owltalk 2001


13 March, 2001


The clouds move fast and low across the landscape. If there is light above, one would never know it. It is another night and another 6" of snow. It makes no sense for me to be out here. But I sit, then move, then sit again waiting for a sign that winter is losing its grip on my world.


There have been many nights like this in the past, but I have yet to learn their lessons. I never know when something will happen, only hope that I am there when it does.


After four hours, the weather die is cast. I gather my gear, start the truck, and turn the heat to its tropical setting. I head south slowly. I am in no hurry. My eyes are on the road and on the trees that frame it. A deer mouse bounces across the gravel and I stop, expecting to see an owl on a silent glide towards it. The mouse scampers to the road's edge and is trapped by the 3' berm of snow. He moves north then south, finally escaping on the compacted snows of a snowmobile track. My first sign of small mammal life.


Near the Temperance River, an owl courses down, then across the Sawbill. I would have missed her were I intent on getting home. She perches on the stub of an aspen limb, surrounded by healthy red pines. I stop and we reach a stalemate. She looks at me and I look at her. It is the gray ghost. I wonder how full her belly is and how far she has moved to provide me with this encounter. We watch each other for 10 minutes, then after quick turns of her head, she is gone. Things happen when we let them.


14 March, 2001


What a difference a few degrees of warmth makes. For me, not necessarily for wildlife. It means one less layer of overworn fleece and observer's contentment. It is a balmy 22, and while my mind wanders to an ocean beach, or even 40, I am happy to sit in my chair, surrounded by walls of snow. There will be no toe-wiggling tonight.


At sunset, a bank of gray clouds moves in from the north, bringing with it swaying treetops and clutter to my hearing. And as soon as they arrive, they are gone. Quiet is given new life. The great-horned is still at it, hooting because he has to, letting me know that he will be moving nowhere this prolonged winter. A fox yelps on his rounds. His scent will be posted and when it is gone, he will do it again. It is kind of an obsessive/complusive disorder for the Canids.


I keep hoping that things will break, that tonight the woods will be filled with song. But know it is unlikely. Tomorrow, I start my surveys but already sense that my tally sheets will be empty.


W.H. Lane