Jeff Green | Feb 15, 2007
Back toHomeNatureReflections - February 15, 2007
Nature Reflections by Jean Griffin
Just after daybreak this morning (Feb. 11) I heard a Great Horned Owl hooting. This is nesting time for these majestic birds, and it was probably one of a pair calling to the other. As I listened to it, it brought back memories.
One of my earliest memories of Great Horned Owls is as a child growing up on a farm in New Brunswick. Doubtless there were lots of mice around the barn, and my memory of the owl is seeing it silhouetted against a starry or moonlit sky on the top of a telephone pole in the yard. I don’t remember hearing it calling, but undoubtedly it did.
It started me thinking about other memories I have of that carefree time, many of which are about birds and animals. (I think city kids do not know what they are missing!) I can remember going into the barn and pulling an old sack from behind a barn board, to be startled by at least seven mice jumping in all directions. Or going into an unused area of that old barn and using a sprig of timothy to try and imitate a fly caught in the web of some of the large spiders who had their webs hanging from the ceiling. They were never fooled for very long.
Our farm was on the edge of the salt water shore, and the shore was a wondrous place to sit and count the Atlantic Salmon jumping. Why were they jumping? It seemed to be a game, or was it practice for the jumping they would have to do as they went up the fishway that circumvented the falls? Many times I tried to imitate the laughing call of the Common Loon, and sometimes I would see them drawing nearer as if to see who this interloper was - though my imitation was not very good.
It was marvelous to watch the Osprey fishing and rise shivering and shaking from the water with a fish in its talons. It was even more spectacular when the Bald Eagle would seize the opportunity to harass the Osprey, forcing it to drop its catch, and see the eagle make a swift swoop and grasp the fish before it reached the ground - one way to get a meal without the work of catching it. The luckless Osprey would be forced to resume its hunt.
Many times when the tide was out I watched the Herring Gulls seize a clam, soar into the sky and drop it on a rock to crack the shell. When the tide was low was the time to investigate the tidal pools for limpets clinging to the rocks, or perhaps catch an elver. I never did know whether the elvers were migrating up the brook or down to the river.
Animals were always an attraction - the White-tailed Deer coming to feed under the apple trees on snowy nights - but if we crossed the rays of light from the window, they would be gone. Only once did I see a big Bull Moose run through the yard. Another time an unfortunate Bobcat came up from the shore, limping - with one of its paws still caught in a trap which somehow it had managed to pull away from where it had been set. I had been upset because my Maine Coon cat had not been seen for about three months, so it was a joy mingled with anguish to see it come limping up the driveway on three legs. It too had obviously been caught in a trap, and had lost the entire leg, but had only returned home with it healed. It survived many more years with no obvious hardship.
Some memories are laughable - like the time a bat found its way into my bedroom. I had been awakened by something near my face on the pillow. Not knowing what it was, I called to mother, and on her opening the door and flashing on the light, she cried out "It’s a bat!" and quickly slammed the door and left me there. I think all I did was to go completely under the covers and go back to sleep - in the morning the bat was gone.
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