Monday, August 29, 2005

Blue Jays – Even the Bird World has its Rascals

The mischievous blue jays [Cyanocitta cristata] have returned as they do year after year. Mid summer they always leave the local bird population in relative peace and free of gang warfare but alas there is peace no more. The American robins [Turdus migratorius] take particular exception to this gang behaviour on their turf. And in winter the Jays are fighting with the (Northern) Cardinals [Cardinalis cardinalis], they just won’t quit.

Among this gang is one blue jay that has a distorted call. When it tries to call, cajole or cry out, all it can muster is a strange cackle or rattle. That same distinctive bird and its cohorts have returned each year that we have been here.

A very predatory orange cat that we thought at first was feral, but now think belongs to one of our neighbours, and that they appropriately call “Venom” continuously visits us. We keep our two cats “Brutus” – the bully-boy-bruiser – a big neutered orange and white bowling ball, and “Missy” our affectionate and fluffy Birman, (looks like a fluffy Siamese cat) indoors from late fall – when it is too cold – to mid summer.
We don’t let our cats out until mid August, when the bird hatchlings have all fledged and gone into adolescence, and even then we only let the cats out for short day trips.

Venom and Brutus seem to like to hang out together. I fear however that Venom is teaching Brutus some bad bird catching tricks.

Back to the blue jays, they make excellent warning sentinels for the cats. The cats are easily found by following the cacophony of blue jays who will follow the cats while calling the alarm of imminent danger from the tree tops overhead. It helps me find and chase Venom away with my handful of rocks for throwing, which by the way is very inaccurate while on the run.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Scream in the Grass

In the middle of this afternoon will walking into the tall grass near the house I heard a peculiar little scream being repeated. As I walked closer to the source of this sound I found a garter snake that had caught a leopard frog by the hind legs and started to consume it. The snake was of a medium size while the frog was quite large, so the eating process was quite tedious and slow, the frog of course was under stress and quite alive and thus screaming. It is a very peculiar sound coming from a frog. As I approach the situation the snake would back up into the grass, but it was easy enough to find because of the repeated call from the frog. I decided to let nature take its course and not to interfere.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

ATV - Quite the Tool for a Small Operation

Three weeks ago I procured a 1997 Suzuki King Quad ATV. It has 2-wheel, 4-wheel, or 4-wheel differential-lock wheel settings; three gear range settings - high, low and super low; and 5 forward shift speeds and one reverse. So one could say that it has 18 speeds (6 speeds for each range setting). This 300 cc engine equipped ATV is apparently considered one of the best for low speed and high torque work.

The ATV came with a forward winch, a ball hitch and a chain grab hook also fastened to the hitch. About chains, several years ago I happened to have purchased an ols style logging chain at a farm auction, never really thinking that I could use it for anything more elegant that pulling other vehicles out of a rut with my 4X4 ’91 Dodge Power Ram 150. The chain has a grab hook at one end and a slip hook at the other.

A grab hook is shaped with a slot allowing the hook to grab a link in a chain whereas the slip hook allows the chain to slip through like a lasso.

I was quite impressed with what this little machine can do. I was comfortably able to skid very sizeable – up to 30 cm (12 in.) diameter at the butt end and 5 metre (16 ft.) long – logs.

So the logging chain has been used extensively for the last weeks of my summer holidays. Skidding logs can be a very dangerous mind you, if the chain is not properly hitched to the tractor. For example is a report of a fatality caused by the chain being fastened too high on the tractor hitch and used on steep terrain. In the case of the ATV thankfully the hitch is exactly at the level of the rear axle. When the load is too heavy such as when a skidded log gets stuck behind a stump, in super low and differential lock, the four tires will merely dig four holes. Also the terrain on this woodlot is quite level having been a farm.

To move rocks of up to 500 pounds, I built a 1-M. (3 ft.) by 1.5 M. (4 ft.) stoneboat or sledge, out of 2 inch diameter logs, that I can tow behind the ATV.

Larger rocks simply don’t let the sledge move but these can be rolled by wrapping a chain around the bottom of the rock using the grab hook and then pull the chain over the rock to roll it several metres (yards) at a time with the ATV. This will not work for flat shaped rocks of that size.