird Two Spring 2005
Bird One Spring 2005 Bird Two Spring 2005
Since I was traveling a lot, during the fall of '06, I had to take most of these woodpecker photos on September 3rd. Nevertheless, I was pretty sure the woodpeckers were long gone and I wasn't disturbing them. Again, using my simple Canon PowerShot A70 (3.2 Mega Pixels) camera, and "snake" LED penlight from my toolbox, I was actually able to photograph some of the feathering inside the woodpecker's nest in the last photo. No easy task considering not only my primitive photography equipment but that I was 20 feet (6 metres) off the ground and barefoot while I did it!!

(Notice how much darker the dead bark turned in just a year and a half between the first two photos and the eight I took on September 3rd! Also, the small bit of wire visible, in the upper right-hand photo, is part of my Ham radio antenna...)

Yellow Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for wasps and other insects in my backyard and around the world...

 

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Kelly, Mike and the Deer:

Sunday morning, June 5th, 2005 - these two didn't seem to mind Kelly and Mike watching them until I showed up with a camera that had a flash that wouldn't shut off...

Kelly, Mike and the Deer 06-05-2005 Kelly, Mike and the Deer 06-05-2005 Mike gets ready to photograph the Deer 06-05-2005 Mike photographs the Deer 06-05-2005 Mike photographs the Deer 06-05-2005 Mike watches the deer leave on 06-05-2005

 

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Fox Fotos:

In the Spring of '05 Tami took these fox photos through various screened windows
around the house. Sometimes the view is better into Chuck's yard (he's the golfer...),
next door, but you still get the idea of what's taking place in and all around our own yard!

Kit and Mom Spring 2005
Kit and mom
Kit Plays Golf Spring 2005
Kit plays golf
Kit Walking Spring 2005
Walking the trim
Kits and Mom
Kits and mom
Mom and Golf
Mom and golf...
Mom and Kits Spring 2005
Mom and kits
Mom Carriers Kit Spring 2005
Mom carries kit
Mom on Ridge Spring 2005
Mom on ridge
Sleeping on Steps Spring 2005
Sleeping on steps
Snow Kits and Mom Spring 2005
Snow, kits and mom

 

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Deer, Garter Snake and "Rattler"

Here are some earlier photos taken by Tami (I photographed the rattler going up the trail
behind our house). Skunk, Coyote, and Raccoon are difficult to capture by camera but we'll keep trying...

Deer in the Fall of 2002
Fall 2002
Deer in the Summer 2003
Summer 2003
Deer in the Summer 2003
Summer 2003
A Mom and Her Fawns
Summer Heat See text below
Two Deer in our yard May 20, 2005
Tami's photo

In "Tami's Photo," far right/above, she writes; "I took this picture out the backdoor on May 20th [2005]. They seemed so relaxed! The one on the left is the mom, the one on the right is a young buck - the other "fawn" was up on the hill eating. I think these are the same ones from last year, so this is their 2nd year. They were in the backyard this morning as well, napping under the pine tree...with all these deer, I don't think I'll be growing tomatoes this year :)"

- Tami, 2005

YouTube Logo - Small Click Here for Tami's YouTube video of a buck rubbing its antlers through a bush in our backyard!

 

Here are the snakes:

Rattlesnake 300 feet up from the house - 10-05-2002
Rattlesnake on our hill
Sally White is a local naturalist who wrote me in April '08 about some of the snakes on this page. Here's what she had to say, "'The little "snake in a bucket' is a young Western Terrestrial Garter snake, quite harmless as I'm sure you figured out. We had one at the Morrison Natural History Museum when I worked there; it's a good place to learn to identify native snakes. You may also run across Plains Garter snakes up on the mtn; more green with a yellow stripe down the back. Another snake that is often mistaken for a baby rattlesnake is the juvenile Yellow-bellied Racer. They are spotted and aggressive (tho harmless) and often killed because of the resemblance. (Adults are solid gray-green with yellow bellies...)."

Sally also said, "Anyway, just wanted to say good job on the site, and great job educating people on not feeding wildlife and controlling pets, etc. Thanks for being kind to rattlesnakes."

 

Driveway Snake - 05-23-2006
Spring 2006
On May 23, 2006 (Tuesday) I found this small snake sliding sideways down our driveway, in the front of the house. Interesting to note that as I got close he attempted to strike at the camera a few times. At the time of the photo I wasn't sure what kind of snake it was but Sally White wrote me, in Apirl '08, to tell me that it was a young Western Terrestrial garter snake - thank you Sally! vertical Divider Driveway Snake - 05-23-2006
In the bucket...
Driveway Snake - 05-23-2006
Leaving the bucket!
I was able to easily pick this little snake up, in my hand, while watering the backyard on June 09, 2007 (Saturday afternoon). I suspect the cold water (it comes out of our faucets icy cold!) is what made him sluggish. The first photo is with the snake still in the bucket and adjacent my expired camera batteries. The flash "washed" the image out, a lot, but it still is pretty interesting...

 

Snake eating a snake!

Snake eating a snake on our backyard deck - 07-09-2011 Tami discovered this snake devouring its smaller cousin when she went out to our back deck to remove laundry from the clothesline. Interesting to note that that same morning we discovered a small snake sunning itself ontop of the bushes that line our driveway - none of the three that day looked alike.

YouTube Logo - Small Click Here for a YouTube video of the snake-eating-snake incident!

 

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Fawn at my feet:

Fawn at my feet in the backyard - 06-03-2006
Spring 2006
A mom and her fawn in our backyard - 06-03-2006
Spring 2006
On June 03, 2006 I had to get into the backyard even though I knew this mom and her two brand-new fawns were taking refuge there. Both babies had really wobbly knees and couldn't walk very well so I suspect they were only a day or two old. The one fawn, in this photo, froze at my feet without moving a muscle. The doe stood and watched from about 40 feet away - reuniting with her two little ones about half an hour after my departure...

 

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Summer Heat:

During the summer of 2005 Tami and I noticed that the deer were spending more and more time in our backyard (see the "Summer Heat" photo in the "Deer and Rattler" section, above). Part of this may be due to us not taking vacation until the fall - thus being around the house a lot more than usual. Anyway, on Sunday June 10th, a mom and her two fawns spent nearly the entire day relaxed under our trees in the backyard. I think they feel it's a relatively safe-haven since it's sheltered, has no dogs, and humans don't spend a lot of time back there. Either way, it's fun for us to occassional look out a window and see them and the little ones so relaxed and content!

One of two birdbaths in our backyard - 05-31-2006 Oh, other measures we take include NOT using chemicals on our lawn, trees or shrubs unless aboslutley necessary. Also, we pretty much allow the deer to eat whatever they want - if it's something dear to us (so to speak!) we either cover it or just avoid growing it altogether. For the most part, the deer are good about not completely destroying any one particular plant unless it's some kind of tender garden morsel! Finally, we always make sure the birdbath has plenty of water* each day since not only do the birds appreciate it, but we've seen the raccoons (only at night), fox, deer, wasps and other insects drink from it regularly as well. The wasps, by the way, use the water for the construction of their mud and paper nests. One of two birdbaths in our backyard - 08-13-2006

Insects are so important in all of this as well. I'm saddened by our lack of concern, and general disrespect, for the insect life that should be flourishing around our properties. I write more about this on my Insects page (of course!)...

- Roger, 2005

*Each day, when possible, I completely empty the birdbath (onto the lawn) and refresh it with clean water. And, a few times each year, I add bleach to the water to free it of the algae and other growths that quickly accumulate during the warmer months. When I use the bleach I'm very careful to cover it so there's no chance of any wildlife coming into contact with the toxin...

 

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Did You Know?

Cats kill, across the United States, hundreds of millions of birds and more than a billion small mammals each year (rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and shrews - not to mention endagered species but countless reptiles and insects as well). Cats are not natural to North America and they continue to kill wildlife even if well fed or wearing bells.

 

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Our "old" Birdfeeder:

By the spring of 2006, when I took these photos, this particular birdfeeder was well over five years old. It was an inexpensive model made of plain wood and clear plastic windows. In the very early 2000s I glued some thick shingles to its roof - I think this is what helped preserve it. Unfortunately in July, 2006 this particular birdfeeder was partially destroyed when I left it on the picnic table to dry overnight after a cleaning - the wind, or "something," (probably the raccoons in our backyard?) knocked it over and broke it. So, I went out and bought a new "tube" style birdfeeder which you can see in the second set of photographs below. Anyway, it's been a lot of fun to watch as all kinds of birds and wildlife stop by for a snack at our birdfeeders. Sometimes there will be a dozen or two birds on and around the feeder - unfortunately they're never too patient with me and my camera so these photos, below, are about all I'm able to acquire - if you click on 'em you will see a small bird or two on the feeder.

The deer enjoyed to pushing on the "old" feeder to pour some seed into their mouths. And, of course, the squirrels are constantly foraging around the base (that black canister, up near the "old" feeder itself, was a "squirrel baffle" that kept critters from crawling up into the feeder). Unfortunately neighborhood cats wait at the base of the feeder as well. I often chase them off but don't know what else to do about the problem?

Anyway, Tami says I spoil the birds as I go to great lengths to ensure there's always a little something for them to eat - especially in the dead of winter. However, at times during the summer I let the feeder go empty for a day or two as I want them to get into the habit of cleaning up all of the seeds they drop. I try to keep the plants and brush clear of the feeder and the nearby birdbath but want the backyard to remain as "natural" as possible...

Our backyard bird feeder - May 31, 2006 Our backyard bird feeder - May 31, 2006 Our backyard bird feeder - May 31, 2006 Our backyard bird feeder - May 31, 2006 Our backyard bird feeder - May 31, 2006

YouTube Logo - Small Click Here for a YouTube video of our birdbath and birdfeeder...

Our "new" Birdfeeder:

As I explained, above, our "old" birdfeeder was partially destroyed when I left it out open all night to dry after a cleaning. So, I thought I'd experiment with this newer style "Tube" feeder and it seems to be working out okay, so far... Due to its design, I was able to remove the "old" squirrel baffle and believe the deer have lost interest in it as well. The birds seem to be going through about the same amount of seed as they did with the "old" feeder. There may be a little bit less waste, with the tube feeder, as the larger birds can only feed off the ground and the deer aren't tipping the unit either.

Our New backyard bird feeder - July 29, 2006 Our New backyard bird feeder - July 29, 2006 Our New backyard bird feeder - July 29, 2006 Our New backyard bird feeder - July 29, 2006 Our New backyard bird feeder - July 29, 2006 Our New backyard bird feeder - July 29, 2006

The bad news is that this new tube type birdfeeder, with the surrounding cage, cost nearly $90 USD once the taxes were tacked on. That's quite a bit of money for a birdfeeder, especially considering the hanger system was already in place and would probably have added another $40 to the total cost! The good news is that there may be some long term savings in birdseed due to a reduction in waste - the deer aren't able to tip the feeder for a quick snack and there seems to be a lot less seed dropped on the ground. Of course, as some have reminded me, a real savings could be realized by not feeding the birds in the first place! But, the whole idea is to attract wildlife to our backyard for not only our personal enjoyment but to help nature combat the huge cities that now dominate the natural world...

- Roger J. Wendell
Summer, 2006
Winter Birdfeeder - 12-30-2006 Here's our new bird feedeer being tested after Denver's Christmas snowstorms of 2006. With waist-deep snow it's sometimes difficult to keep the bath and feeder clear. Nevertheless, it's important to attmept keeping food accessible during such harsh winter conditions conditions...

 

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In the nearly five years that we've lived on Green Mountain, by the time I created this entry in June '07, I had discovered nearly two dozen piles of bird feathers in our yard and around the house. And, I've also seen the neighbors' cats scurrying away from me, in my yard, with all kids of limp and dying creatures clamped tightly in their their jaws. There's no doubt that neighborhood cats are really destructive to backyard wildlife along with dogs also contributing to the killing as well. So, it was with some interest that I saw this neighborhood warning about the disappearance of these pets:
GMCA Green Mountainside News
Volume 12 No.2 June 2007/September 2007

Take Precautions with Wild Predators
We're living in coyote country -- The Lakewood Animal Control and the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) urge people to take precautions. Several recent coyote attacks on pets have taken place in open space areas and private yards.

In coyote country, January-March is breeding season, which can make these animals aggressive and territorial. "Coyotes are adaptable predators, found in most open habitats, including city neighborhoods, open space, parks and trails" said DOW District Wildlife Manager Crystal Peterson.

Coyotes should be treated with caution and respect:

[They go on to list how to protect pets, discourage coyotes, and what to do during an encounter, etc.]

A COMPANION ALERT IS THAT NEXT UP THE FOOD CHAIN ARE MOUNTAIN LIONS!
The lions will follow the deer and coyotes that have been attracted by food left out in the neighborhood. DON'T DO IT! As harsh as this winter has been it is part of the natural cycle and it is how nature will cull the herd on Green Mountain.

 

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Skulls and Bones
"Exposure to rotting flesh presents immediate hazards to health and well-being. Although these risks drop in direct proportion to a bone's cleanliness, they never go away completely. Three major infections may be caused by ahndling decaying remains without proper precautions: blood poisoning, botulism, and tetanus."

- Glenn Searfoss in his 1995 book, Skulls and Bones, p. 210

 

Over the years I've discovered a lot of animal bones in our backyard. Most have been the leg or rib bones from deer - probably dragged into our yard by the occasional coyote or neighbor's dog. On the afternoon of March 24, 2008, I discovered the little skull that you see in the three photos at left. That little still had a lot of red in it - indicating a relatively fresh death I assume? Or, maybe it was neatly preserved in the snow that had been in our backyard, most of the winter, that hadn't melted until just a day or two ago? Either way, it's a captivating little skull - maybe representing one of my neighbors' lost pets or, possibly, one of the small raccoons or foxes that find their way through our yard on occasion? If anybody out there is able to identify this skull I'd appreciate an email!

The two photos to the right are of a larger skull that I found almost exactly one year later and just a few metres away from where I found the smaller skull in our backyard. This skull still has a bit of dried flesh on the snout but I can't tell what it was. So, if anybody out there is good at identifying skulls please contact me!

Animal Skull, Front - 03-24-2008
Front
Animal Skull, Side - 03-24-2008
Side
Animal Skull, Back - 03-24-2008
Back
Small Skull, Side - 03-22-2009
Side
Small Skull, Front - 03-22-2009
Front

YouTube Logo - Small Click Here for a YouTube video of both the little skulls together...

 

Buffalo Skull

On Thursday morning, March 19 '09, we woke to find this buffalo skull in our backyard (This set of photos was taken on Saturday morning, two days later, when we had a little more time). As you can see, most of the skin, eyes, and other tissues were mostly gone and the poor thing had that distinct smell of rotting carcass. Of course the main questions are where did it come from and why is it in our yard? There is a buffalo herd about 16 kilometres (10 miles ) from our house, along Interstate 70 but the creatures would have had to dodge an awful lot of traffic to make it to our neighborhood!

My bicycle/backpack hanging scale weighed the skull in at 5.9 kilograms (13.1 pounds). I telephoned the Division of Wildlife and they seemed surprisingly uninterested in our find - suggesting it probably came from some ranch but having no idea how it would have ended up in our neighborhood. So, I think this buffalo skull in our backyard is going to remain a mystery for a very long time...

Buffalo Head in our Backyard - 03-21-2009 Buffalo Head in our Backyard - 03-21-2009 Buffalo Head in our Backyard - 03-21-2009 Buffalo Head in our Backyard - 03-21-2009 Buffalo Head in our Backyard - 03-21-2009

YouTube Logo - Small Click Here for a YouTube video of the buffalo skull in our backyard!

Mystery solved!!

On May 17, 2009 we were attending a neighborhood gathering where we learned Jim, a few houses down, had purchased five buffalos in South Dakota. Apparently in addition to preserving the meat, for future meals, Jim is fond of preserving the skulls as well! And, obviously, some wild critters got a hold of this particular skull and dragged it through our part of the neighborhood...

 

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Racoons

Raccoon in our backyard 09-10-2012 In addition to being nocturnal and elusive, raccoons in my neighborhood are especially difficult to see because some of my Green Mountain neighbors don't hesitate in poisoning them, coyotes, and any other wildlife in the area. Never mind that domestic dogs and cats run wild around here - a few miscreants feel it necessary to poison and kill wildlife.

Anyway, one late summer evening I was pleased to discover this relatively young raccoon up in an Austrian Pine outside our bedroom window. A bit difficult to photograph but darn rewarding to know there are still a few of these critters left in our neighborhood!

 

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Links:

  1. Animals
  2. Biodiversity
  3. Biology
  4. Climate Change
  5. Deer in the gate - a very unfortunate situation...
  6. Deep Ecology
  7. Earth Day
  8. Evolution
  9. Extinction
  10. Green Mountain
  11. Insects
  1. Leave No Trace - Center for Outdoor Ethics
  2. National Wildlife Federation backyard wildlife habitat
  3. Paleontology
  4. Pets
  5. Plants
  6. Prairie Dogs
  7. Recycle
  8. Simple things YOU can do for the Earth
  9. Snow Day
  10. Travel and Travel Two
  11. USDA - Plants database for the U.S. and its territories

 

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