Tag Archive 'owls'

Feb 25 2019

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Owl Fest at the VINS Nature Center

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Although freezing rain made us hesitate, Judy and I drove down to the VINS Nature Center in Quechee, Vermont yesterday to attend the Owl Fest. Since Judy relates to the spirit of owls in general, it seemed like the thing to do. Besides, we were both suffering from cabin fever – a late-winter affliction common among those of us who live this far north.

The Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) does a great job educating both children and adults alike about the wonder and beauty of the natural world. They also maintain a Raptor Center where nearly twenty eagles, hawks, owls and other birds of prey are kept on year-round display in somewhat roomy, outdoor enclosures. It’s worth visiting any time, but on this particular weekend the Owl Fest was on, with plenty of activities for kids and several owls perched on the thick leather gloves of their handlers for viewing up close and personal.

We marveled at how well the screech owl blended into the background when the bark of a tree was put behind it, and how small it is along with the saw-whet owl. A barred owl was on display, of course – a common sight the Vermont woods. I’ve seen it more often then all the other owls put together, anyhow. Judy had her picture taken with Frederick, a Eurasian eagle-owl that’s related to our native great horned owl but runs much bigger. I got the attention of a snowy owl comfortably sitting on the ground in its enclosure and tried to psyche him out, but he was unruffled by my antics. All the same, it was great seeing a snowy owl in the flesh. I’ve never seen one in the wild. What a beautiful creature!

Despite being pummeled for hours by freezing rain and catching a chill, Judy and I both agree the trip was worth it. I think I’ll be better at spotting owls and other raptors in the wild as a consequence. And we’ll certainly be going back to the VINS Nature Center during the warmer months. I highly recommend a visit. Go to the VINS website to learn more.

 

 

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Aug 30 2018

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Wild, Not Wild

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A flock of turkeys wandered into my back yard yesterday morning. About a dozen of them fed along the edge between the mowed grass and where I have let my yard go wild. My wife Judy also saw the birds, as did our dog Matika who barked at them once. They weren’t much impressed by that.

Later on, as Matika was in the other room sleeping, I spotted a turkey trotting right along the edge of the patio, about 15 feet from the door. Several others followed. Clearly these turkeys have no concept of the difference between a wild landscape and a domesticated one. Either that or they simply don’t care.

A barred owl swooped across the yard the other day, landing on top of my car. When Judy and I poked our heads out the door to get a good look at it, the owl flew to the next door neighbor’s roof. We have heard owls nearly every night since then. I usually associate owls with the wild, but two miles from town my home hardly qualifies as a wild place even though it does back up against a good patch of woods. Evidently, owls aren’t as skittish around people as I thought they were. Either that or they find the hunting around here too good to pass up.

Deer passing through, spiders making webs in the siding of my house, hummingbirds at the planters, toads in the grass, and the occasional garter snake slithering into the garage – my turf is overrun with creatures that simply do not acknowledge the boundary between what is cultivated and what is wild. The other night I saw a bat flying in circles overhead, no doubt feasting on mosquitoes. Better than citronella candles to be sure.

Along the edge between the grass and the wild part of my back yard, I have planted a few domestic bushes and flowers that also happen to grow naturally in the wild. I have pulled out grass, dandelions and other undesirables there, as well, making room for the ferns and other wild plants that I prefer. “Unnatural selection,” I call it. Judy calls it “cultivating the wildness,” in a somewhat humorous reference to a book of mine. Yeah, I’ve muddled matters in my back yard to say the least.

For a while now, I’ve been pondering wildness and being human, trying to get a bead on exactly what it is that separates us from the rest of nature. It’s not an easy task. And the creatures wandering into my back yard don’t make the matter any easier. Perhaps the difference between what is wild and what is not wild is not nearly as distinct as we like to think it is. Perhaps it is just a matter of degree.

 

 

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