A “Wild” Week. (with video)Tuesday, September 25, 2012 by: David Root
Well, okay… it wasn’t the “Animal House” kind of wild. No all-night parties, and certainly no debauchery.
But I got to see some wild animals that I had never seen before, other than specimens in captivity.
One day last week I was just finishing a driving lesson, and had my student back up along their rather lengthy, and curved, driveway. (He did very well.)
We were completing the marking sheets when something caught my attention. A very large, greyish bird-like shape floated across the driveway, about five metres ahead of the car, rose slightly, then landed on a lower branch of a nearby tree. I wasn’t sure what it was until it turned around and stared on our direction.
It was an owl.
It was cloudy, and we were in a grove of trees so the light was too dim for me to take a picture of it. It had a rounded head, was either grey or buff-coloured, and had large circles surrounding its large black eyes. Checking on the internet, later, I determined it to be a Barred Owl.
What an impressive sight!
The only owls I had ever seen before this were the ones in the zoo at Bellevue Park, and they were always hiding in the branches near the top of their enclosure.
I hadn’t realized just how huge these birds are. Sitting in the tree it looked like a 10-pound sack of potatoes covered in feathers. It’s wing span was at least a metre.
What amazed me, other than its size, was how slowly it could fly. I have watched birds of all sizes, from chickadees to crows to geese to herons, and I have never seen a bird float along so slowly.
Yes, many birds do drop a great deal of speed when landing, coming to a dead stop for a brief moment before their feet touch the ground or grasp a perch. But this owl was moving slower than I walk for a good eight or ten metres.
Again, an amazing sight.
This past weekend I was, once again, at Camp McDougall; our fall Presbytery meeting was held at Camp.
After the meeting was over and I had cleaned- and locked-up, I was heading to Echo Bay United Church for a scrumptious Turkey Dinner. I had some time to kill before the dinner, so I decided to take Highway 638 to see how the colours were developing.
They are, by the way, quite nice. Some areas are still green, but others are showing spectacular reds, oranges, and golds.
Near Rock Lake I spotted a deer along side the road. I slowed, both in hope of a better look and in case the critter decided to leap out onto the road, but it perked up its ears, lifted its head and stared momentarily in my direction, then turned and bounded back into the trees.
Further along the way I trekked up Lonely Lake Road to Tower Lake, one of my favourite spots. The colours surrounding the lake are only just beginning to change, and are more of a light blush than brilliant colour.
However, while standing on the beach my attention was caught by a shape in the water, followed by a splashing sound.
I turned and watched where the shape had disappeared and waited, and was rewarded by seeing a pair of otters poking their heads above the surface and staring at me.
They frolicked (or do otters gambol?) for about ten minutes while I stood and watched, diving under and resurfacing first further away, then closer to shore.
Several times they lifted half their bodies out of the water, in much the way a ground hog pops out of its burrow.
I tried taking a video of them, but the sun was behind some cloud, and my cell phone camera is not the best quality. I have terrific video of the waves rippling toward shore, but I can’t tell which ripples may be otters.
Heading through Sylvan Valley I spotted dozens of Sand Hill Cranes in the fields. At one time these impressive birds only stopped while migrating to or from breeding grounds further north. Now there are many who stay here throughout the summer; I have seen large flocks near the airport in Bar River and along the highway on either side of Bruce Mines.
Sunday morning, on my way back out to Echo Bay (I provide musical leadership once a month) there was about a dozen hawks and a couple of eagles circling over the Garden River. My guess would be they were choosing a meal from the many salmon swimming upstream.
We truly are blessed, here.
The scenery is spectacular, and the wildlife abundant. Even if we seldom get to see the wildlife, I find comfort knowing that it is here in such abundance.
We don’t treat the environment the way we should.
We fill in ravines, “sculpting” the land and changing the natural flow of water in the process.
We bulldoze acres of trees to build more and more subdivisions, destroying a lot of habitat in the process. Then we complain when coyotes and bears are in our yards.
I know we do need to build new homes. I just wished we took more care in developing the parcels of land chosen for subdivisions.
One friend describe, recently, his experience digging the foundation for the house he built on the shore of Lake Huron, near Thessalon. He though he was building on virgin land that had been cleared by the developer, but blocks of styrofoam aren’t usually found buried beside chunks of Pudding stone.
I am certainly not a militant “tree hugger,” determined to stop all development at any cost. I know we need lumber, that we do need to clear some forest to make room for additional homes. I know that some farmland will be turned over to developers.
But I hope we can do this prudently, having concern for the environment and the wildlife that inhabits these areas.
Some people may say, “Who cares?” about the spotted owl — or deer, bears, or whatever wildlife might be affected.
We should all care.
Some people spend all their time in the city, perhaps only seeing “the woods” as they drive by on their way to some other city.
Others of us spend some time — some more than others — actually walking in the woods, swimming in the lakes, fishing in the stream, and otherwise enjoying the natural wonderland at our doorstep.
It is all part of an ecosystem; everything has its place and its role. Diminishing one element affects the whole of that ecosystem.
Part of the New Creed, a statement of faith of the United Church, says, “We are called ... to live with respect in creation.”
Whether United Church member or not, whether a person of faith or not, it is a statement with which we should all be able to find agreement.
We are deluding ourselves if we think we can dominate and impose our will on the environment. At best we can carve out little niches where we can build homes and other structures.
Wildlife will not stop at the city limits. Weeds, wild grasses, and even trees will begin growing in the unlikeliest of places.
Check out what few stretches remain of “Old Highway 17 North” or other abandoned roads, and see how nature is reclaiming them.
No, we have had a far too cavalier attitude toward the environment and the wildlife that inhabits our forests and our cities.
It’s time we began to appreciate what we have, and treat these ecosystems with the respect they deserve.
This video is from BBC, and was originally posted 7 Dec 2011. It features David Attenborough narrating Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World over some amazing scenes from the BBC's Planet Earth series.
Get out and go for a walk in the woods, whether along the Hub Trail, or one of the many nearby hiking trails. Fall is an amazing time to appreciate the beauty, and the peacefulness, of our environment.
But… that’s just my opinion.