Tara and Easter

Tara and Easter
"Aw, mom"

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse behavior of our farm animals 8/21/17

On the days leading up to the eclipse, I noted the normal afternoon behavior of our farm animals (horses, cows, sheep, chickens, bees) as well as our local wildlife (sandhill cranes and cattle egrets).  I will record today's observations for comparison.  Any unusual behaviors will be in red.  The blog will be updated throughout the day.


-All animals sleeping in typical locations except for the cattle.  They normally bed down in the pine trees at the back of the pasture.  Early this morning, they are laying down right by the main gate.  


-Horses are resting in the shade, as usual for this time of the morning.
-Chickens are scratching and foraging normally.
-Sheep are waiting for morning hay.
-Bees gathering water and foraging as usual.
-Cattle are grazing mid-pasture, with one strange behavior.  Fiona, while nursing her four month old calf, Joel, calls to me continually until I am out of her sight.  She usually doesn't call unless it's near feeding time and she rarely ever calls while nursing (oxytocin usually has a calming effect).
-Cattle egrets not in the pasture.  
-Sandhill cranes not in the pasture.


-Crows cawing.  Large group calling and circling.  Unusual this time of day.
-Chickens not foraging, but still relatively active.
-Sheep standing and quiet.  Need reassurance (petting).
-Bees are fetching water normally.


-Cattle by the gate again.  Need reassurance.
-Horses standing in shade, calm.
-Songbirds are quieter. 
-Cattle egrets not in the pasture.  
-Sandhill cranes not in the pasture.


-Horses grazing calmly.
-Bees active.
-Dogs normal (making the rounds with us).
-Cats oblivious.


-Cattle grazing after more reassurance.


-Songbird calls are those normally heard at dusk.  All regular songbirds quiet, including mocking birds.  
-Cattle are clustered and restless, but foraging.
-Horses are grazing.
-Chickens are in the yard but clumped together and not foraging. Starting to look like a predator reaction.

1435-  (Appears to be peak darkness).

-Chickens are very still.  definitely reacting as if to a predator.  No noises, alert, and all heads up.  Still clumped together under a tree in their yard.  
-Cattle are restless.  Fiona calling again.
-Horses are fine.
-Birds are quiet.
-Bees foraging as normal.
-Dogs fine.
-Sheep standing in stall begging for food.


Appears to be past darkest point.  The eclipse boxes we made worked well.  Some clouds cover, but we had good views of the shadow cast on the sun by the moon through our boxes.  We thought it might get darker than it did, but the animals reacted in interesting ways, nonetheless.


Came inside to darkened house.  Had to turn on lights to type up observations.

A few notes regarding observations:

*Our animals are normally fed around dusk.  I think the sheep looking for feed was based on level of light and association with feeding.

*Cattle were needy.  This was unexpected.  How could I tell?  Our cows come to the gate and moo during feeding times.  They jostle for position as we enter with the feed.  However, if something is bothering them, they come to the gate and look for us (strange dog, for example).  They are tense and still.  Their heads are higher than normal.  There is no jostling for position.  When we go into the pasture and move among them, petting and talking to them, they relax and move off to graze.  That is how they were, rather than expectant behaviors associated with feeding times.  The fact that they came back to the gate several times and limited their grazing to the areas closest to the gate (which are not prime grazing spots) are other indications of the cattle seeking reassurance.

*The sheep weren't as bothered by the eclipse as the cattle.  Perhaps because they spent most of the day in their stall eating hay from a feeder.

*Horses didn't seem disturbed at all.  This was also unexpected.

*Chickens did not go to roost, like I expected, but had a predator reaction instead.  They sought shelter from a tree, held very still and quiet.  This is what they do when they detect shadows from flying predators (ground predators cause them to go higher; flying predators cause them to seek shelter from above).  Their reaction was a logical one to a change in shadows.

*No cattle egrets or sandhill cranes.  These two species spend their days in our pastures.  The usual count is 2-4 egrets and 13 cranes.  I expect them to return tomorrow.  Since they did not appear at all today, how could they have detected the change?  Does it have to do with their unique brain structures used to help them migrate?

*Songbirds reacted as has been widely reported during eclipses throughout the world.