|Click on this for a better view. Isn't this a gorgeous coyote? He is crossing the field right in front of our house.|
Every day, it seems, we spot a new predator near our house. Last night it was a grey fox, the second time we have ever seen this small canine. It was the last of the possible canines to see. We've already spotted timber or grey wolf, eastern coyote and red fox.
I have gotten trail camera pics of a Canada lynx, Canada fisher and marten (aka pine marten.) I have seen the tracks of the least weasel. We also had three bears here in the early fall.
About the only thing left in the four-legged category are bobcat (rare here) and, possibly, the even more rare eastern cougar. I personally place the cougar in the myth category even though I saw something last week that made my heart jump. It was a cat, seemingly too large for a lynx, walking across our field in late morning. I strained my eyes for a long tail -- that would clinch it as a cougar but alas, I couldn't see one. So, I have put it down as the largest lynx ever.
I guess a wolverine isn't beyond the realm of possibility too. I would be thrilled to see one. I have a friend who lives about 15 miles away who found wolverine tracks in the snow last winter.
Then there are the avian predators. It started with a northern shrike. I saw it nail a junco right on the driveway. Next we had a sharp-shinned hawk terrorizing the pine grosbeaks at our feeders for about a week. Six of the panicked birds flew right into the windows of the sunroom and killed themselves. I think the hawk might have gotten an equal number on the wing. The sharpie disappeared right after I saw what can only be described as a white feathered missile. It went by our house and into the bush after the sharpie like a blur. I could only see that it was flying, not diving, and was mostly white.
It was way, way too fast for a snowy owl. The only two falcon possibilities are goshawk which I have seen a few times in my life and gyrfalcon which I have never seen. In reading up on the subject I suspect it was a gyrfalcon -- the fastest bird in the world for level flight. It hits 50-68 mph on the level. By comparison, the peregrine falcon chugs along at about 60. However, the falcon can dive at 242 mph, making it the fastest creature on the planet.
My mystery hawk was flying, not diving, and went across our yard and into the trees after the sharpie in a blink. So gyrfalcon it is, maybe.
At night we have the owl set working around the place. I have heard great-horned and barred owls frequently and found the gut pile of rabbits they have eaten.
No doubt the little saw-whet is in the bush behind the house too. Good luck seeing that one. However, next spring he might give himself away when he starts with his "back-up" alarm call.