On a beautiful not-to-long-ago evening I took a short walk to the river where I perched myself on the bridge to catch the sunset. Even on the river with his ever-moving water the surface was quiet, the evening sun washee the water and sky alike in pinks, lavenders and oranges. Somewhere along the shore of darkening tag alders and birch brush the frogs had started to serenade their hopeful mates, a lone Blue Heron patiently fished in the shallows, reflecting a perfect image in the mirror-like water and beneath me the swallows gathered in a silent assault of the new hatched insects. A lovely spot to recharge myself to a peaceful place.
Then I became distracted.
I was watching those aerial acrobats dancing to the music of the Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs as they caught those bugs, one after another, with such ease. A sudden dip. A sharp updraft with a port swing. Skimming an inch above the water then cruising up, only to reverse direction and snatch another unsuspecting insect as it drifted into the swallow’s radar. They veered left and right, up and down, close together or far apart. The mastery of the hunt was mind-boggling. Beautiful little flits of dark blue swimming in the sky so in tune with their environment they seemed not to be part of it but the sky itself. They were the hunters and they tracked down big bugs, little bugs, bugs on the water, bugs in the air; all caught with such ease it seems to not be a hunt at all.
One of those bugs, a mosquito garnered my attention as it bit me on the forearm, completely destroying my sunset induced nirvana, so I smacked it. But I missed. I couldn’t even hit one of those bugs that was just sitting still on my arm! Not moving! And Swallow made it look so easy.
I would like to be that good at something...anything. And while I was standing on that bridge I tried to think of something I was as good at as Swallow was dancing with bugs.
I’m still thinking…..
For birds of prey, spring is a time of bounty. The owls, hawks and eagle’s prey are at a disadvantage because leaves have not yet leafed and cover for is scarce. Unfortunately, it is also the time of year for guardians of small animal companions to keep an eye skyward.
There has been an increase in Hawks and owls taking small dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs due to a number of factors such as scarcity of natural prey, but also some raptors consider companion animals an easy target and as the raptors assimilate to the growing number of humans, they become less wary. It can also not be discounted that small companion animals may, from the bird’s perspective, be seen as a threat to the nesting site and chicks. Great Horned Owl and Red-Tailed Hawk pose the biggest threat, though they are not the only ones.
Companions less than 20 lbs. are most at risk and there are several things one can do to protect them.
Do not let your companion unsupervised outside. This will stop some hunting attacks but not all. A Hawk, for example, has excellent eyesight, but not a very wide field of vision so once she has ‘painted’ a target she does not necessarily see an object 10 feet from the target.
Use the buddy system if you have more than one companion. Send the out in mass. Raptors of all kinds are less likely to be interested in a group of barking dogs.
Provide cover. Natural elements, such as bushes and shrubs, or manmade like a run with a covered roof, are deterrents for hunting raptors as they gage angles and success vs. injury.
Be aware of raptors in your area. Nesting sites are prime areas of concern for guardians, especially large birds of prey.
Yes, the little ones are in danger but try to remember raptors are not specifically after your beloved. They are only looking for a meal and, unfortunately, 10-15 lbs. that obliviously runs about in plain site is an attractive meal. In general, only 1 out of 10 hunts are successful for raptors. Owls and Hawks fall prey to guns, loss of habitat and poisoned by proxy by eating other animals that have been poisoned themselves.
While we all want to keep our companions safe, that doesn’t mean the birds are the enemies. They are just trying to make a living and keep their beloveds safe; so be vigilant when the little ones are outside and if there is an aggressive raptor in your area, call your local wildlife rehab center or DNR to find a solution.
On occasion I open my house to companion sitting and this past weekend I had pleasure of sharing my home with a senior beagle girl who was an absolute delight. I have had very large dogs my entire life so watching over a small dog requires a change in mind set when it comes to the usual.
These smaller visitors are hard to spot within the house. When one is used to just glancing up from a project to check on a large figure hulking about the furniture, well, that’s easy. ‘Oh, I heard a kitchen chair scrap across the tile…she must be in there’ and continue with whatever it was one was doing. But little guys and gals don’t move chairs and they fit into tiny little spaces – under the bed, in between the couch and the wall, behind the commode. They slink about the shadows in the evening so one never really knows where they are, they can hide behind potted plants so as to ‘surprise!’ one as one walks by with a cup of coffee, which makes one slosh the cup contents all over while simultaneously trying frantically not to let any of the sub-boiling brew to scald the guest; and they fit, actually FIT in ones lap. A novel commodity when one is used to large dogs. Not that a large dog doesn’t TRY to fit in one’s lap, but in reality one only gets a portion of the hind quarters and numb legs so there is no reference of one ‘fitting’ in a lap. But we suffer and move on.
Now the walking part is a bit different when discussing large verses little, but even more so when walking a beagle.
Why? Because they move by nose interest. Squirrels, screaming children, and Frisbees that land within feet of them are all ignored unless they are directly related to the smell on the ground. Also, their concentration of whatever they are tracking is such that they can no longer hear when spoken too. Now I’m a big believer in the thought process that I am on their dime when I take someone for a walk. The dog can stop and smell, pee a million times, serpentine from left to right – whatever they want. This is their outing and I’m only holding the leash.
But, I did have to make – oh, modifications shall we say – on Beagle Gal’s stroll. Sometimes she would investigate a bit of ground for quite some time. The minutes would tick by, her dissecting the layers of glorious odors, me standing around trying not to look like I am casing the neighborhood for future thievery, but eventually I would try to get her to become interested in something new. ‘Hey, look at that rabbit!’ Nothing. ‘I think there’s a bit of biscuit over there!’ Zippo. ‘Wow! An alien! Let’s go over there an track him/her!’ She can’t hear me, it’s like I am not even there. Eventually, I had to put time constraints on Beagle Gal. I hated doing it but the neighbors were getting uneasy…
So, after eight minutes, I had to get her to find a new piece of real estate to explore but as I have said she can’t hear when the nose is working. And this is where there is a definite advantage to the small dog. When the hands on the clock say eight minutes I just pick her up, walk ten feet and put her down. It worked great! From then on it was case the neighborhood for eight minutes, pick up Beagle Gal, carry her ten feet, put her down and start the clock again. Simple!
‘Beagle Gal’ is the lovely Kaylee who shares her life with her mistress Rose.
So we have had crap loads of snow this week. Yes I could have said that delicately, but I’m not in the mood and it IS a ‘crap load’ – the total is a vulgar number - some 20 inches of maddening ground cover I venture no one welcomes. Usually when my birthday lands on April 25th there are tiny little sprigs of Dutchman’s Breeches (a native orchid that shows itself for a few weeks in early spring) peeking through the ground, but seeing as they are under CRAPLOADS of snow I will not be seeing them for a goodly while. So yes lots of snow very late in the year. Besides making me somewhat moody, this unusual weather occurrence has caused issues for the local wildlife also.
I have a little lady Robin who seems to be in dire straits. She meets me every morning when I attend my feeders and I mean meets me – at the front door, two feet away. She comes from under the protected place between an unreasonably large snow drift and the edge created by the last board of house siding and the foundation. She meets me by hopping out from under her hidey-hole which makes me I think she is too weak to fly.
Her predicament consumed my attention over the weekend despite the nonsensical blizzard we had or maybe because of it. At any rate, in between episodes brushing off feeders and shoveling until my arms felt like they had grown 4 inches and were dragging on the floor behind me like some kind of a disengaged slinky, I considered what I could do to make her more comfortable since she wouldn’t quite let me get hands on her. I was running low on bird seed and grit (very important during the winter months – and apparently APRIL this year!) so while the wind and snows were obliterating the neighborhood, I donned my backpack and walking poles, then slogged my way to the store to resupply my feed bucket with some Robin goodies like blueberries, raisins and mealworms.
But they did not have meal worms so upon my return, I minced some salmon trimmings, which I keep on hand for Crow and family, and put them out with the fruit. Robin hardly moved for the first day and a few feathers blew off her breast as she sat on her pile of seeds and fruit, eating every once and a while – so sad, so silent. I would go out and brush off the snow from her pile of food. She seldom moved. It just didn’t look like there would be a good outcome from this spring blizzard, not for some.
Then, slowly, she started showing signs of strengthening. She moved about more. Robin began to walk a short distance away when I replaced food and water. And this morning after filling feeders, I came back in the house and while I drank a cup of coffee I heard a familiar chirp. Then another. I looked out the door and there sat Lady Robin, repeating a single note. Not her usual spring song, but beautiful no the less.
We never know how the little things we do throughout the day, though they may be inconvenient, can have a big impact on someone. Celebrate Earth Day by helping out the local wildlife during this difficult spring.
This Blog was posted several years ago but it is a good reminder.
This is a busy time of year for wildlife rehabilitation center across the nation because of the number of babies of various species on the ground. Another factor in the increase is the well meaning Humans who find little ones ‘abandoned’ by mom but who are not truly left parentless, merely hidden from unwanted eyes.
I have a friend at a local wildlife center who remarked how frustrating it is to have someone bring in a fawn they found laying in the tall grass without a mama around. They had watched for a while but no one came to claim the baby so they thought it had been abandoned. Baby also didn’t get up when they approached so the people thought it must be injured and brought it in. Now my friend Jack is a real sweet guy and has the kind of patience that teeters on the ridiculous but he gets a sigh in his voice when he once again has to explain that mom left him in a particular spot so baby would be safe, she knows where he is, told him not to move until she came back and probably watched the whole event from the brush. And mama certainly isn’t going to show a human where she hid her baby by walking up to him when there was danger in the area. And now, sadly, baby is abandoned.
Of course, there was no malice intended. Many years ago I was one of these well intentioned do-gooders and received the same lecture from a rehabilitator who did not have as much patience as Jack, which turned me into a quivering mass of tears all the way home. It did leave a lasting impression though. (I learned to keep my hands off until I was very sure of abandonment.)
Rehabilitation centers also get a large number of fledglings that have fallen out of nests. What about that Jack?
Well, it seems the safest place for a fledgling is OUT of the nest. Nest are practically fast food for predators, a convenient package of helpless prey and easy to find because of the smell and the frequency of the parents’ visits.
There are times when we do need to step in if a life is to be saved, but more times than not we need to leave babies alone. And there are a number of things we can do to lessen the number of true abandonments.
Keep your cat indoors for the months of May and June to lessen the predator numbers. Do not trap (or live trap) rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks etc. during these months because many have nests of babies somewhere and even if a person ‘does the right thing’ by using relocation, they have condemned the babies to starvation or hypothermia even if a predator does not find them. If fledglings end up on the lawn, take pup for a walk instead of using the yard. Babies don’t really hang around very long- they’re usually all about moving for safety reasons so will probably be gone in the time it takes to go for a nice walk.
It’s good to lend a helping hand and if you are certain a baby has been left without a parent it is without question the right thing to do. Jack just asks that we just make sure the hand is needed.
Do you remember when it was generally accepted that animals did not feel pain? When pain-killing drugs were not administered by veterinarians? How about the notion that animals were not self-aware, they had no idea of themselves? Or when we considered they did not possess emotions? They didn’t use tools either. And let’s not forget the idea that animals could only understand a very limited vocabulary, fifteen words I believe depending on the species. They were here to serve us, and therefore we turned a blind eye to their peace of mind. They had no language, no sense of family, i.e. mothers had no bond other than instincts with their children? Remember those days? And they certainly could not converse with us.
Most of the ideas I have described above have been disproven by science. Well, all but one.
For expediency’s sake let’s look at just one of the ideas, the idea of self-awareness, and see how our viewpoint has changed over the years, and why it changed.
In 2006 the world of science proclaimed, through a research test, that elephants are aware of themselves; evidenced by an elephant named ‘Happy’ who looked in a mirror and touched her trunk to her forehead to investigate a yellow dot placed there and not touching the dot in the reflection of herself in the mirror. The test was devised in 1970 by Gordon Gallup, who performed the same test on Chimpanzees with similar results. Since that time the ‘mirror test’ has been used on Dolphins, Horses, Elephants and a few other species with results that suggest these animals have self-awareness. Our loyal friend, Dog, has failed this test a number of times, bringing an interesting conclusion from some in the research field, that canines do not have self-awareness.
However in 2017 a self-awareness test was designed for dogs, not with mirrors, but with scent as the qualifying factor. When exposed to different urine samples of other dogs (including the subject’s) it was determined that, yes, the dog was self-aware because he did not investigate his own pee, just everyone else’s. The reason our canine friends had failed the test before was because WE had not yet learned how to test dogs. Once we learned they use scent and not visual cues as their first line of discovery, we could in fact ‘prove’ dogs are self-aware.
Now, if someone were to ask a guardian of a dog (or any companion animal for that a matter) most guardians would agree they ‘knew’ their dog was aware of himself. But now, now it has been proven by science and so it has become a ‘fact’. It is accepted by the general populous as such. Science has evolved to catch up with the animal himself - and will continue to do so in the years to come. And self-awareness is just one factor; consider all the other antiquated notions that have been proven false.
What will the future bring? What revelations will science unveil that those of us who work closely with animals already know? And is the proof necessary in light of what has been discovered in the last several decades? Is it possible, in the future, that it is proven animals are capable of (and do) speak to us in a conversational manner?
I know it will be. Some of us talk with them now.
Truth, whether proven or not, is still truth.
Science has advanced much of the thinking of our society as it relates to our communion with animals and the future can only bring more understanding by ourselves of the Beings we share with Mother Earth.
While on my walk the other day in the early morning hours, I was admiring a sunrise not quite born when I suddenly heard this alarming honking. ‘Alarm! Alarm! Alarm!’ Not from a car but from the sky and when I looked up I spied four geese (in their traditional ‘vee’) screaming at two male mallards who were on a collision with them in the big sky. The geese didn’t alter their flight path but those ducks sure did. Silently the ducks sheared off to the west, bouncing as they corrected their course in what appeared to be a panic, similar to a wayward crop-duster suddenly spotting an incoming 747. The geese scolded the ducks a few more times just for good measure. I’m sure the ducks grumbled a bit but I didn’t hear it if they did.
I, being an arrogant Human Being, thought midair collisions occurred only to us what with are staggering mastery of the sky through technology. But apparently not. Midair collisions among birds are quite frequent, especially during migration. And, it might be noted, just like our jets, it occurs most often during landings and takeoffs. (I’m speaking of bird on bird collisions).
During a ‘fly-out’, those moments when the entire waterway of 10,000 geese lift off to leaving the lake empty and quiet within minutes, can have devastating consequences in the form of concussions, sprains and the almost always fatal broken wings. There are other dangers of course. Both natural and man-made - storms, exhaustion and starvation claim many. It is estimated that 50% of new migrators will not live to repeat the process. I never really thought of that either. But, as they say, better to have tried and failed than to never have danced with a dream in the first place.
The more I watch Nature and the animals the more I see we are so very similar.
Just another chapter in the book of Oneness. We are not the center, but only a part of The One and our sameness is richer than our differences.
What do police K9’s and the things in your yard have in common – besides dog pooh? Well I’ll tell you.
Our local paper ran an interesting article on how the human half of the k9 patrol was learning the signs of opioid overdose in their dogs. It apparently occurs often enough that officers are now being schooled on how to identify the early clinical signs of canine overdose and how to administer Narcan™, a drug used to counter the opioid so they have time to get their partner to a veterinarian for further treatment. (Narcan is also used in human overdose.)
The dogs are absorbing toxic levels of opioids through their paws and noses when on patrol or ‘drug busts’ as they do their civic duty throughout America and it is nice to know that the police department is keeping up with new demands put on their officers, human and canine alike.
In of itself, the article in very interesting, but it also serves as a reminder to civilian guardians.
Currently the number one killing diseases of dogs is cancer. For dog guardians, if it is not the first health concern it certainly is in the top three. Breeders, researchers, and future puppy guardians all work at trying to get the odds of vanquishing this particular disease in their favor. We feed natural foods, we try to breed from ‘clean’ lines, we look to genetics and markers and these are wise choices. But do we pay enough attention to environmental factors?
If a canine officer can overdose by walking through a contaminated site – what is being absorbed by our home companion on a daily basis? Most people I know are a little nutsy about the diet of their dogs and rightfully so. But there are other potential dangers. What was the dog bed washed with? What is the carpet made of, what is the glue used and what products cleaned the carpet and rugs? What was used to wash the kitchen floor? How about the furniture polish or the dusting product? Exactly what is out there on the lawn?
Consider how much time the dog’s feet are on the ground, how many things they ‘taste’ and how much they are absorbing into their systems. It very well could be that the environment plays a bigger role than we might think. Take a day to review just what is in your home.
A little spring house-cleaning could go a long way in to a longer, happier life for your companion.
 Wausau Daily Herald. Wednesday, February 21, 2018. ‘Dangers in Dogs’ Meg Jones. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. USA TODAY NETWORK- WISCONSIN
I really enjoy a nice salmon fillet simply crafted with a bit of lemon, salt and pepper. I eat a lot of it and I do realize the irony of this being a blog subject but follow along with me for a moment.
When I eat Salmon, a wonderful fish in various respects, I prefer wild-caught for a number of reasons, but mostly because eating wild-caught sets better with my spiritual philosophy. But there are other more mundane reasons why I choose wild salmon. They are healthier, both the fish and consequently, for me. Wild salmon eat a wide variety of prey, making the meat taste better. The fish had a happy life which also has an effect on the taste of the meat. It also has (hopefully) no bad things like antibiotics and hormones above and beyond the natural urges we all succumb to at times- although now I see issues of mercury and lead in wild caught salmon- so maybe ‘healthy’ is up for discussion. At any rate, the fish had a real life and so I can rationalize my eating him, after properly thanking him for providing for me, without too much guilt – after all I am a predator – at least for now. (I have had some thought of going vegetarian. No, not because it is vogue right now, but because it is difficult to eat someone you may have had a conversation with their relative, so the ‘predator’ status could change.)
All these above reasons lead me to purchase wild caught salmon for dinner.
But then one night, I had a question posed to no one in particular. Who is going to swim up the rivers if we eat all the wild salmon? Certainly not the unknowledgeable farm fish. They would have no idea where to go even if they had the chance of escape. They can’t find the stream from which they came…there was no stream. So how is Bear going to prepare for the long winter sleep without salmon to add layers of fat on that fine frame? Young Eagle, will miss out on a much needed easy meal if there are no leftovers to supplement his inexperienced hunting. Not to mention a whole host of others like Fox, Wolf and Coyote. There are more but you understand the point.
I will tell you what the problem is. Too much thinking. I should just be eating…
And now, because I have thought too much, I have this problem. Wild caught or farmed? Both are renewable I suppose. I don’t really feel right eating Mr. Farm Fish just because he has nowhere else to be, no stream calling him. I mean, he has a life, such that it is. On the opposite side, I would like to make sure Wild Salmon does his part in the ecosystem, makes some more babies and feeds others in the places that do not provide grocery stores and cellophane. Maybe I shouldn’t be eating others in the first place? Oh bother….no answer comes to me…too much thinking.
I’ll tell you one thing. Becoming a vegetarian is looking better, because I don’t have this problem when I’m eating a beet!
A couple years ago I reported on the health and population of the majestic moose in Northern Minnesota so I thought I would do a review.
I had reported that the moose in this area were declining in a rapid freefall but that decline. Though still steep, has now slowed a bit. The good news is it is encouraging to see some progress of sorts.
Unfortunately, the bad news is that some biologists are concerned the Minnesota moose is fast reaching a tipping point of no return and that is something almost incomprehensible if you have ever spent time in the north woods where wild is king. In 2006, the Minnesota moose population was estimated (by aerial survey) to be around 8300. In 2016, just ten years later that population fell to 3600. The year 2017 found a slight rise in to 3800. If one looked at just the numbers we could be a bit consoled, but, as biologist stated, one has to consider the population and how spread out it is (they have to find each other to make babies) in conjunction with the number of deaths that are occurring (population recovery).
Moose were once a common occurrence in northwestern Minnesota but they have been listed as virtually extinct in that former range. Extinct. (I hate that word!) The population has dropped 60% in the northeastern range. This alarming overall drop has Minnesota DRN (Department of Natural Resources) considering listing the moose under the Endangered Species Act.
Listing the MN moose with the ESA would allow funding for habitat preservation and study that would hopefully result in tamping the fall in population and bring them back to continue their reign as the icon of the north.
As with all things, there are those who find this particular issue not too concerning, but to me it is important because moose belong in the woods and we do not know what happens to the northern woods if they disappear. We think we know, but we don’t - because we are not privy to the Grand Plan. Last week in a blog we saw how the tiny, thin abscission membrane on the end of a twig changed the look and reaction of leaves on trees.
If the abscission membrane can make that big of a difference it makes one wonder what happens when an animal as large as a moose disappears from the forest. The physical aspects are certainly a consideration in regards to underbrush, predators and the effects on other wildlife, but also the energetic personality would be catastrophic. How would the forest look if it were not complete? If one piece is removed, do the rest follow suit in time?
The northern forest was designed by The Divine, who are we to say all the pieces do not need to be present to make it a forest.
Grandmother Maple does not have any leaves on her. No big surprise there, its mid-February in Wisconsin. But. My basswood still has leaves in various places, as does the Ash, Sugar Maple, and Red Leaf Maple along with a number of other trees in my neighborhood.
Way back in November, as neighbor after neighbor raked their yards for the third and fourth times there were questions thrown over to the fence as they leaned into a break – ‘why are there so many leaves on the trees yet? Am I going to be raking in December? Is this just a regional thing?’ At the time I did not have any questions, mostly because I rake the yard once and let Nature do her thing and whatever she wanted to drop on the lawn after that was ok with me.
But now it is late winter and still many leaves are clinging to their trees. Now I have questions.
I called a couple people, did some research and found the leave retention in trees is nationwide, so that answers one question. I did see some frustrated individuals brushing/blowing leaves in early December. One has to wonder if they realized it would be snowing soon but at any rate it answered question number two. That left only one question. Why are those darn leaves still on those trees? Here’s the scoop.
The days gradually become shorter and cooler in fall. But it was a bit different this year in that, while days became shorter there was no gradual temperature drop – it went from the 60’s to 20’s (F) in a span of 24 to 26 hours…somewhat nationwide (northern US where leaves of deciduous trees turn color and fall to the ground, hence the raking). This ‘overnight ‘ drop in temperature prohibited the formation of a little known membrane called the abscission layer which effectively seals the leaf from the twig, allowing the leaf to die and fall to the ground. The leaf, never being sealed off from the twig caused the leaves to hang on trees. I was told that when the leaf buds begin to push out in spring, these leaves will fall. And I suppose someone in my neighborhood will be raking in spring to thwart any gossiping of an ill-kept lawn and lazy lawnmanship. Some biologist say it will happen again since our climate is changing and temperature swings are becoming the norm rather than the unusual. Others science partners are not convinced, but they are basically not convinced the climate is changing. All I can say to that is nothing I can really print here.
So there are the answers to the questions that plagued the fall gardeners, rake-leaners and lawn perfectionists earlier in 2017. And into 2018 I suppose.
I had theories but I never thought to blame the abscission layer (mostly because I never heard of it). It does serve to remind me of all the tiny things that need to be in place to keep everything and everyone in balance. Mother Earth is an amazing gal.
Do you remember Horton the Pachyderm and his tiny friends the Whos? It’s a classic children’s story by Theodor Seuss Geisel (A.K.A. Doctor Seuss) published way back there in 1954 by Random House. I don’t remember everything in the story- but in was the 13th of May in the Jungle of Nool. No year indicated. Maybe one of my readers can fill in the blanks, until then, on with the story.
The Whos are tiny little people riding through life on what Horton sees as a speck of dust. The problem for the Whos is that Professor Larue looked through his/her telescope and realized their ‘Earth’ was out of orbit and perilously drifting about in space, so they started screaming for help. Horton hears a faint sound, discovers plight of Whoville and agrees to help. This causes Horton to be ridiculed by other forest creatures including a Kangaroo, which doesn’t really belong in a jungle (a fact that drove me nuts as a child) but we shall allow for poetic license and move on.
But Horton doesn’t care if no one believes him because he heard the Whos and endures all manner of physical and emotional abuse while he carries the dust speck to the highest place in Nool thereby keeping Whoville safe. All goes well eventually and Whoville is saved by Horton the Elephant.
Why am I going on about this? Because I have a question. And here it is.
Are We in Whoville?
Think about it. How do we know we are not in WhoVille? Has anybody of import checked? Oh we have telescopes - better than WhoVille I would imagine – and scientists and all sorts of high tech gizmos, but has anyone proven we aren’t in WhoVille? I think not.
Maybe, just maybe, our galaxy is just drifting around in a bigger universe and climate change is a result of our little galaxy landing in the Jungle of Nool. Think about that while you’re sipping your coffee…
The other day I was out early to feed the yard kids. I was laden down with thistle for Finch and crew, mixed seeds for Woodpecker, Cardinal, Dove and others, corn for Rabbit and calling for Crow because I had some salmon trimmings for them- when suddenly the air was filled with a riotous noise! Crow and mate were screaming an alarm. And they brought the kids to help. Instead of silently watching me from Grandmother Maple to wait for the fish, they swooped past me to mob a shadowy streak that crossed the yard.
Then I saw it. Or I almost saw it.
Two small buff-tan feathers were drifting through the air in the still morning dawn. I looked past the down and saw Sharp-Shinned Hawk just landing in the snow with a struggling dove in his talons (his prize almost as big as he). Crow was screaming along with the rest of her clan. Sharp-Shinned was screaming right back as he mantled his catch with outstretched wings, trying to keep control of Dove who was putting up a fight. For a moment it went on, emptying the yard of visitors, hurrying small birds and squirrels alike to the nearest cover to wait in silence for the danger to pass. But in the next moment, distracted by Crow, little Sharp-Shinned lost his purchase and Dove scrambled into the dense underbrush leaving him still mantling, still screaming back and looking confused, trying to figure out just what went wrong with the hunt amongst the cacophony of noise.
The prize lost, Sharp-Shinned knew to do his own scrambling and lifted from the snow into the cold air to escape Crow’s mobbing. Crow, left with no one to antagonize, brought her family to Grandmother Maple to wait quietly for the salmon I had not yet put down.
And then there was silence, as if nothing had happened.
I would have missed that moment if not for Crow. How she saw it I do not know. But it made me wonder how many things we miss because we ourselves are distracted by thoughts in our mind or turning over things about coming events when events are happening all around us. How many seconds, minutes, hours or days do we miss because we are not present in the moment that shows itself? How many opportunities do we pass by? How many would be friends walk past as we hurry through our lives? How many smiles and good wishes do we cast aside for lack of notice as we hurry along in our internal world?
The yard slowly returned to some activity, but cautiously, for Sharp-Shinned had failed so he still hunted – maybe nearby. The entire event took 1.5 minutes, then poof! the moment was gone. Just a few feathers bounced across the snow to tell the tale. I might not have even noticed them in a yard full of birds and feeders. Except for Crow the Tattle-Tale pointing out the hunt…
On any given day, just how many things do we miss?
There has been a storm surge in our area in Central Wisconsin. Not the usual snow, wind chill and ice type, but of a feathered kind. Last week began with the arrival of huge flocks of mixed finches. Redpolls. Gold Finches. Pine Siskins. Hungry, hungry hordes of them are invading local feeders and heated birdbaths as they abandon their northern haunts to seek food a bit further south.
They do not grace our area every year so I think of it as an abundance coming my way. A sort of good omen if you will. But the abundance does mean that in order to keep the flock happy, I must make numerous runs not only to the feeders, but also to the bird seed store. They seem especially fond of Niger thistle seed and sunflower chips and can significantly lower the level of food in a screen tube within an hour before they take to the sky in mass to clean out some other unsuspecting feeder station. Don’t worry though…you will hear them before they hit land…a sweet cacophony of merry little tweets and chirps to serenade the wild and you just before they rob your feeders then clean out your pocketbook of all disposable income.
But no worries, your future looks wonderful as they bring good tidings to your house. And now that I have prepared you for the tiny birds with the big appetites; remember you have been blessed. It is all a matter of perspective.
Back in the day when I was riding the wildlife art circuit, most of my colleagues had wild animals. The claims of finding abandoned, then rescuing and rehabilitating a young wild animal was very prevalent in my circle, so prevalent that one had to wonder just how many wild babies were left in the woods. I began to wonder if I was doing something wrong since I did not have a needful baby animal and would have had trouble locating one if I want to do so. I mean I walk around in the woods more than most and in 60 years I think I have found three abandoned (or supposedly abandoned) animals. These people were finding a plethora of wild kids that they felt needed their guidance and nurturing to the point of stealing them away, some of which the question of abandonment by mom was up for grabs.
Apparently it was what wildlife artist did. I never did search for an abandoned animal myself but I do admit I remember I felt as though I should have one; as if I could not be a wildlife artist without one. It led me to ask the question, ‘why do we feel the need to sidle up to the wild?
We have all seen the tourist wildlife photographer who walks right up to a 700 lbs. bull elk in a park for a picture, much closer than they need to be- why do they do that?
Is it a matter of daring? ‘See how close I got and I’m still alive!’
Or is it an egotistical domination? A bit of control freakism to let the wild ones know we still have the upper hand. Perhaps it is possession. To capture in our hand, for even a moment, something elusive, something unobtainable. Then again it could be a remembrance from a primal time when we were closer to them, closer to Mother Earth. A time when we were more a part of her than apart from her. And them.
A time when we did not have to seek it out-this touching the wild-we lived it.
There are those who live at the other side of the spectrum, those individuals and cultures that believe touching a wild creature is taboo. Not from fear of claws, teeth and disease but from respect. They believe if we touch a wild animal, we steal some of their wildness. They are no longer completely wild. That we have thoughtlessly put them of a path of self-destruction. After all, not all humans are satisfied with only a touch, not all are kind. Better they should stay wary. It is a belief I myself embrace as age has taught me to see from a different perspective.
The reason is mysterious but we do feel the need to have that connection on some level, that physical feel of the wild. It is why we stroll through the woods, watch a sunset or stop to listen to the wind caress the leaves of an autumn oak. To feel alive again. To hold in our hand that bit of flame that is the wild Spirit we once knew so well.