.......and Reflections

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wings in the Sky: a Middle of Nowhere Signature

Aldo Leopold was the "Father of Conservation" in America. He  wrote A Sand County Almanac. He died in 1948, the year I was born. His Son Luna published his book along with essays in 1949. It is a publication that resonates with conservationists even today and probably will for many generations.

Aldo Leopold was inspired by the flight of Canada Geese wheeling around rural Wisconsin especially in the spring when the combination of their trumpeting call and their squadron-like, v-formation  flight were a welcomed sight at the end of long, harsh winters.

 His work is a must read. It is easy reading that reflects the beauty, simplicity of nature, and concern for a society going one way and wild places going another and perhaps away all together. He writes about his observations and experiences in the field. What he says resonates with me the more time I spend in the Middle of Nowhere.

While birding in Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area I had a couple of encounters that illustrate why I am addicted to the nature experience. I stopped at my regular Beaver Lake in hopes of seeing a Red-headed Woodpecker and maybe the resident River Otters.

There were 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers foraging about the many standing dead trees that died from the lake formed by the beavers. In the dead branches of a fallen tree was a Bald Eagle. This was a 4 year old sub adult that will be an adult next year. You can tell by the extensive white plumage on the head and upper body.

The eagle was intensely looking down into the water below. Much to my surprise there were 2 River Otters 10 feet below the eagle defiantly swimming and interacting with each other and exploring the perches of the dead limbs. The Otters were either oblivious to their stalker or they didn't care.

That Bald eagle was sure interested in those moving life forms below. I imagine he had lunch on his mind. But he is an eagle and a lousy predator. He is , for all his glory, a meager scavenger. I suspect that the River Otters somehow know that they need not fear the intensity of the eagle's stare. Perhaps the young eagle was having a lesson in his limitations that will come into play as a wholesome, productive mature Adult.

It is spring and waterfowl migration abounds in Northeast Ohio. As I came to another pond in the refuge hundreds of Tundra Swans began to take flight. Canada Geese flights are oh so common but to see masses of swans is still a heart stopping experience.

The Swans are moving north to tundra lakes and ponds primarily in Arctic coastal wetlands and river deltas. They are impressive birds both individually and collectively. It isn't just the birds in flight but the calling that associates it. These Swans were once called whistling swans, because of their call. Pete Dunne in his book Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion describes the call as "One of the greatest sounds in nature. An erie, haunting, winsome call that is part whoop, part sigh."

Aldo Leopold didn't just appreciate the Canada Goose flight and call. It represents a life history that is connected to all living things. His appreciation was for the Canada Goose, The places that it breeds, the places they visit in migration and the places where they winter.

The perplexed Bald Eagle, the indifferent River Otters, and the flight of Tundra Swans are the salient experiences in a simple daily the Middle of Nowhere.

Read Aldo Leopold and add John Dunne's companion guide to your library to complement your many hours in the field.

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