The combination of the thickly wooded area behind my house and the creek that runs through it attracts a lot of animals. At dawn and again at dusk, a doe and her fawn feed on fallen fruit around a crabapple tree. When the fawn was still small she stayed very close to her mother, but as she grew she started to linger under the crabapple tree long after her mother had started up the hill in the distance.
It’s interesting to watch them communicate. Somehow the mother tells the fawn it’s time to go and the fawn will begrudgingly walk away from the sweet treats and mosey mama’s way. She reminds me of an adolescent when she does that.
I heard an owl hooting in the woods this morning. It was dark out so I couldn’t see it but it sounded close. I was impressed by its smooth, deep hoots. Years ago on a clear winter afternoon, I looked up from the yard at the hillside across the creek and saw something high up in a tree. The branches of the trees were bare and there on a high branch was a white five gallon bucket. I stood there looking at that white bucket for a while wondering how it got there. I started imagining scenarios that could explain how a five gallon bucket got up in a tree. Perhaps it was thrown out the window of a cargo plane. Maybe somebody dropped it out of a hot air balloon.
The scenarios continued to get more and more ridiculous until I saw something that I found more confusing than how the bucket got in the tree. The bucket turned its head and looked at me. It turns out the bucket I was looking at was actually a large white owl. We stared at each other for a few moments until the owl grew bored, looked to its left, and flew off in that direction. I could hear its wings beat the air as it took flight. I watched it fly low down the creek until it disappeared from sight. Sometimes I look at that same tree on sunny winter afternoons hoping I’ll see that owl again but so far I haven’t.
Last summer I realized I had a family of chipmunks living in the side yard between the porch and the shed. I’d see them most mornings as I had coffee on the porch and I enjoyed watching them scurry about. They were pretty and a source of curiosity for me. I don’t recall seeing chipmunks around here when I was a child. They were playful and it was fun to hear them chattering excitedly as they played with one another.
One morning I was looking out the screen door at a lone chipmunk in the yard. I had a large mug of hot coffee in my hand as I was watched the chipmunk foraging around on the lawn when I heard a sound over my head. It was a hawk swooping down from above. He skillfully snatched the chipmunk from the grass and landed on the branch of a tree about thirty yards away. The hawk gripped the limb with one foot as he choked the life out of the chipmunk with the talons of the other.
I’m sad to say I haven’t seen a chipmunk since.
Standard reporter Chris Simones can be reached at 473-2191.