New visitors to the millpond

August 31st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Two youngsters a feeling around in the water for crawfish or other edibles

This image is also available to download as a Facebook Cover ImageA family of raccoons has arrived at the millpond. It’s either three young ones hunting together or a mom with two cubs. I saw one of the young ones in the shadows about ten days ago then caught up with all three searching for food in the shallows at the northern end of the millpond on August 19.

Each has a fine ringed tail, nice a bushy!Once they tired of being in the water, they headed for a nearby crabapple tree to nibble. After they climbed into it, I was able to photograph them as they ate.

If you’d like to use the photo of the raccoon (above left) as a Facebook cover image, this link downloads one saved in the proper horizontal format.

After searching for food in the shadows, the headed for a nearby crabapple tree

A family visits the Trash Can Diner

July 7th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Heads and tails tell me there are four raccoon kits
Mom lead her family down the oak tree as I stood below itIt happens almost every year. I find shadowy figures racing through the underbrush along the millpond trail. Eventually, I catch them red-handed pilfering the trash bins and snap their mugshots. Four hungry kits are being trained by their mom to enjoy the half-eaten Dairy Queen sundaes and pizza crusts tossed away by humans whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs.

One of the kits plays kissy-face with momThis sow raccoon is probably the hand-raised one dumped in the park during the summer of 2012. While leary (left), she doesn’t flee like a truly wild raccoon would. She lead her quartet down the large oak beside the cemetery even though I was standing at the base photographing her family.

The youngsters don’t feel as comfortable climbing downward as mom does. They took it slowly which gave me a chance to photograph them as they made their way to the ground.

One by one, the kits climbed down the tree to follow mom on her nightly dinner run after dark The two month old raccoon kits descend the tree slowly so they don't fall Note how the kits are able to head down the tree trunk head first because their back feet can still grab the bark

Yeah, they are cute little guys, but this hungry group may be the reason we’ve had a reduction in duckling births this year beginning in June that’s continued. We’ve also lost a lot of adult birds, mostly hens who might have been sitting on eggs when the critters needed to fill their bellies. It’s sometimes tough to deal with the balancing Nature does. Here’s a Facebook Cover Image of two kits turned sideways to batch Facebook’s format. You’re welcome to use it on your own Facebook page.

The sow nuzzles her four kits in the old oak beside the Brighton millpond

A progressive dinner with the kids

July 11th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The sow climbed into the barrel while the kits waited outside

While one of the kits stayed in the underbrush, mom took the other three to the trash barrelI followed the raccoon family for quite a while two nights ago. They searched nooks and crannies along the shore for crayfish and other edibles. Mom lead the troop, but the kids had to do their own hunting. Raccoons are endlessly curious so they sniff everything in their path, turn over branches, and feel for things underwater with their forepaws. They were too far from my flash to take pictures.

Junior looked like he expected food from meThen they moved to the next trash barrel on the trail between the old oak and cemetery. Mom climbed up (above) while the youngsters waited below for her to return with goodies. A second kit walked toward me until I shooed him awayTwo approached me, more out of hunger than threat (left and right). I stomped my feet to shoo them away. Park visitors make the grave mistake of feeding them so they wondered if I had food for them. I never feed them nor should you. If they seek humans for what they might bring them, they will eventually bite someone and be killed for being dangerous to the public.

Still hungry, the raccoon family climbed a tree and wished I'd go awayTheir mother, officially called a “sow,” jumped down with her booty — a flavor-soaked napkin (below). Yuck. One of her quartet sidled up for a taste. She was adamant he wasn’t entitled. She snarled and snapped to drive him away. Ducks tend to stand back and let the kids eat first. Apparently raccoons aren’t as pampering with their half-growns. Maybe they are more solicitous when the kits are younger.

With unsatisfied appetites, the family climbed a multi-trunked tree to avoid the pesky photographer and consider where they would go next to find more vittles. Hopefully, ducklings and eggs weren’t on their menu.

Mom pulled out a tasty napkin ... ... and fought the kits for it

Uh oh, Bro. We’re toast.

July 10th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

Busted at the trash bin!

He didn't see me until he was already to climb the treeI didn’t discover these thieves. A young couple walking ahead of me did when one of the critters popped out to scare the hell out of them as they were casually walking by the trash bin.

Scary: You have any food for me?The half grown coons settled back down and let me watch them as they licked the Dairy Queen treats from the discarded cups and bowls. I wondered where their mother was and kept looking behind me to make sure she wasn’t going to ambush me.

Grab this Facebook Cover Image, if you want it!Once the two kits ate all they could find, they climbed out of the barrel, and I found them with their mom and two additional siblings again a few minutes later. They were walking along the shore and then visited another trash bin. It’s probably their nightly circuit. You can grab the image (right) if you’d like to use it for your Facebook Cover Image. It’s prepped to the correct size. I like how it looks like the kit is in raccoon jail for his crime of abusing sugary treats in the park.

e were just enjoying our Dairy Queen treats, sir ...

Didya Know? Raccoons swim!

June 10th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Almost nightly near dark, the park's resident raccoon swims from one spit of land to another

This furry bandit appeared at the Brighton millpond last summer and I’m fairly confident he was hand raised and dumped at the pond. During his first weeks there, he approached humans to see if they had food for him. He’s more acclimated now, but doesn’t have the usual fear of park visitors most of his species do.

Just about every night, he takes the same route through the park looking for things to eat. Sometimes he does it well before dark like last evening. Part of this foray involves a short swim from one narrow strip of land to the next, a distance of less than 40 feet. Many visitors are surprised to learn raccoons swim and swim well.

When he gets to the far shore, just 30 feet away, he continues on his hunt for things to eat

The kits raid the trash barrels alone

August 20th, 2011     0 comments     permalink

Only two months ago, these two raccoon kits were little guys exploring the world near the millpond with their mom. Now they are seasoned garbage pickers raiding the cans along the millpond path after the human visitors leave for the night. While leaving a trash bin near the Dairy Queen, one of them sports a chocolate eyebrow (below left), a telltale sign of his entre.

Buzzed Bandit

July 24th, 2011     0 comments     permalink

Raccoons love weekend summer nights. The millpond park is crawling with people during the daytime. They stroll with Dairy Queen or Yum Yum Tree cones and sundaes in their hands or sit on benches and feast on carry out pizza. The remnants are deposited in the trash barrels along the millpond path. When the park quiets at night, the raccoons embark on a gluttonous progressive dinner: a half-full Peanut Buster Blizzard in one barrel, a Cold (by now) Fudge Sundae in the next, and Hungry Howies’ garlic bread sticks from a dumpster. A few slugs of Red Bull from a can left under a bench are a perfect chaser. By dawn, they are buzzed up and satisfied. Since they can’t read the nutrition labels, they are thrilled with their good fortune.

Raccoon Gymnastics

July 21st, 2011     0 comments     permalink

I spent more than an hour watching the five raccoon kits move through the branches of a short mulberry tree at the millpond last month. Since I stood next to the small tree trunk, they wouldn’t climb down. It gave me lots of time to photograph them eating the ripe fruit with little stress from my camera flashes.

Note how their back feet grasp the branches. They are as comfortable in treetops as they are on the ground. They don’t jump from branch to branch like a squirrel would. They grab branches with their front feet while still holding other branches with their highly flexible hind feet. Sometimes, the stretches are comical.

They’re not particularly concerned with which end is up. Sometimes they hang upside down if it helps them climb down or nab a juicy mulberry that’s almost out of reach. I’ve watched this same family group several times this summer as the kits have grown. The mulberry season is almost over so they’ll spend more time at the shoreline and the trash barrels until reaching adulthood.

A night’s foraging

July 14th, 2011     0 comments     permalink

I imagine it’s a nightly adventure for the five raccoon kits. Lucky for me, they are not particularly quiet about it. I heard their splashing in the shallow water along with an occasional chirping so they were easy to locate in the underbrush. They moved relatively quickly along the millpond’s shoreline looking for anything edible. Within about an hour, they had scrounged about a quarter of a mile of the pond’s edge.

They stopped by the mulberry tree (above and below) where they posed for their portraits before. While a couple of them climbed it (above), the others saved themselves the effort by hunting for mulberries that had fallen into the grass (below). They were darker, riper and sweeter. Some kits came within a couple of feet as I stood photographing them. Since their mom wasn’t in sight, I worried she was going to suddenly rush out of the weeds to chew on my leg, but she never appeared.

Trash cans are always an attractive target for their dining pleasure. As one dived in, I positioned myself about three feet from the can as the other kits arrived one by one. Below is a composite photo of shots while I stood there. It’s a Photoshopped concoction of how raccoons stand and move about. Along the sidewalk’s edge, you’ll see the same mulberry appearing three times. I left them there so you could see the photo isn’t just a single lucky shot. Wish it was.

Midnight Mulberries

July 1st, 2011     2 comments     permalink

Two weeks after my first sighting of the raccoon family near the north end of the millpond, I discovered I made an error in my original post about them. There are five kits instead of four. I spotted them along the path and assumed they were heading for a trash barrel. Instead, they climbed a small mulberry tree. I stood below them for more than an hour taking photographs of the sow (the proper term for a female raccoon) and her kits as they foraged for fresh berries. If you look carefully at the above photo, you’ll be able to find four of the five and their mom (her tail is to the right of the tree). Not sure where the fifth one was at that moment. Below, three kits find it easy to gorge themselves on ripe berries while their mother balances on a nearby branch finding her own dinner.

More Kits in the Park

June 20th, 2011     1 comment     permalink

Last year, I posted a photo of the large Bridal Wreath Spirea shrub next to the gazebo at the Brighton millpond. Walking past it at dusk this past week with the park still filled with visitors, I was startled by loud chirping coming from under it. Suddenly two raccoon kits popped out and began using the adjacent cemetery cement wall as their jungle gym (left). They watched me and were a bit agitated, but ran around the area for a couple of minutes. Their mother wasn’t in sight.

When they entered the cemetery through the fence, I ran to the gate, but by the time I got back to where they entered, they were gone. I heard no more chirping.

I remained in the cemetery for a few minutes hoping the kits would reappear. Movement in tall plants on the hillside helped me find their mother (called a sow) watching me beside a bed of ready-to-bloom daylilies (below). I didn’t locate the kits again that night, but the next night, I saw them perched in a mature tree near a trash barrel 100 feet farther along the walkway. If they find enough food in the millpond and trash barrels, they’ll probably remain in the area until the family splits up in autumn. Counting the other four kits discovered, that means we have six additional predators roaming the millpond this summer.

Learning the ropes from mom

June 16th, 2011     3 comments     permalink

Did you notice the raccoon I posted yesterday had enlarged breasts? She was obviously nursing youngsters. I’m surprised the small fries weren’t tagging along with her. The next night, however, I encountered her again taking her four kits out to dinner. Mom crossed my path alone. A few seconds later, a tiny coon came out from the underbrush and joined her. Three more followed in secession joining mom on a beeline toward a trash barrel. I’m sure they’ve done this many times before in their short lives.

When mom noticed me, she shooed her brood up a tree to safety while she crossed the path to hide in the underbrush near shore. The kits watched me at eye level (right) and kept looking in mom’s direction for a couple of minutes. Then they returned to the ground and headed toward shore. I heard chirping in the weeds as the family reunited out of my sight.

This is a “new” raccoon this year. It isn’t the one I photographed several times last year unless her eye healed during the winter, highly unlikely. I’ve seen another raccoon closer to Main Street this year. I saw both raccoons individually on the same night a quarter mile apart. Maybe the other one is the father for this masked quartet.

The Powers of Observation

June 15th, 2011     0 comments     permalink

I took another photograph of the raccoon that passed by Dahlia’s family two nights ago. It’s not a great shot.

Looking upward into the tree, you can clearly see its teeth including the long canine extending over the lower jaw. Raccoons may look cute, but they are capable of defending themselves from foxes, coyotes, and domestic dogs they encounter in this region. When they get in a scuffle, any predator will think twice about going in for the kill because of the noises they make. Their screeches will make the hair on your neck stand upright. I noticed something else about this one. Can you spot it?  The answer will be posted tomorrow.

The Black Dahlia’s honeymoon ends

June 14th, 2011     1 comment     permalink

Since The Black Dahlia left the more public area of the Brighton millpond in late March, she’s been honeymooning at the pond’s north end. The nuptial bliss ended abruptly this past week by the birth of a duckling (above right). The dahlia has a bud! To further complicate her new duties as a mother, a half-grown duckling (above left) with negligent parents has adopted her and her suitor as surrogate parents. He already knows there’s safety in numbers. Neither of the parents are thrilled with the interloper and take nips at him, but he doesn’t leave.

Dahlia appears more diligent in her motherly role this year and hopefully her chick won’t meet the fate of the one she had last year. He’s an active tyke and already accepts duck chow handouts, a skill he’s quickly learned from mom. Her drake isn’t as happy with his fatherly role. I’ve seen him nip the little guy a couple of times when he gets in the way of dad eating.

While watching the family just after dark, they became agitated. I soon discovered why. A bandit was approaching them (left) but when I made a quick movement, he scurried up a tree. The family group huddled at the shoreline ready to seek the safety of the water but didn’t need to. The raccoon quickly moved on to the next trash container hunting for cone and pizza scraps left by humans during the day.

Midwestern Mammalian Mugwump

August 23rd, 2010     2 comments     permalink

Midewestern Mammalian Mugwump

postcard_mwOn walks with my dad when I was a kid, I’d ask him, “What kind of bird is that?” and, if he didn’t know what it was, he’d tell me it was a Mugwump. He told me that it’s a bird that sits on a fence with its mug on one side and its wump on the other. At the time, I didn’t know the political history of Mugwumps, the fact it was an Algonquian word for “important person” nor do I remember seeing the 1950s postcard (right) with the humorous definition. I just thought my dad was silly, and I’d giggle.

But why limit Mugwumps to birds? Even though I know this mammal well, I’d say he’s also a Mugwump. His charming mug is on one side of the branch and his ring-tailed wump is on the other. He didn’t seem disturbed by my camera’s flash although he was ready to skedaddle from his very old cottonwood tree perch at any moment.

Eyes in the Trees …

July 28th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

A Treed Raccoon Sow

Two Raccoon Cubs in a TreeNervous chirping and the sound of claws-on-bark made me stop and look up. A quick point-and-shoot helped me identify the critter, the raccoon sow I’ve come to know with one headlight. I was surprised to find her and her four cubs a fifth of a mile (yes, I measured the distance) away from her favorite midnight diner (a trash can). It would have been quite a hike while keeping the kids in check.

Maybe the favored trash cans (3 of them near the Dairy Queen) didn’t offer enough Blizzards® and cones to feed the brood so they ventured to find their grub near Hungry Howie’s pizza and the JAZ Deli along the shoreline upstream.

… Broken Dream on the Ground

July 28th, 2010     1 comment     permalink

Broken Duck Egg

Less than 300 feet beyond where I found the nomadic raccoon family, I found this sign that they had already caused havoc in the neighborhood. Ten feet from shore, a broken duck egg dripped off the edge of the millpond’s cement sidewalk. It’s the only broken egg I could find but the underbrush is thick nearby. When the raccoons found the duck nest, they surely emptied it. Eggs provide the growing cubs with high quality protein. That sure beats the empty calories offered at Diary Queen.

Family dinner interrupted

December 13th, 2009     2 comments     permalink

Baby Raccoons in an Oak Tree

On one side of the millpond path is a large oak tree. On the other, a trash barrel. I interrupted a family feast in the barrel on my late night walk in July. As I rounded the bend, the raccoons dashed across the path to find safety in the tree. It was a family of four youngsters and a parent (the one in front protecting the kids from me) who was, no doubt, teaching them how to dine on scraps left by larger mammals. I’m sure the banquet continued after I passed by. (Click the picture to see a third youngster higher in the tree.)

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