I'm getting up close and personal with Nature a lot lately.
Not only the hiking, which is great of course, but yesterday's hummingbird in the living room, today's hornets on the hillside, and the things I see through my windshield as I drive in the dark and at dawn. Sunrise over the mountains. A cloud obscuring the summit of Cold Mountain. Critters.
A few nights ago I saw a coyote crossing the road just outside of Clyde. This morning's sighting was a bit more special: I saw a mink running down the side of the road.
The road, I should hasten to add, runs right next to the East Fork of the Pigeon River, prime habitat for something like a mink - especially due to the regular stocking of trout from our local hatchery, Sunburst Trout Farms, located on the West Fork of the Pigeon. I think they drive up and down with a truck full of water and fish, stocking both forks, every week. I see them a lot when I'm headed for the trails.
The truck pulls over, a guy jumps out and grabs a net on a pole, gets some fish out of the tank on the back of the truck, and runs to the river where he tosses the fish in. The trout dart around and jump a few times, then the fishermen pull up and start casting. (Personally, I am fantasizing about the tiny brook trout in the streams above the trails. I've seen the fish in there. I'll bet they're sweet and tasty to somebody who likes fish, but I'm not that guy. I just want to catch them and put them back.)
The thought occurred to me, the first time I saw the fishermen swoop in, was that hatchery fish, freshly released into the wild, might be used to food coming from above and thus not be very wary about fishing lures coming in either.
Last winter there was a flock of turkeys on the mountain across the street, and one morning on the road between Clyde and Bethel I had to stop to let a flock of truly enormous and obviously well-fed turkeys cross the road, the bright-blue head of the tom almost electric in my headlights.
Haven't seen many snakes yet this year. A dead timber rattlesnake fifty feet up the road from my house is about it. I am hoping that my black rat snake survived its ordeal with the Haywood EMC truck. It limped back to the house with a couple of inches of gut hanging out of its butt and disappeared into the foundation, but that was last year. I don't have mice yet, so maybe it is still around. I never used to see it much anyway. It was about four feet long, so a couple of inches of gut sticking out might have been a survivable injury.
Oh well. The hornet stings no longer pain me, except for a pair of really impressive ones - side by side like a snake bite - on the inside of my right calf, that actually caused bruising, and they only hurt when I touch them. I found the nest and retrieved my weed-whacker by catching the metal portion with my walking stick and carefully lifting it off of the nest. Yeah, it was right on top of it, more or less. The hornets started buzzing around and I cautiously made my retreat.
The hornets turned out to be just little yellow jackets making a nest next to a big rock. I'm going to leave them be for the moment; they appeared to be in the process of moving out when I went down for the weed-whacker. They said something about nasty neighbors being a hazard to their larvae.
Happy Hour Thread
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