Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Window on Scavenger Diversity at the Preserve

Early last week I found a dead White-tailed Deer in our woods. Judging by the remains it had apparently died from an obstructed intestine. I would imagine that some people coming upon this scene would've blamed coyotes for taking down this deer, but the evidence doesn't support that conclusion. In fact a fresh covering of snow at the scene faithfully recorded of all the events that took place during the night. According to footprints and other animal sign, the deer was not brought down violently. Coyote prints as well as the prints of a half dozen other species of scavengers indicate that they all came upon the deer after it had died. For several years now I've been looking for a conclusive case of coyotes killing a deer - and so far I have yet to find one.
Coyotes show little interest in the carcass at this point - leaving it to others
A Red Fox visited the site - once during the day and once at night
An adult Red-tailed Hawk flies in for its morning feed
Our resident pair of Red-tailed Hawks are only rarely are seen feeding together 
More typically, as one Red-tail arrives, its mate flies off
The female gets a bit possessive about her share and spreads her wings over it
Raptors drape their wings over their food when they are not in a sharing mood
Best not to mess with this raptor - at least not before breakfast
Besides the crows the most common day-time visitors to the carcass were a pair of Red-tailed Hawks. This is a breeding pair that I know fairly well and they have nested in the woods for several years now. The trail camera captured them making frequent visits over the course of the week. Most often they would chase off the crows, but occasionally they would tolerate a few feeding on the opposite side of the carcass. A lone Common Raven visited several times and was sometimes seen feeding right next to one of the Red-tails. This was the very first time I have managed to photograph a Raven feeding on anything at the nature preserve.
Crows scatter at the slightest provocation
The first crow flies in to feed while a deer apprehensively observes
A Raven, emboldened by its large size, approaches the carcass while the hawk is feeding
Raven and Red-tailed Hawk feed together with no apparent conflict
Our first Turkey Vulture of the season arrives and locates a meal with no trouble
Turkey Vultures just started returning to the region this past week and one immediately honed in on the deer carcass. Birds generally have a poor sense of smell, but the Turkey Vulture is one notable exception to that rule. It is believed that they rely mainly on scent to locate their gruesome meals. 
The Red-tail flies off just as a raccoon comes onto the scene
The raccoon made a few visits during the day and then returned often throughout the night
A Raccoon made a number of visits to the carcass. On one of my visits to check the camera, the raccoon held her ground. She was well hidden (at least she thought she was) inside the rib cage of the deer. As I re-positioned the camera on the opposite side of the carcass, I could just see the raccoon's eyes peering out between some ribs.

No comments:

Post a Comment