Category Archives: nature fix

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Light returning

Now the ends of the daylight reach to meet the ends of my day – light for the morning dog walk and light over the valley returning home in the evening. Always a milestone in my year. The light  highlighting wisps of morning cloud is all the more beautiful after weeks of dark-sky morning walks.

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Mouse hunting

My thoughts are with the local coyotes as they are in the regional news this weekend.

That was when they came on the coyotes, two females hunting in the open. They were a mile or so from the hollow that fed Bitter creek, not a place Deanna would have gone looking for them. It was a clearing where fallen trees had opened the canopy, letting the sun onto a patch of forest floor that now grew thick with a red carpet of new blackberry leaves. At first she thought they were dogs, they were so big: thick-furred behind the ears like huskies, and much stockier than the scrawny specimen she’d seen in the zoo or any western coyote she’d seen in photographs. These two appeared golden in the sunlight, arching their backs and hopping through the foot-deep foliage, one and then the other, like a pair of dolphins alternately rolling above the waves. They were on the trail of something small and quick beneath the leaves and grass. Probably a vole or a mouse. They paid no attention to the pair of humans who stood with their boots frozen in the shadows. Focused entirely on their pursuit, their ears twitched forward like mechanical things, tracking imperceptible sounds. Like two parts of a single animal they moved to surround and corner their prey against a limestone bank, tunnelling after it with their long noses. Deanna watched, spellbound. She could see how efficiently this pair might work a field edge, pursuing the mice and voles they seemed to prefer. No wonder farmers saw them often and feared for their livestock; if only they knew that they had nothing to lose but their mice. It occurred to her as she watched them that this manner of hunting might actually be helpful to ground-nesting birds like the bobwhite, because of the many passages it would open through the tight clumps of fescue.

~Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer, p 196-7

Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer - book cover from www.kingsolver.com

Update to Mystery Sighting, Nov 28: Identified!

A friend identified this little guy as a white-breasted nuthatch… here’s a pic of one of his local clan 😉

White-breasted Nuthatch, photo by Janice Hurlburt

White-breasted Nuthatch, photo by Janice Hurlburt

Duet

This morning serenaded by two owls calling back and forth with each other. Has gone on for some time and continues now. Coming from the direction of the park where the owl took up residence this past summer. Never heard anything like this before.

Stayed up late enthralled with a new Joni Mitchell book. Delighted to rediscover in her a fellow dreamer –

 I intended to become a hermit when I bought my land in Canada. …

That was after I wrote “Big Yellow Taxi.” I bought the land a year or two after that. I was never going to come back. I was just going to live up there. I thought, “I will never get bored on this piece of land.”

It’s magical. It really is. The mundane aspects of it are magical and then there are two or three things every year that are spectacular — pink rainbow, comets streaking through the clouds, low to the ground. Amazing things. Not to mention I’ve got a blue heron that I have a relationship with, that lives in my bay – big bird. A robin followed me around one year. Everywhere I went, he was hopping around behind me.

From Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words, by Malka Marom (2014), 60.

Gift of the Raven

A raven was on our front walk this morning, with a prize, and an audience of magpies arrayed in the surrounding branches.

Raven and prize

Raven and prize

It flew up to the lamppost, then left soon after. So did the magpies – all abandoning the prize alone on the pavement.

“It’s a bird,” said my partner… “It’s still alive,” seeing it flutter a little.

We stood at the window and contemplated the harsh realities of predator and prey.

Soon after, we went out and saw the prize close-up –

A young raven?

No – a styrofoam, feather covered little crow figurine, with wires coming out of its feet.

Little crow

Little crow

Mystery sighting

Chickadees out in full force this calm, snowy morning, two nights and one day into this heavy snowfall.

A mystery bird came to the oak trunk and clung upside down there, closely followed by a female Downy Woodpecker with its smart black and white back.

The mystery bird is about twice the size of the chickadees, a little smaller than the woodpecker. Bigger than the nuthatches that frequent this area. Creamy buff breast and darker, greyish back. Shaped like a nuthatch or woodpecker with their short stubby tails.

The Downy meandered up the ant-sheltering oak trunk for a while, hunting, while the mystery bird just hung out, upside down, sheltering on the leeward side of the trunk.

A passing chickadee stopped at the tree and watched the woodpecker hopefully for a while.