Howling Coyotes and Ignorant Neighbors


Sunning Coyote Photo by Richard Spencer

There are coyotes in them thar woods.  For the past few weeks now, the coyotes have been singing – their yips and howls echoing down the canyon walls of Lake Cumberland and causing our dogs to bolt out the pet door into the fenced yard, barking and bristling at the hoodoos in the woods.  I love it.

Not everyone around here thinks the same as I do though.  One of our neighbors stopped by last night to chat with my hubs, and talked about how the coyotes were getting out of hand.  Too many of them, killing off the deer.  Really?  Is that really the case, or are you just a less-than-adequate hunter?

If one is lucky enough to either stay up all night (hardly) or be a very light sleeper who sleeps with her window open a few inches, no matter how cold it is, so she can hear the night sounds outside – and if one really listens  to the wild, wonderful serenade, one would be able to discern there are maybe five or six voices in the two,  rarely three – groups that are singing.  Granted, there may be several groups that don’t all call at once, and there’s no way to really know how many are out there – but I don’t think we’re surrounded and outnumbered by a population “out of hand.”  It’s also important to remember that these are coyotes,  not wolves, not cougars…and they pose no threat.  They most assuredly are not taking down full-grown deer.  There are plenty of those around here too; they probably outnumber the coyotes.

It’s winter – so there are no newborn fawns, which coyotes will take if they can. But coyotes are omnivores, eating whatever they can find.   This bunch of canine ruffians are more likely to be feeding on mice and voles, rabbits,  flying squirrels, skunks, insects, groundhogs, carrion, nuts, chipmunks, and yes, feral cats – though around here there’s a tree about every two feet so any cat with half a brain could save itself.  There is no shortage of feral cats around here either.  If you really think about it, coyotes prey on many of the animals people complain about having around in the first place!

Some coyotes will prey on farm animals like chickens, sheep and goats when the opportunity is available to them, but this usually happens when wild food sources become scarce.


As a matter of fact, another neighbor, about half a mile away through the woods behind our house, has a goat farm – for several years now.  I asked her if the coyotes have been a problem – especially since they have goat kids every spring – and if she puts them in the barn at night to protect them.  Nope.  No coyote problems, not even an attempt.  The coyotes sing all around the goat farm, but apparently prefer rodents to ruminants.

We live in the Daniel Boone National Forest, for Pete’s sake!  Personally, I feel privileged to be able to hear the coyotes at night, and have been known to leap out of bed and bolt out the door with the dogs (though I use the people door) just to hear them singing.  In a world gone crazy, it’s actually one of the most reassuring sounds.  It tells me that, at least in this particular place, all is right with the world, and all is as it should be.

I Don’t Want to Talk About It

I’ll just say that this blog vacation has done some good, and I’m ready to blog Natural Notes again.  I know I’ve said that before, but apparently, I wasn’t as ready as I thought, and that’s all I’m going to offer on that subject.  Thanks to all of the folks who keep reading and commenting and reminding me that this blog is still being visited, in spite of my neglect.  Amazing to me. Thank you.

So, in a nutshell, so to speak,  here’s a rundown of the past few months:

Cats – about 12 I think, we’ve stopped counting.  Most stay outside, much to my chagrin, but they are neutered or spayed and mostly feral, and don’t seem to have an interest in hunting after they are neutered.    The rest are  fixtures around the house.  All are strays or offspring of strays we haven’t been able to neuter or spay yet.

Dogs – holding at four.

House – still finishing the remodel we started 3 years ago.  Does it ever end?  Have to finish the flooring now.  Big job.

Work – I’ve had a pretty good year actually with my primitives shop – Cave Creek Primitives.  Started selling wholesale which boosted my workload, but bought lots of cat food.

Nature – Out and about as much as I’m able.  Started walking with my friend Brenda, up and down the hills here, about 2 miles almost every day.  Weight coming off slowly and heart still working, so I’m good.

Resolutions – It’s not January yet so I’m still thinking about it.

Pretty boring, huh?   Today is absolutely gorgeous outside. . hard to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  It feels more like September out there, the sun is shining and it’s warm enough to open all the windows and turn off the heat (yay!).   If this is Global Warming, I’m all for it.  Just kidding – I like warm weather and dislike winter, what can I say?

Cold Sleep and Sunshine

I was tending nets on a chilly, foggy morning a few days ago when I noticed several bumblebees on the underside of the goldenrod flowers.  These particular goldenrod plants were still in the shade, and a bit frosty. The bees were pretty frosty too.  Apologies for the blurry photo, but it was pretty difficult to get a good macro shot of the underside of a goldenrod swaying in the breeze – but if you look closely, you’ll see the beads of frost on the flower – and on the bee – especially its legs, wings and butt end.  Of course I know that lots of insects find shelter and go dormant on cold nights and I’ve often watched butterflies in particular, but this was the first time I’d found bumblebees on goldenrod.  It was sort of fitting.

As I watched the sunshine sliding down the field and the flowers beginning to warm, little bee antennae began waving, ever so slowly.  Then first one leg, then the other, in slow motion, but moving nevertheless.  In no time at all, both bees and flowers were nearly thawed.  It never ceases to amaze me the way Nature takes care of its own.  This is fast becoming my favorite field ever – can’t wait for spring!

What I Learned Today

That you don’t watch a documentary on the Kentucky Bigfoot the night before you go banding alone before sunrise in a foggy misty field.  That squirrels cutting walnuts from trees are potentially dangerous monsters.  That howling coyotes and vocalizing barred owls are creepy when it’s dark and foggy.  That you have to have a sense of humor and real dedication to be doing this…or be a little bit nuts.

The day warmed quickly and more birds started moving after the fog lifted.  A new species for me was this lovely yellow-throated vireo.

Also banded a nice hermit thrush, easily separated from other thrushes by the noticeably reddish tail.

The colors are beginning to show and I’m enjoying the changes taking place in the field where I’m banding.  I set up the feeders at home and I’m getting the first regulars – Carolina chickadees, white and red breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, and red-bellied woodpeckers.  Waiting for the goldfinches.  They are in the fields, but haven’t hit the feeders yet.

Bad Hair Day

A young male northern cardinal in molt, changing from the brown of adolescence to the brilliant red of maturity.

Fall Colors

Giant Swallowtail

photo credit: US F&W Service

This has been a phenomenal summer for butterflies.  In late August, there were hundreds along the road through the forest to the main road – mostly mourning cloaks, monarchs, fritillaries, and swallowtails.  One species I saw several times – including having one inside my studio at the window – was the giant swallowtail.

There is no mistaking this one when you see it – it looks about twice the size of the tiger swallowtail and had a heavy, labored-looking flight. The ones we saw around here seem to have wider brownish bands on them.  Simply beautiful.

There’s a rock cliff near our home that locals say was a salt quarry during the Civil War.  This place seemed to be a mecca for all sorts of butterflies.  They were obviously drinking up something on the ground and especially after a rain when there were puddles – but very often they would congregate in the dry gravel as well.  I have no idea what they were looking for – or finding.  Did I take the camera down there and get photos?  Of course not – at least not in August when the butterflies were numerous.  I did go yesterday, and there are still groups of mourning cloaks congregating there:

The field across from my banding nets is tall with wildflowers and grasses now, except for about a 6 foot wide path mowed by one of the neighbors – probably to allow the deer to wander through and be more visible to the hunters…ah well.

Anyway, I did manage to find this red admiral, looking a bit tired and tattered, but still very colorful.

I think I’m developing a new interest in butterflies.  I’m even considering tagging monarchs next year -something we did at the first RRBO back in the late 70s and early 80s.

In the meantime – back to the birdies.

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