A few pheasants scratch around the orchard most days looking for apples in the area under the trees where the deer have tromped the snow down in their own hunt for apples and browsing on the tree branches.
Feeling somewhat sorry for the pheasants, we bought some wildlife corn at Burnett Dairy (a mixture of shelled corn, stalk pieces and broken kernels probably derived from screening corn for storage). It was $7.50 per 50 lb sack, and I figured if I spread a little each day very thinly over a large area, it wouldn't attract deer and might help the pheasants get through a very cold and snowy (2-3 feet here) winter.
This morning there were 10 pheasants out there scratching around by daybreak. They hung around until I went out of the house to feed my regular birds, and then they flew to the east, disappearing down over the hillside where I assumed they must have gone in the big cattail swamp. But did they? Where do they hang out when they aren't in our orchard, and do they stay as a flock? I spread another ice-cream pail of shelled corn for them--but the blue jays and Fluffy the fawn seem to insist on getting their share and are not so wary as the pheasants so hog it for themselves.
After getting the house cleaned and helping with some baking for Sunday when my brothers and sister-in-laws are coming over to help celebrate sis-in-law Sheila's 2nd day of Medicare (today is her first--her birthday is not until next week--and of course I would never tell how old she is, but Medicare and SS start the first of the month for folks reaching a certain age), I put on the cross country skis and headed in the direction I last saw the pheasants.
Heading out through the orchard, I first noticed there were no pheasant tracks walking into the northernmost row of trees where they first show up. Must fly in and land there. Pheasants are heavy enough to leave clear tracks in the fluffy snow, so you can easily track them now.
The skiing was very difficult--snow depths varies from 2-3 feet with drifts higher, and no crust, so I sank down deeply into it. Realizing I forgot my cell phone, so I couldn't dial 9-1-1 for a heart attack, I took it easy, stopping to take photos often. No tracks on the lower hillside nor on the edge of the swamp, where I assumed they were seeking cover.
|Were the pheasants seeking cover in the cattails? Only way to find out is to go look.|
I headed into the cattails from the north end, planning to cross the 1/8 mile swamp looking for tracks. Ten feet into it, I realized the snow was mostly 3 feet deep or deeper with my skis hitting bottom. I turned around and wallowed back out, and made the tour of the west side instead, looking very carefully for any tracks or maybe a live pheasant. Nothing at all. Several cars drove by, slowing down greatly when they saw me, probably wondering if they were seeing an Abominable. I tried to pretend I was gracefully swishing along, making the right pose, pumping my arms and sliding my skis back and forth in place--graceful but going nowhere until they were out of sight.
After skirting the swamp with no sign of pheasants, I headed west up across the corn field behind the barn and made my tour into the house from the southwest side. When I came into the yard, took off my skis and came in the house, Margo said "you just chased up the pheasants again--they flew off to the east." My guess--they are in the swamp across the road, further north or maybe over on Gullickson's corn stubble or maybe in the swamp north of me. This area is part of the pothole country, with every low spot a swamp, many not drained, and many hills and spots in the fields that can't be farmed and provide cover for wildlife.
|Deer trail from the creek coming to the farmyard|
|Every farm has a bone-yard out behind the barn where the old machinery goes to die. Nearly buried in the snow is Brother Ev's 1968 Rambler American that was injured at Hwy 87 and 70 and drug itself here before expiring.|
|Two single row corn planters have box elders growing through the frame. A cattle watering tank waits for Margo's herd of bull calves to be back in use.|
|The old wood grain drill slowly rots away while the corn wagon adds gravity to the scene.|