Saving Mr. Awesome

Mr. Awsome The World's Cutest Cottontail Baby Bunny

Meet the most awesome, the cutest and the tiniest cottontail bunny we’ve ever seen: Mr. Awesome, aka “Spunky.”

And how did we make his acquaintance?

Ah, now therein lies a tale, Oh Best Beloved.

Last week a neighbor’s cocker spaniel found a bunny’s nest in their yard. Being a fairly typical dog, said pup “squeaked” some of the other babies, but for some reason known only to her carried this one around in her mouth for almost half an hour without chomping on it, as Baby Rabbit squealed for help throughout. The owner was able to get the bunny away from the dog and gave it to me.

He was so little–just three days old–that his ears were barely half an inch long. As soon as I had him in my hands he just snuggled in, and went right to sleep. He was so small he fit in the palm of one hand. And so soft!

We made a place for him as close to the nest as we could but still safe from the dog. Momma bunnies will search for the little ones when their nest has been disturbed, and it’s best if a baby bun is reunited with its Momma. Unfortunately, after 24 hours Momma hadn’t found and reclaimed little Spunky, so we took him to the Aves Wildlife Alliance, a brand new licensed wildlife hospital located in Neenah, Wisconsin. It’s a wonderful place! The owner, Rebekah Weiss, who has a degree in wildlife ecology and wildlife management, worked for several years as a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator near Milwaukee. Just this June, she opened the new Aves wildlife hospital near the Fox Cities on the grounds of a farm that’s been in her family for five generations, after moving back to the area with her husband, Dave. As of this week, Rebekah has already had over 130 patients.

Rebekah even had baby bunny formula right on hand! Wow. Baby cottontails are super hard to keep alive, from what I’ve read, and she confirmed it. Rebekah told us that Spunky is doing awesome now, and thinks he has as good a chance as possible.

Rebekah accepts all varieties of injured and truly orphaned wild critters in the Aves Wildlife Alliance hospital, except bats, deer, eagles. Just some of the wildlife I remember her mentioning that have come in as patients include chipmunks, bunnies, squirrels, possums, deer mice, owls, redtail hawks, and downy woodpeckers. You’re not allowed to see her patients or touch them, because, of course, they are wild and human contact stresses the critters, endangering their recovery.

It was super neat to see the clinic, and meet Rebekah and Dave. We’re really hoping Mr. Awesome makes it. He is an adorable little guy, and put up a real fight to survive (which is why we’ve nicknamed him “Spunky.”)

In Wisconsin, licensed wildlife rehabilitators like Rebekah may not charge for their services, so all her funding comes from donations and grants. If you’d like to help the Aves Wildlife Alliance out, donations are welcome. You can help ‘em get more baby bunny formula as well as cover the myriad of other expenses involved in running a wildlife hospital. Contact information is on the Aves Wildlife Alliance website (which is a new work in progress — it’ll have more information in the future).

BTW, the hand holding Mr. Awesome in the photo belongs to Michael. Spunky certainly felt right at home snoozing there!

We Return You To Our Irregularly Scheduled Program…

Alice Had A Bunny, Too.

Ta Da! I’m back blogging. Didn’t mean to disappear since spring. The short explanation: the Universe has been viewing me thusly:

Sniper Target!

‘Nuff said about that.

The owls are fine, we have a very endearing bunny from this year’s gargantuan “crop” of bunnies that we’ve named Dandy, lots of new flowers to enjoy, a woodchuck (!), oodles of chipmunks and squirrels and, thanks to record rainfalls, an insanely huge population of mosquitoes.

Have I mentioned the bats? They are most welcome each evening as they swoop in to feast on the skeeters. We also have the most toads I’ve seen in thirty years, including one that is absolutely humongous who glares at me whenever I poke about in ‘his’ garden beds.

I’ve named him Bartholomew.

Pictures to come.

Hoppy Easter!

All of the bunnies that frequent this blog would like to wish you a very Hoppy Easter.

If their voices sound a tad muffled, it’s because we now have Flying Tigers patrolling the yard. So, the bunnies are sending their best Easter wishes and waving ‘hello’ from hiding spots.

Flying Tigers?

Indeed. Here they are:

 Great Horned Owl and Two Owlets

A pair of great horned owls and two owlets! We’ve been watching them since the owlets popped their fluffy heads over the top of the nest. It’s a first for us. While we’ve heard and (more rarely) seen great horned owls about us for years, neither of us (nor anyone we know) has ever seen a nesting pair. It’s wonderful!

They’re called Flying Tigers because in their realm they are as ferocious a night-hunting predator as the tigers of the jungle are, and are as feared by the local wildlife. A great horned owl hunts everything from mice to raccoons, and is the major predator of skunks. We can attest to that, btw. They aren’t the least bit bothered by the odor when a skunk has sprayed them in its last act of defense (ugh) although we can smell the owls after they’ve nabbed a skunk as they fly by! They are amazing hunters, and impressive just to watch, to boot.

Great Horned Owl guarding nest with owlets

Here’s one of the adults guarding the nest (the fuzzy white at the top of the nest is the heads of the owlets). The adults are enormous birds, over two feet tall with wingspans that are close to five feet. I can attest to how startling it is to have one of these magnificent birds fly over your head at a distance of no more than fifteen feet! Their wings and feathers are such that their flight is virtually noiseless, which adds to the “startle factor” when one of them swoops overhead.

Great Horned Owlet watching silly humans taking photographs

Here’s one of the owlets watching the photographers. They’re a fascinating mix of cute and ferocious, aren’t they?

Great Horned Owlet in nest

And here’s the same shot, but without the close-up, so you can see, Oh Best Beloved, just how big that “baby” and nest are. We estimate that the nest is close to three feet deep and two feet wide. Trust me, there is no safe way to get close enough to it to really find out!

If you’d like to know more about great horned owls, Max Terman’s book, “Messages from an Owl,” is an outstanding source of information on them. Max has spent decades studying great horned owls, and his book details his discoveries as he raises and successfully releases back into the wild one particular owl, Stripey.

For those who are worried about the bunnies, yes, the population has diminished. As I counted fifteen one day alone in our yard last year, and plenty more all about the area, the large local rabbit population is undoubtedly one of the reasons the owls decided on nesting in this area. However, the rabbits have plenty of hidey holes. Both BB and Dude are fine, but are much more cautious wild bunnies than was their wont in the past, as one would expect.

BB the bunny all grown up!

And just to allay any of Kris’s fears of bunny loss, here’s a little softened ‘portrait’ shot I took of BB at dusk recently, when she was carefully hidden underneath a bush right by the house. Can you believe it? She’s all grown up!

My thanks to Dan and Eric, who took all the owl photos and gave me permission to use them. You guys are great!

Poking Around Under The Hood

Doing some changes under the hood to the code and layout. If things appear wonky off and on for the next several days, that’s probably why.

We’ve had 14.5″ of snow since last night.

Fourteen and a half. Inches. Of. Snow.

The local Fox TV meteorologist says that it’s the seventh largest snowfall recorded for a 24-hour period since the State started keeping records. It’s a bit… much… even for us.

The wind was incredible, too, so we have some amazing drifts, a few more than three feet high.

Right now, Michael is testing out our new snow thrower, creating a path for the bunnies to get around the yard more easily to get to his shop. It’s a powerful but small electric model that is a replacement of the one we bought last year. That one had a factory defect, which made it eat its own drive-belts like candy. We finally boxed the thing up after repeatedly fixing it, shipped it to the manufacturer and asked for a new one. Within two business days we had a brand-spanking new replacement in our frustrated paws. That’s my idea of how customer service should resolve legitimate problems with defective items!

We filled the feeders before the storm hit, and I’m glad we managed to get that done. We had a rush of cardinals as evening set in, looking for dinner. They’re the first birds I’ve seen all day, as the heavy snow and winds have sent all the wildlife into deep cover.

One thing this storm has done: I always want a white Christmas, even if it’s only an inch or two of snow. It just makes it seem like “Christmas,” somehow, to have snow.

After today, I think that’s covered, for this year at least!

Who’s On First?

In the universe of Bad Karma, I’m apparently near the front of the “let’s make life a little more nasty than nice” line. I really did hope to start blogging regularly again. Unfortunately, that requires both a working computer and a working ISP. Since last Friday, both of our computers have been wonky, and both of our ISPs have been mostly down.

I’m viewing it as just another example of How The Universe Enjoys Picking On Me.

Harumpf.

In hopes that both problems are now resolved to the point of limping along, I thought I’d give a bunny update.

BB the Bunny

BB is not only fine, she’s grown into a favorite of mine. She’s definitely from Stewart’s lineage: slightly smaller than average, with the patchy coloration from his line and quirky as can be. She also is easy to pick out from the horde (yes, we have a horde of bunnies–which is somewhat more than a litter and somewhat less than a thundering herd) as she has a little white crescent-shaped mark on her forehead. We’ve noticed that many of our bunnies have this as babies, but BB is the only one who hasn’t had hers shed out as she grew.

Michael asked me last week if perhaps Stewart had passed along a gene for “overly friendly wild bunny” to his descendents. I’m thinking maybe so…

Our bunnies are typical wild bunnies around neighbors and strangers that come into our yard, but are perfectly happy to hop all around us, to the point where we really do have to shoo them out of the way when we are doing things.

I told BB last week, when I was poking around under our spruce tree and she appeared, that she was supposed to hop away from the scary humans when they were doing something in the yard, not to hop TO me to investigate what I am doing. She yawned.

YAWNED.

Then she proceeded to groom herself and finally hopped away several moments later to nibble on a patch of late clover.

Newest Young Bunny

We’ve had several other batches of bunnies arrive, and one of the latest also has the “friendly” gene in spades. I’ve named him “Dude,” as he is the most laid-back yard bunny to date. He’s so reluctant to move from “his” spot when I come across him that I’ve actually had to reach down and threaten to nudge his little rump to get him out of the way. As he hops off, he clearly slings over his shoulder, “Hey, Dude, what’s the deal? That was my spot!” Hence, his name.

We have one other, of the five originally in BB’s litter, who has also remained with us. We call her “Snug” as she likes to snuggle herself down into the grass. She has “radar” ears that are constantly moving from one direction to another, and has a particular fondness for Michael. She will sit on the stoop of his shop when he’s inside it, or snuggle down in the pathway from the house to the shop, wait there and then refuse to move when he appears. Me she just tolerates.

Most of the other bunnies from this year’s crop have hopped to other abodes, or been lost to predators when they made mistakes that left them vulnerable. If they hadn’t, we would be awash in bunnies by this point!

In terms of other regulars for this summer, we’ve had a redtail hawk that checks out the yard regularly, to the great consternation of the furry folk and the songbirds. We also have a Coopers hawk that flies through the yard at about shoulder height, scaring the bejabbers out of me every single time, and has even roosted on the back of one of our lawn chairs. The great horned owls are back, too, giving concerts, and with the oncoming winter I see bald eagles often.

And lest I forget to mention them, the Canada geese are starting to fly through in flocks that number in the hundreds, landing on the river to form gatherings of thousands of geese nightly. Two days ago a small flock flew so close to the house that I could hear the beat of their wings, and see individual feathers.

Oh, and one other thing… it’s already been snowing. Hasn’t stuck, yet, but it’s truly snowed–several times now.

That doesn’t bode well for a nice easy winter.