Summer solstice has passed, and the earth is reborn in miniature.
Tiny helicopter seeds on the manitoba maple are the size of my fingernail.
Acorns on the oak are tiny green pebbles.
Half-sized squirrels recklessly cross the ground near me, not yet having learned the caution of an adult.
Families of fledgling foragers feast! Magpie groups of about 5 birds array themselves in high bushes and low tree branches. The young, with their tell-tail stubby tail feathers, suitable for close quarters in the nest, still with the low raspy call of a nestling demanding food – always accompanied by the anxious adult shepherd with their long graceful tail & higher, piercing call.
A nuthatch came to the seed feeder yesterday, followed by another who watched from the tree, followed by a third – half the size of the adults. A young fledgling learning life outside the nest from her parents.
I’ve felt especially sympathetic to the nestlings this spring, as I cuddle close a young fluffy-headed chick of my own.
Ambling along the sidewalk by the river valley, hidden from view by the snowbanks lining the walk, my dog and I came upon a short-legged, shaggy animal with a big round body, somewhat larger than a large domestic cat.
It seemed to be a uniform dark colour. Its tail was flat and angled down toward the ground from its body. The tail was about half to two-thirds the length a cat’s would be, relative to the body size.
Although it rolled from side to side in quick, waddling steps, it progressed slowly down the path – clearly not an animal that relies on speed.
Skunk tracks had criss-crossed the neighbourhood last week, so that was my first thought, but its tail and markings were different from a skunk’s. The tail wasn’t fluffy and there were no tell-tale white markings on its back or tail.
I think it was a porcupine, or possibly a woodchuck, newly emerged from hibernation. Maybe a young one, given its size.
I kept our distance, since my dog was along, so we didn’t get close enough to confirm.
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.
A wonderful moon! Gateway to Autumn, easing us in slowly, deliciously…
It began with the first inklings of summer’s end:
Two bright yellow jewels in the green grass – the first fallen leaves.
Six geese making their pilgrim way across dusk-darkening sky at 9pm.
It shines brightly now on comfortably cool nighttimes; darkness falling ever-earlier.
Mornings are moonless at this time: sunrise presides over crisp morning walks,
under bright clear skies trailing high clouds that capture ever-shifting colours.
Elm trees presenting a single, stark, yellow-clustered branch among the summer-green.
And it will end with the autumnal equinox, ushering out Summer.
Absent since spring migration sightings, a few robins have reappeared in the neighbourhood briefly.
Two juvenile robins… or possibly another type of smaller-sized, adult thrush… hopped and hunted their way through the yard – subtly rust-coloured, mottled breasts.
A single adult robin seen nearby another day. Most recently, an adult robin lying dead in the alley with a throat wound… the same bird?
Other places are alive with birdsong in the summer, while this area seems quiet by comparison.
I bear witness to the truth of this recent local newspaper article – in this neighbourhood owned by magpies and squirrels, “few town-nesting American robins ever succeed in raising a clutch of eggs to hatching.”
A week ago in the park, unusual feathers covered the ground. They were fluffy, with blunt tips. Yellowish fuzzy tendrils so fine that they clung to everything the feathers touched. Brown and white, barred with darker brown. It was hard to find any good ones to bring home because they appeared to have been through a lawn mower.
I assumed from all the feathers that a bird had met its fate there – perhaps a passing coyote?
I’m not familiar with identifying birds by their feathers (except for the brilliant yet ubiquitous Magpie) but my guess was an owl, based on my amateur intuitive reasoning that if the shape of the parts resembled at all the shape of the whole – that squarish, blunt shape & bars just seems owlish!
Today passing through the park again, I was surprised to see fresh feathers, these ones unmown and in great shape. This batch was less fluffy than last week’s, and didn’t have such square tips. Perhaps the bird is alive and well, after all!
It dawned on me that there may be a juvenile owl just getting her first adult suit – from the fresh supply and the reduced baby-fuzziness. Peering into the treetops in the bright sunshine I couldn’t see any sign of the little(?) one, though. If it is an owl, it’s come to the right place – plenty of young jackrabbits to meet any carnivorous appetite in these parts!
Looking again at the colouring, I remember the last mystery bird in the neighbourhood – the Ring-necked Pheasant… Maybe I’ll have to do some research on this one!