owltalk 2001


27 April, 2001


During the night, so much more occurs when you allow it to. My patience has grown over the years, simply because I have assigned a cause and effect to the power of observations. You wait, and things happen. You get impatient, and things don't happen.


On Tuesday night, the new moon had long since hidden under the western horizon and the sky was black, yet pricked with brilliant light from distant stars and planets. For the first time this year, I didn't pack my down coat, relying instead on ambient warmth for my 7 hour stint in the North Woods. Rivers are open and loud. Tree frogs and spring peepers croak and chirp in the reawakened forest and wetlands.


I drove on the back roads, washboarded and rough from a winter's worth of trucks, undulating now with the rising frost. On my journey to the Shore, I stopped at a cavity tree that has been well used over the years. Boreals, saw-whets, and northern flying squirrels have raised families there, and it receives regular visits from me during my compulsive returns to cavity trees. This year, a pair of saw-whets have placed an "occupied" sign at its entrance, the female shyly watching as I approached.


Always an opportunist, I placed a trap beneath the cavity tree; it's monofilament nooses arrayed above the pasta-chewing domestic mice.  Then, I stood motionless. Without motion, patience does not exist.


I watched the silhouette of the female leave the cavity for a perch in a spindly alder, 2 feet above the mice. She was interested, but simply sat and watched. Behind me, I heard the male saw-whet approach, tooting on the fly. If nothing else, I told myself, I could watch the male and female interact in their courtship ritual, a prize in its own right.


And as I stood, I felt displaced air rise up behind me as the male alit……on my head. He didn't stay long, because my reflexes being what they are, I bobbed like a boxer and he was gone. But during a night when so much was monotonous, his feet on my head told me that being part of the landscape is more important than moving through the landscape. My patience was again rewarded by the subtle ways of the North Woods night.