Here I am inside my tent after a really long day and a short nap was all I needed. I thought I’d sleep more but it isn’t forthcoming. I look at my watch and see that the end of this very long day has many more hours. It’s only three ten pm. Makes sense. My day began in the wee hours of the morning.
The kids are having a great time. I can hear them laughing and carrying on. I don’t mind. It’s great to know that children are having fun. A group of them passes by occasionally while I write in my journal. (Lots to catch up on.) One of the leaders attempts to hush the kids as the pass by. I poke my head out, “Make all the racket you want. I love it.” And so it was. The comings and goings of kids off to explore the island and return for food and fun.
I spend time reviewing charts while writing. It’s fun to see where I’ve been and routes taken to reach destinations. I mark places on them where something of interest caught my eye and then make note of it in my journal. I return to my first camp here on Jewell Island and find a few scribbles. “Deer tracks in the Punchbowl at low tide – two sets, both female.” “Two Osprey.” Oh, yes. I saw one when entering the forest on my way to the towers. The other at the southern tip of the island. “Loons, many between Cliff and Jewell during my return trip.” “Two species of Gulls.” And of Course, the “Great Blue Heron” fishing in the Punchbowl.
There are no photos as I didn’t have the appropriate equipment. I do think it is important for you to see what my friends look like. That’s right, friends. I love them all and they each have there own unique characteristics. More importantly, they live, love, get mad, play games, eat and generally everything that we do, except for destroying their environment and ours. I’ll begin with the Osprey.
I’ve had the privilege of living in places where they abound and it’s nice to say that because like many birds, DDT nearly wiped them out. They seem to be making a pretty good come back which is good news in my book. I have two great stories of encounters with the Osprey. The first is during my first years living in Wisconsin. I discovered and fell in love with Door Country. A lot of other people enjoy the area as well and the campgrounds are full during peak vacation season. I decided to take my roommate up for a few days bringing my canoe as always (Wenonah Jensen 17′).
We established camp and slept well as usual. The next morning showed promise of a happy wonderful day. I decided we should paddle in a place away from the popular places. So the canoe was secured atop the truck, my friend was secure as well but inside the truck. I immediately headed for a road that led to the opposite side of the peninsula which is what Door County is. I found a nice wide bay to paddle into up toward the northeastern tip and drove to a spot adequate to put in. Quick work was made of that and we were off. My friend was a bit nervous as she had never been out on a large lake before. She did fine and we easily made it over moderate waves into the bay.
The first thing we noticed was an Osprey perched high on the dead branches at the top of a very tall tree. We paddled on and all the way in until the muskrat trail became too narrow for the canoe. Wow, we were in for a treat on our way back out. We barely made it to the area where the Osprey was when a large bird bombed his way down to the water and snatched a fish about twenty feet in front of us. My friend had a front row seat! The fish in the talons of this mighty hunter flashed silver-like in the sun while the Osprey flew higher on up, back to the branch. We sat still watching him eat his meal. Now, that was a fine day.
My second story occurred within Quetico Provincial Park in western Ontario Canada, just north of Minnesota’s Boundary Water Canoe Area. It is all the same watershed. I did personal guided trips up there for friends over several years. There were for four of us on this trip (I never take more than that.). We were laying over at Twin Lakes for a rest day and shelter from the rain which subsided by mid-afternoon. Steve went out in his canoe to fish and Velvet joined me in my canoe to explore the marshy areas. Deb stayed in the tent napping. At some point, Steve called out while pointing to the top of a tall Pine tree right above the tent where Deb was resting. Oh, My! We watched “Wild Kingdom” in action.
The next belonged to a Bald Eagle who had caught a fish. The guy hadn’t been there more than a few seconds when an Osprey dove on top of him. The two fought hard and without rules. The Osprey easily won the battle and the Bald Eagle flew off while the Osprey enjoyed a meal in the Eagles “living room.” Suffice it to say that the Osprey is a fierce bird, especially when it comes to fish. The only food they eat and they like it fresh. Hence, the Osprey is often referred to as The Fish Hawk.
Birds create a fantastical world for me. They are beautiful to look at. Their songs fill empty spaces with pleasure. They have a lovely disposition and brighten my day. I’d like to talk about one of my favorites, the Chickadee.
I’ve had many an encounter with the Black-Capped Chickadee from the sharing of meals to a bit of humor. I’ve seen how they care for other birds, showing them the way.
One such time was when we had a young Robin winter over up here, where the weather turns bitter cold and the snow piles grow. At first the little guy came to the feeder by himself. A few days later he stayed when the Chickadees came, sitting in a leafless bush far from the feeder. Where did he go when the wind blew wildly? He just sat in the same bush with his feathers fluffed to the uttermost. Nights were spent in the crook of a maple tree branch. Finally, on the fifth day, he understood that the Chickadees had been offering him an invitation. They wanted him to know when to come and eat, where to get his rest, and to sleep in a warm place. I watched him come with the happy little guys, taking his turn to gather food from beneath the feeder. He learned to rest in the thick branches of a cedar shrub and to sleep inside the hole of a dead tree, nestled deeply in the woods behind the cabin.
There are other stories familiar to many of the Chickadee landing on shoulders, taking feed from tiny hands,and gathering thickly to complain when “someone” was late with the food. My funniest was during a second hike of The Appalachian Trail (a continuous trail that runs from Georgia up into Maine). I did it differently than most by starting in Pennsylvania the second week of March and heading north. This way I’d be alone for most of the five month journey and I was. Anyway… I was in Vermont enjoying the rewards of what happens when the skies let loose. It was raining for the fourth day in a row. As the previous days, the rain was torrential in the middle of the day and had nearly washed away my wonder and awe of where I was. That is, until I came round a sharp bend in the trail just below the summit of Peru Mountain. I was face to face with a Chickadee, mere inches from my nose. He said his usual “Chickadee, dee, dee.” But it was obvious that he was saying more than a cheery hello. His crisp clear few syllables shouted laughter. He was laughing at me as I stood in front of him. Twice! And then, I couldn’t help myself and began to laugh with him as the rain continued to cover me like a waterfall bursting off the top of my head. “Chickadee, dee, dee, Dee! DEE!” translation, “ha, ha, he, he, you’re all wet! Followed by little giggles.
I cannot claim the scientific distinction between mankind and animal. The world is a creation beyond eternity.
I’ve been enjoying the company of a pair of Red-Breasted Nuthatches, both male. One of the pair lets me stand beside him while feeding on suet.
The mix upon the ground.
He tilts his head.
This is good stuff.
Me standing still.
Do you want more?
A fleeting glance.
That would be nice.
Who is the guest?
Him or me?
Inspired by my visit with the Great Blue Heron in the Punchbowl on Jewel Island. (See Exploring Jewell.)
If I had the legs of a Heron, I’d be on the ground most of the time. The legs I have are trouble enough. They’ve caused many a face plant, side slam, and turtling. The latter describes a backpacker sprawled beneath his load, appendages protruding as if legs from a turtle under a shell. I’m an expert at this one and my favorite example happened during my first hike of the Appalachian Trail. (A two Thousand mile trail running between Springer Mountain, Georgia and Mt. Katahdin, Maine.)
I took a great fall while crossing over a bog. It was on puncheon board, barely wide enough for my boots. As usual, something had caught my attention and I looked without stopping. I tripped and went air-born, hanging momentarily before massively colliding with the board. The impact expelled air from my lungs like that of water when a dive turns into a “belly-smacker.” A few seconds pass before my hiking partner asked if I was okay. I consciously surveyed myself head to toe. I think so. “Can I take your picture?” “No, Get me out of here!” ( In retrospect, I wish a photo had been taken. There I was, turtled on a board. My shell awkwardly skewed and right arm to the shoulder stuck in thick, wet, algae muck. I think this was an amazing stunt. What are the odds of a trip into space and landing almost completely on a board barely wide enough for two small feet?)
If I had the poise of a Heron, I’d be a fashion model.
If I had the focus of a Heron, I’d be a statue.
If I had the patience of a Heron, I’d be a saint.
If I had the coat of Heron, I’d eat more neatly.
If I had the wings of a Heron, I’d soar with grace.
I’ve had dealings with Herons, enjoyable encounters. My favorite is with a Little Blue Heron during a canoe trip. – A friend in the bow and I in the stern, paddling Mississippi River backwaters. Usually, we watch the birds but not so now. A Little Blue Heron walks beside us, keeping pace and even stopping when we do. He curiously stares at two people in a canoe. Maybe he wonders why a mammal that is not built to float goes to such trouble to do just that? Why do they add length to their arms? Their hands reach the water. Isn’t that enough? I surmise by their plumage that they can alter their covering. Why do they wear what they do? How and when do they change? I have so many questions and wish to observe. But now they are looking at me, as if I’m doing something silly or out of the ordinary? Do they think that I’m not interested in living things too?
Today ended up pretty packed so I didn’t finish today’s 21 days at sea post. Instead, I added music to a video I shot last year from Crow Island of Middle Bay, Maine. The quality is poor because it was made using a feature on my little camera. I still like to watch and maybe you will too. Egrets are beautiful even in pixels.