It's been a bit of a weird week here, in terms of wildlife in the backyard. It's been very wet and cold, so the dogs have had a bit more inside time, resulting in an ongoing battle with muddy paw prints, and some visitors to the yard who have time to explore without huskies trying to nab them.
In case you haven't come across it before, huskies are a breed with high prey drive. That means they have a very strong instinct to catch things, especially small animals or birds that zoom past. This is why huskies are often bad with cats and "pocket" pets. It's an instinct that has been present in all dogs, but humans have manipulated the prey drive differently in different breeds using artificial selection. Retrievers (labs, goldens, spaniels) have been bred and trained to bring back prey that's been shot by humans; herding breeds (collies, corgis, kelpies) gather up stock; hunting dogs (terriers, beagles, pig dogs) chase down rodents or larger animals depending on their breeding. But the arctic breeds have had very little done to their prey drive because, until the last 50-100 years, many of them were turned loose in the summer months to hunt to feed themselves. This results in huskies who will happily catch and kill anything that runs away - cats, chickens, pet rabbits, even smaller dogs. Those raised with cats, especially canny or suspicious cats, or smaller dogs who don't run away, can live in harmony, but for others, there is always a risk of prey drive suddenly ruining a beautiful friendship.
But fish??? Huh??
When I first saw the fish, it was lying on a bed in Czar and Bolo's pen. From the back window it looked like a twist of plastic. Czar was standing looking at it, head cocked to the side, pondering this strange object. It looked like he'd carried this prize off to play with it in private - and probably guard it strenuously from the others, potentially causing a dog fight. I went and retrieved it.
When I realised it was a fish, I was astonished and disgusted. How did it get into our yard? We don't have a pond. There was no sign our Hotwired fence had been breached, no way our dogs could have tunneled out to raid a neighbour's pond. My suspicious mind conjured various scenarios - someone throwing the fish over the fence to hide its death from a spouse or parent, someone thinking our dogs might enjoy the treat, someone dumping trash in our yard... What had happened?
Feeling rather annoyed at my neighbours, I rang to a friend who kindly listened to me rant and rave, and then said "maybe it was heron?"
"I doubt it! I've never seen a heron around here and we don't have any big lakes etc to attract them" I spluttered.
"Oh you might be surprised."
Our conversation moved on, until I turned around and casually glanced out the window to the back yard. I shrieked and swore. My friend nearly died laughing.
At this point in the day, the dogs were in their pens, because I'd not long returned from the supermarket. The heron casually sauntered across the yard. It gave one almighty flap and sat on the fence. The dogs calmly watched it in silence.
I was rather embarrassed, but happy that it wasn't an inconsiderate neighbour. My friend didn't stop laughing for three days. I got my own laugh a few days later, thanks to the next visitors to our yard.
On Wednesday, I walked outside to find Bolo at the back door and Ishka, Czar and Frankie all standing in a group on the grass, looking up at the veranda roof. When I stepped out I found a cockatoo standing on the guttering, peering down at the circling dogs with great interest.
There were five of them, flitting from tree to roof to tree. They watched the dogs watching them. It was quite hilarious - almost like the birds were teasing the dogs and trying to tempt them into something stupid. I called the dogs inside.
Does anyone know if cockatoos or other parrots have prey drive?