Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Don't Mess with Speck!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

One day two years ago I rushed outside in an attempt to rescue a young sparrow that was pinned to the ground and being pecked to death by a bloodthirsty blue jay.  As I came crashing into the scene, the blue jay calmly secured the little bird in his beak and then flew up into the maple tree where he proceeded to enjoy his breakfast - safely out of reach of the outraged farmer.  I was shocked that one common yard bird would eat another.

This year someone told me that ducks can also be carnivorous, and that they have a real taste for mice.  As my hen house and barn were overrun with mice last spring, I tried my hand at incubating and raising a few ducklings - eight in total - but with no apparent luck in the mouse-swallowing department.  I am down to one duck now, and her days are filled with playing in the kiddie pool and hunting bugs with the chickens.  So far she has not developed into a mouser.

Then I acquired a kitten, one who is very good about staying around the hen house and barn.  Fiona (yes, she finally has a name!) will occasionally grab a passing mouse and play with it for hours on end - and one time I even observed her eating a mouse - so I am hopeful that she will be up for some fine dining as the mice start moving back inside for the winter.

Two days ago I came upon a scene that was somewhat reminiscent of the blue jay eating the sparrow.  Of the hundred or so guineas that I have tried to raise since moving to the farm, three survive - hearty, speckled souls who roam the yard during the day and have the survival smarts to sleep in the hen house at night.  Two of the birds, Lester and Earlene, function as a couple, and the third, Ol' Speck, is a loner.

I was busy filling the outdoor watering bowls on Sunday afternoon when I spied Ol' Speck behaving curiously.  A closer inspection revealed that he was in the process of trying to swallow a mouse - head first.  After a minute or so of fruitless struggle, the guinea released the small rodent and studied his prey as the mouse ran in circles trying to get his bearings.  Then Speck scooped him up again.  The hungry bird worked the squirming mouse down his throat for about ten minutes until the creature finally slipped, tail and all, down the bird's windpipe and into his gullet.  Mission accomplished.

With three guineas, a cat, and the potential of a deadly duck, this may be a tough winter for the mice at Rock's Roost!  Let us prey!

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