before i even got off pavement, the local wildlife was coming out to say hello. a robin ringing it's alarm bell (oh what would i do without the robins???) alerted me to a small hawk perched on a low branch. it took flight and disappeared in the trees before i could even reach for my camera. a few steps farther along and i was watching a turkey vulture take low, contemplative circles around a yard that borders the wood. i thought i caught a whiff of...something...but it was gone again quickly and so i took to the trail, but i whistled a bit to myself in the hopes of alerting any larger mammals that might be checking out what was interesting the vulture.
the forest is so lush and green right now, the trails narrowing significantly as the salmonberry bushes have closed in. i wound my way along, ears perked as usual for all the bird song and other sounds in the trees. partway along i heard a strange raspy whistle above but couldn't spot anything so i continued on my way. soon enough the usual ruckus of small birds let me know what was ahead and fairly quickly i spotted the barred owl perched above the creek. it had no patience that evening though, and flew off into the forest after only a moment with a chase crew of robins close behind. at the same time it dawned on me that not all the robins had left, a second owl caught flight. well, that had me bowled. i paced myself slowly along the trail, but the owl repeatedly took flight to keep me from closing the gap, but never left completely. as i crossed a small bridge it was perched over the creek and i snapped the shot in the middle above. i was amazed to watch how aggressive the small birds were that night, actually dive bombing and glancing off the head of the large owl, who weathered the blows stoically and without recourse. one can only take so much though, and before long this owl swooped off between the tree trunks and disappeared.
i was happy enough, having spotted two owls in the evening and feeling blessed of this little stretch of trees. but just because, i decided to take the loop a second time. one of the owls continued to play like a ghost through the leaves, catching the corner of my eye here and there but never coming fully into view. i almost felt i was being led along, to where the undergrowth tapers away and the maples and firs stretch high overhead, creating a wide cavern roofed by backlit leaves. again that high whistle, lilting up at the end, just a little. and then a little bit farther and there, 20 feet up a moss-covered snag, was an owlet. oh my.
it bobbed it's head up and down to get a look at me, but sat quietly as i worked my way to sit below the tree on a log. we sat, each of us, checking out the other. man, i can't even tell you. those are the moments i live for. we sat, little owl and i, for nearly half an hour, until i decided that mama and papa owl were probably keeping an eye on me too. time to leave this family alone and slip back out of the woods before darkness fell. but that hoarse whistle again. i looked a bit harder, 50ft or so farther along the trail and up into the canopy. there! a second wee owl. this one wouldn't pose much, its back to me before taking off in a clumsy sort of way and flying farther into the trees. but my little friend stayed put in its tree, and he proceeded to make the same noise, which i've tried to capture in the video below.
sorry for rambling on so, but all this nature makes me wax on a bit it seems. and if you hadn't figured out i love nature, well, you must not visit here very often. to cap off my evening, as i headed out of the woods i inadvertently flushed a half dozen turkey vultures from their perches low in the bush. the smell of something decomposing was strong, but in that twilight hour i wasn't inclined to look too hard for the carrion. fresh out of the trees, two does, a fawn, and a buck working on a handsome new set of antlers had bedded down in the middle of a field, keeping to the open as the strengthening wind muffled sounds in the forest. lastly, an eastern cottontail sat frozen at the edge of the grass. so much in one visit to what is normally my 'back-up' trail, now quickly rising to the front of my walking choices.
i headed home along the road as the light slipped away, full.