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.


Spring Count

I had a great time birding on Saturday morning for the Spring count.  My list for the day, from just before sunrise to about 2 PM.

60 species

Eastern Bluebird

Wild Turkey  4
Turkey Vulture  7
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2
Chuck-will’s-widow  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Red-headed Woodpecker  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  4
Downy Woodpecker  3
Northern Flicker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  6
Eastern Wood-Pewee  16
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
White-eyed Vireo  5
Red-eyed Vireo  30
Blue Jay  5

Nashville Warbler

American Crow  19
Cliff Swallow  6
Carolina Chickadee  12
Tufted Titmouse  8
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Carolina Wren  11
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  13
Eastern Bluebird  3
Swainson’s Thrush  2
Wood Thrush  16
American Robin  7
Gray Catbird  1
Brown Thrasher  4
European Starling  10
Ovenbird  24
Blue-winged Warbler  4
Black-and-white Warbler  5
Nashville Warbler  3
Common Yellowthroat  6
Hooded Warbler  24
American Redstart  5


Northern Parula  2
Magnolia Warbler  1
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  2
Chestnut-sided Warbler  5
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-throated Warbler  1
Prairie Warbler  6
Wilson’s Warbler  1
Yellow-breasted Chat  10
Eastern Towhee  9
Chipping Sparrow  7
Song Sparrow  8
Scarlet Tanager  5
Northern Cardinal  19
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  4
Indigo Bunting  18
Red-winged Blackbird  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
Baltimore Oriole  4
American Goldfinch  2

Rough Green Snake


Green snake, NWS photos

I saw my first green snake yesterday.  Unfortunately, it was dead in the road.  Road kills on this road always disturb me, since this road has very low traffic and one shouldn’t be going more than 40 mph anyway, due to the narrowness, twists and turns.

Of course I didn’t have my camera along, so I had to go searching for a useable photo.  The snake I saw was a rough green snake; I’m not sure if this one is a rough or smooth or if there’s a huge difference, but it’s close enough.

How someone didn’t see this bright green animal in the road, I can’t guess.  Probably it was discounted as a bit of tree branch, or grass, or some green plant, because green it was.

Another possibility is that it was run over on purpose, because that’s actually something of a ‘sport’ around here, though normally directed toward copperheads.

This snake was absolutely beautiful, and it saddened me to think my first encounter had to be with a corpse.   I did stop to be sure the snake was indeed dead, and not just stunned or injured.  I left it where it lay – and on my return trip a few hours later it was gone.  I do believe some crow or other bird had a tasty lunch, as there were several crows scoping out the area when I saw the snake.

Not a needless death then, after all.


Sometimes, I just have to wonder.  The butterfly and bird- frequented puddle at the ‘quarry’ down the road, which I mentioned in this post, is obviously a spring-fed puddle.  It’s there year round, rain or not.  There are springs and hidden streams very near – on a quiet day you can hear them bubbling under the rocks.  The cave opening in the quarry wall has enlarged itself many times over due to running water.  This puddle is not in anyone’s driveway, not where it can interfere with the comings and goings of Man.  It IS a puddle where I’ve spent literally hours, observing literally hundreds of butterflies and birds around it and in it,  drinking and bathing.

Well – the highway dept. came through a few weeks ago and patched the potholes in the road, even repaving a section that was particularly bad.  Very nice.  But did they have to put that last bit of leftover blacktop in this spring-fed puddle?  Really?

Tarred puddle

Of course, it may not matter in the long run that the puddle is now contaminated with tar.  Last spring, the power company came through and cleared and cut the vegetation under the power lines.  Understood – this is a necessary thing, and it keeps my power on during a storm.  But, they did this in May and June, at the height of the breeding season.  I can’t even imagine how many bird nests and young were destroyed.  They also trimmed the lines along the road just down from the spring, which were thick with milkweed, butterfly weed, and black-eyed Susans.  Not one plant survived to bloom last summer, and there weren’t many butterflies to be seen either.  One can only hope that the plants will recover and bloom this summer.

And this, mind you, takes place in a national forest.

I do think I will pay the ranger station a visit….

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.

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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