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Orchard Creatures 2

Orchard Creatures 2

I can assure you the last thing on your mind when you plant an orchard are what animals might make it their home. As it turns out, a lot of animals live in an orchard. Over the last couple of years, I have tried to remember to take pictures of all of them. I know I’ve missed many opportunities, but here’s what we’ve cataloged on camera so far.

By Land

Obviously, trees are planted in the dirt, so this is the first place you would expect to find animals that make the orchard their home. You wouldn’t be disappointed!

Baby rabbits are pretty easy to catch. Once they grow up though they’re too fast!

Rabbits can be a problem for orchards with young trees as they can nibble on the tender bark of the baby trees, but we have always protected our small trees with a wrap of some sort, so we haven’t had any issue with them. They tend to frolic in the tall weeds when we don’t get around to mowing them fast enough.

This raccoon decided to sleep inside. I found him when I was looking for our cat. He wasn’t happy to be disturbed.

Nocturnal varmints of all sorts. By nature, these aren’t something you often see unless you’re out late at night or very early in the morning. Primarily this is comprised of:

  • Raccoons: They eat your cat food and chickens if you aren’t careful to put the chickens up at night. They’re also kinda jerks in general and leave steaming piles of poop all over the place. They aren’t as polite as cats in that regard.
  • Skunks: Cannon fodder. There’s no redeeming value here and they meet the business end of a 12 gauge pretty quickly if they start hanging around the house.
  • Possums: Surprisingly cute and even a bit useful! They don’t bother us, so we don’t bother them.
Little garter snake that escaped the chickens.

Garter snakes and rat snakes are somewhat common if you don’t have chickens to keep them away. Hens will go absolutely berzerk on snakes. I’ve seen them gang up on a snake and kill it. I don’t know what it is about snakes specifically that brings out this primal bloodthirst in chickens, but it’s pretty darn funny to see.

I don’t know if there’s any specific reason why, but while other areas near us have rattlesnakes, I’ve never seen a single one out here.

A bunch of hogs making their daily sprint across this field.

Feral Hogs are just a fact of life for us now. There’s no getting rid of them. They can be quite dangerous if they’re cornered, but for the most part, they’re just puttering around in the brush eating acorns and whatever other weird junk hogs eat. The hogs make a quick sprint across this field almost every single day. Once in the morning and once again at sunset.

One of our neighbors has a Helicopter Hog Hunting business. They shoot them for sport and to mitigate the potential damage that they cause for surrounding farmers. While we haven’t yet had the hogs come through the orchard, I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time once we start having peaches.

The neighbor came through to hunt the hogs a few months back when I was out pruning the peach trees, so I stopped to take some pictures. They hover over the brush and shoot them with 12 gauge shotguns.

By Sea

There is a stock tank on the orchard property that has all sorts of fish, turtles, frogs and other wildlife in there. The fishing is actually pretty good!

Ember is a heck of a fisherman!
Pouting turtle wasn’t happy to have his picture taken.

Typically we just take the pond for granted, but last year it was so dry in the summer that the tank almost went dry. Thankfully it started to rain and filled back up before it got so low that the fish died.

Many of the other animals in the orchard use the pond for drinking water, so losing the pond might mean losing more than just the waterborne animals.

By Air

This is the one that really surprises me. There are SO MANY BIRDS in the orchard. For the most part, they’re just making their home in the trees and leave the fruit alone.

A baby owl! We got to watch him grow up before he flew off and made his home elsewhere.

There’s a big cottonwood tree overlooking the stock tank in the middle of the orchard. An owl made it her nest last year and hatched out a baby! We got to watch as the baby slowly grew bigger and eventually flew away. While its’ feathers were still developing it wasn’t able to fly away, so we had lots of opportunities to stop by and watch him grow up.

Killdeer act like they own the orchard.

When we first planted the orchard we thought it was cute that some killdeer made their nests in among the mulch at the base of the trees. As it turns out, they keep coming back every year! In the spring you can’t go out to the orchard without seeing some killdeer running around squawking and trying to distract you from finding their nests.

Baby killdeer run across the ground not long after they hatch. I want to say it’s only a day or so after they hatch before momma bird is having them run around!

Baby birds inside a roll of chicken wire.
Momma wasn’t happy with us taking pictures of her babies and let us know.
Bird eggs early in the spring…
…turn into baby birds later in the spring!

In the winter when you are pruning the trees, you find lots of empty bird nests from earlier in the year. If you’re paying attention in the spring, you can watch the little eggs go from tiny little gems to big-mouthed baby birds that grow up and fly away.

An exhausted and overheated hummingbird.

Rarely do the hummingbirds sit still long enough for us to take their picture. This one got stuck in the shed in the middle of the summer and overheated. We gave her some sugar water and after a short rest, she flew away again.

A swarm of bees that stopped in an apple tree for a couple days before moving on.

Wild bees are a blessing. They can help pollinate the fruit which increases not just the fruit set, but can also improve the quality of the fruit.

A hollow tree that is now a beehive.

PESTS!

So this is the biggest part of the learning curve for us right now. Bugs aren’t as intense of a pest when you only have a couple of fruit trees. Apparently, when you have a whole orchard full of trees, they multiply and come back in greater numbers until you do something about it.

A leaf footed bug on one of our peaches last year.

They’re kinda cute, but they feed on the peaches which leaves a discolored and pithy spot. Nobody wants to eat a peach that looks weird, so we’re gonna have to up our game to get rid of them before they do too much damage.

These asp caterpillars ate the leaves off the apple trees at the end of the season.

Weird and crazy … what is this?

Mothapillar?

Seriously, this has to be the icing on the cake. Just today the kids came running in to tell me they found a really weird bug and needed my help to identify it. I confidently stepped outside and immediately was at a loss for words. What the heck is this? It’s like a moth that is still half a caterpillar.

Turn off the sound before you hit “play” (sorry)


Want more? You can see the first orchard creatures post here.

Graham

Trees are awesome. In a world where everything is dominated by instant gratification, working with a tree that must be nurtured for years forces you to slow down and appreciate the value of hard work.

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