Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hen-and-Chicks

Not your plant of that name, the Sempervirens species.

A couple of mornings ago when headed towards the woods to do some overdue weeding I created a huge upset amongst the local wildlife. Walking by the bark/sawdust pile the morning exploded into a great commotion consisting of a Spruce Grouse hen running noisily across my feet (almost) and about a dozen chicks (I had never seen more than a half dozen in previous years, but then I had never encountered them on open ground before either) going silently the other way and disappearing into the undergrowth. The hen of course did not disappear, but continued with the noisy fake broken-wing flapping thing, along with squawking away at me. When I wouldn't take the bait of following her, she then changed the vocal repertoire to mewing and crying, sounding for all the world like a lost kitten or puppy. Weird. So I allowed myself to be chased out of the area so the family could regather itself and move on; they seem to be fairly mobile and I've never found them in the same place twice in a row-- not that I go looking for them, just that I stumble across them in different places. This lot had been quite a bit deeper in the woods the previous day.

So once they had moved on, I noticed a curious depression about a foot across, in the bark and sawdust, from which all the big chunks of bark and wood scraps had been removed (the picture below). I'm guessing they had been taking a mid-morning nap in the sun. Looking closely, I could see a number of individual smaller depressions in the main one, I suppose where some of the chicks had gone for extra comfort; unfortunately they don't show up all that well in the photo since the sun was close to overhead: but they are there!
A couple of breast feathers got left behind in the rush of departure.