Saturday, February 4, 2012

Who's Coming to Dinner?

This past fall, while on the way back home from a trip, we stopped on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and bought a handful of pumpkins to decorate the garden.  There is a nice place that we have been to a few times before with an old school bus out by the road and a large "pick your own" patch behind.  We didn't get around to carving jack-o-laterns, so we just set the pumpkins out on the front steps and in the garden to add a touch of fall color.  The nice thing about not carving the pumpkins is that they keep much longer than carved ones.  A few years ago we had some friends over to carve pumpkins and Scott's had collapsed by the next day.  It didn't even make it to Halloween. The uncarved ones will stay around until at least Thanksgiving and continue giving us spots of bright color as the garden fades into it's subdued winter plumage.

After Thanksgiving we moved a few of the pumpkins from the front garden to the back garden where we could continue to enjoy them but they wouldn't clash with the Christmas decorations going up around the street.  After a few days we noticed that one seemed to be moving about over night.  We had set it on the edge of the garden but then one morning it was a few feet out into the lawn.  I moved it back and again, the next morning it was out in the lawn.  Then we started noticing small holes in the bottom of a couple of pumpkins.  About the size of a half-dollar, the entry holes were perfectly round and the seeds and strings in the pumpkin was missing.  But the flesh was still there.  In fact, I was worried that it would fall apart when I picked it up, but the pumpkin was still quite firm.

We weren't sure who had been eating the pumpkins.  It could be deer.  We have plenty and they are frequent visitors to the yard.  I even saw one licking dew off a pumpkin one morning.  But we figured that if the deer were eating the pumpkins they would just break it open.  We couldn't imagine how a deer could be making, or using, those small holes we saw.  It could have been rodents.  The hole seemed reasonably sized for a large rodent to get in.  Maybe a mole?  Or a rat?  Scary thoughts.  Or maybe the local raccoons were getting in to the pumpkins?  But wouldn't they break it open?  So to find out we took the remaining whole pumpkin and set it up with my Audubon BirdCam.  I received the BirdCam as a birthday present a year ago and have had fun trying to catch some of the backyard wildlife that we aren't around to see.  It is motion activated and includes a flash (good for this use).  It also does stop-action shots so I can make some interesting movies with it.  I'm sure some of those will show up here soon.  

But back to the pumpkin.  The camera was set up a few feet away from the pumpkin and we waited.  It took a couple of nights but one morning we saw the pumpkin had shifted.  When I retrieved the camera and card, this is what we found.

We had missed a lot of the action, like how did it make the hole?  But we had caught the perpetrator red-handed (or should I saw orange-pawed?).  We are glad it could make a meal of the pumpkins.  And maybe they are nesting nearby again.  Last year a family made their nest in a neighbor's redtip tree (shrub) that is right on the property line.  We could see the fuzzy little heads in the nest for several weeks.  And occasionally, the young ones would venture up to a whiskey barrel pond to have a drink.
 It has been great fun having the raccoons taking up house near us.  They occasionally will get into the bird feeders or cause other minor annoyances.  But overall, having such cool and wild animals sharing our yard has been wonderful. 

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