Ramble with Storm: The relative theory of rabbits & road kill

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Mulling things on my morning ramble with Storm, the family’s mixed Lab.

I have a theory on the relative abundance of rabbits this year. That I have a theory is no great surprise to faithful readers or those who know me.

Let me set this up.

It’s August, so I begin looking for good photos of mourning doves. Sept. 1 is the start of dove hunting and I like to have a fresh photo every year, usually of doves on wires, for my preview story.

“Doves on Wires” sounds like a heart-rending movie.

I digress.

So a bunch of doves held on a wire across the road as we set out. I told Storm to sit. And he did long enough for me to collect a few possible photos.

Then the meathead broke command and charged a small rabbit in a neighbor’s yard. I barely hung on to him. A bit farther, the meathead tried to dive into the black plastic downspout tubing for a hiding rabbit.

At that point, I came up with my “Relative Theory of Rabbits for 2013.” Originally, I found it odd that in a year with cold wet spring I was seeing a plethora of rabbits of all sizes most of the late spring and summer.

But thinking more on it, it made some sense. The wet spring meant vegetation of all sorts came up everywhere. Maybe rabbits found feeding in protected areas easier with all the edible vegetation. And maybe the higher and faster growth of weeds and grass offered more cover.

At least’s that’s my “Relative Theory of Rabbits for 2013.”

Illinois has a very neat way of actually calculating trends in rabbit populations.

The Cottontail Rabbit Road-Kill Indices do not yet include 2013, so I do not know if my idea that it was a good year for rabbits is actually backed up by more scientific counts.

The road-kill counts of rabbits are done per 1,000 miles by observers during June and July. The indices from 1975-2012 are posted here and I find them an interesting document.

I love the idea of calculating trends in rabbit populations by doing road-kill counts. It strikes me as both a practical way to count rabbits and a cost-effective method.

However, I wonder about a couple things. At least here in northern Illinois, traffic since 1975 has increased significantly and so has the speed of the vehicles. Does that impact the count? Or how can you judge the impact of that?

A goldfinch again flew off as we crossed the side rail into the town pond area. As we started the extended ramble, two half-grown rabbits bolted into the brush.

The massive thistles still are not blooming on the far edge of the extended ramble. But dozens of doves flew off out there on the far end.

No Canada geese grazed and crapped anywhere. A belted kingfisher squawked away from the south shore of the north old clay pit.

Blackberries look like the rain (a quarter inch by my rain gauge) yesterday pushed them past peak.

Back in town, under the bur oaks at the house around the corner, I picked up three acorns for good luck.

As we approached the front porch, i spotted a male cardinal holding a photogenic pose on our porch rail under the feeder.

I gave Storm the sit command. But he could not hold long enough for me to snap the photo.

Some things are constant beyond trends and trending.

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