Saturday, December 3, 2011

What's All the Ruckus?

Part of Jed and Ellie Mae’s job as our guard dogs is to alert us of anything unusual. However, their “definition” of unusual and ours is vastly different. More than once I have found myself saying “WHAT…What are you barking at?” only to realize I am talking to a dog.

The cold, clear nights of late fall and early winter cause all the wild critters to come out to forage. There are skunks and raccoons, and a LOT of deer. Quite often, the dogs will spend most of the night patrolling and barking. Then, they spend the rest of the day sleeping in order to recuperate for the following night. Yes, sometimes this is truly annoying. But, it is their nature, and part of the reason we have them.

Recently, the deer have been quite active. Not only is it the “rut” (mating season), it’s also hunting season. We see deer most every day. The Boss and I have both startled a doe (on separate occasions) within 50 feet of the house. So, the dogs have been doing a LOT of barking. We have learned to “zone them out”.

Thursday, they began barking during morning chores. Sure enough, when I looked, there was at least one deer visible. As I watched to see if more followed it up the hill, I heard yelling from down in town. Apparently, one of the town neighbors’ dog had escaped. First, the kid called the dog. Then, the mama called the dog. Then, the dad called the dog. Finally, the whole family called the dog. Each and every time they yelled, Jed and Ellie barked.

The bark of a Great Pyrenees is a deep and sonorous bark. It is an impressive, rather pleasing sound. (Unless, of course, it is the middle of the night.) The sound carries a long way so I was not surprised to see the neighbor’s vehicle come up the lane in response to the barking. Jed and Ellie bounded up the drive and barked at the gate. I suppose the neighbors realized these huge white “bark-meisters” were NOT their dog, because they drove off quickly. Things calmed down.

I had just decided what to have for breakfast, when they broke out barking again. NOW WHAT?? With the thought of a dog on the loose, I went back out to check the sheep. An aside here, more sheep are maimed, severely injured or killed by pet dogs than any other type of predator. So, a check of the sheep paddock was in order.

All the sheep were facing down the hill, staring intently at something. My immediate thought was that it must be the rogue dog. Since it was far enough away that the dogs couldn’t get to it and I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, I got my camera in order to use the telephoto to see better. I could tell it was a bird of some type. The size indicated a bird of prey. I figured it was a red-tailed hawk. We see those quite often. The hunting is quite good with all the undergrowth along the fencelines.

As I watched, one of the more curious sheep walked closer. When she did, the bird took flight. Jed and Ellie went nuts! What in the world? It was NOT a hawk, but a great blue heron. Herons are frequently seen fishing along Back Creek. This creek runs through the front of our property.

Jed and Ellie were not satisfied that the heron flew into the neighbor’s field. They fussed and worried over him/her until finally the heron flew away, and has not been seen since.

The rest of the day was relatively peaceful… Jed and Ellie Mae rested up for another round of farm patrol.

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