Saturday, March 11, 2023

Tales of babysitting a coon cat, fat flying squirrels, and unpredictable weather

Snow Bunting

This week stayed more like winter…or at least the ground was white. I did blow out the driveway a couple times, but after the first snowstorm there was nothing but a misty rain the following day which froze [and created] a sharp crust on the snow that night. I had a couple runs to Utica this week and one day it was 33 degrees the whole way with light rain but when I got to Deerfield Hill it was a whiteout. Then going down the other side I could see all of Utica. Coming home that night it was the same [temperature] (33 degrees) and light rain until I hit Old Forge. Then it went [down] to 29 degrees and [I had] an instant freeze on my windshield at the top of the summit. I’m glad it wasn’t that way all the way home.

The snowmobiles had something to run on and they poured into town for the weekend. I hope we can save some for Snofest [this] weekend. The major snowmobile manufactures Ski Doo, Polaris, Arctic Cat, and Yamaha will have all the new sleds at the show, and let’s hope you can take one for a ride. It has not been a great year for folks who wanted to ride their snowmobiles. I think my son Jason in Webster got the first snow he had to move off the driveway this week.


They sure got a lot more than that out in the mountains of California and Nevada in the last couple of weeks (measured in feet.) I know they were talking about ten feet at a couple of the ski areas and skiers couldn’t even get there to ski. This was right in the San Bernardino Mountains, not far from Los Angeles, where several people live that travel into the city to work…but not this week. The towns of Blue Jay and Lake Arrowhead were cut off by the snow and one store owner there went up to shovel the roof off again, and there was five feet of snow…and they gave up. The store had to close, because it was too dangerous as the roof was sagging. Another store in the next town had the roof cave in, so people had to live on what they had as they could get in or out. One-way roads with turnouts were being cleared for now.


Our Daughter Erin’s coon cat, Oliver, who has been spending the winter with us is still surviving despite us putting him outside where the coyotes roam. He has come back in through the front door a few times in a hurry with his hair all raised up, but showing no scars. All I can say is that he eats and then sleeps. He has only gained two pounds since he has been here. So now, he weighs 24 pounds. He drinks out of the sink faucet while it’s running, and he is a handful to get him up there as he has gotten too big to jump up without hurting himself. He gets brushed twice a day as he has more hair than any cat we ever had before and still the vacuum cleaner is full of hair daily. So is the air filter on the furnace, which sucks air from the ceiling of the house so it flies around a lot. There is some kind of critter in the wall of the spare bedroom, and he can hear it. He stands guard at the head of the bed waiting for it to come through the wall, but it hasn’t…and I don’t think it will.

Coon cat

Coon cat, Oliver, too big for his bed. Photo by Gary Lee.

I think the critter is one of the flying squirrels that I find inside the bird feeder some mornings. They get inside okay, but they eat all night and get too fat to get back out until I open the top to put feed in. They then jump to the tree and run up, only to glide to the next tree and then another to get away. I caught one in the potter trap one morning when they came out in the daylight…which is uncommon for them. That one took a ride down the road a ways in the truck before I let it go and it glided away.


[I was] looking out under the bird feeders late yesterday [March 4] and there was a Snow Bunting looking for a snack. I had one sitting on a fence post a few years back,but this one was feeding on stuff that fell from the suet cake, some cracked corn bits. I took a couple photos just before dark, and it was still there. First look outside this morning and it was there again feeding right beside the White-Throated Sparrow. It flushed up into the beech tree when the grosbeaks came in force…fifty or more. I took some more photos while it was up in the tree, [and] then it went back on the ground.


I set the potter traps near where it was feeding, but it never went in and neither did the grosbeaks this morning [March 5]. It left about 10 a.m.. and I never saw it again. I saw a couple along the road earlier this week down by the EZ Mart. They feed on weed seeds along the shoulder of the highway. Another one was reported up by Raquette Lake last weekend. Sometimes you will see them in small flocks out feeding on little bugs on the ice surface of the lake. Most times you just hear them calling, as they fly around over the lake. While looking for Snow Geese in the corn fields over by Lake Champlain, you might see flocks of forty or fifty of these buntings feeding along with Lapland Larkspurs and Horned Larks. They are really pretty when they all get up and fly around in a flock.


My skiing is done for this winter, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Snow Bunting. Photo by Gary Lee.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

2 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Oliver appears to have pretty short fur for a Maine Coon. Perhaps he is too big for his fur as well!!

  2. Dave says:

    wonderful report as usual, Gary. Nice snow bunting. They are so pretty – solo or in those flocks you mention. We also have a flying squirrel (or two) in our wainscoting. Overnight, they like the meal worms we feed our bluebirds in daylight. The bluebirds still show up in numbers in the a.m. But one of these days the dominant male and female will shoo the others – who have fledged from our boxes- out and they must find new territory for themselves. Thank you as always.

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