Saturday, June 5, 2010

An adventure in the Colorado Rockies

Hi All!

I'm here in the Rockies, soaking up the forest and wildlife, and sweet, clean air. Before I start telling you about this latest adventure, please read the comment attached to the post below this, the one w/ the link to the barn owl alliance. Tom has some ideas about owl box and ramp design that you ought to look at and see if you think it's good. The only comment I would make about the ramp is that you don't want it to go directly to the entrance of the box, lest predators use it for easy access to the owlets. A ramp to a nearby perch or platform from which they could fly-hop to the perch in front of the door would be best in that case.

About yesterday:
Not one day goes by here without some kind of wildlife encounter or adventure! I was sitting here by my bedroom window writing an email to Sy Montgomery, of all people, when I had a big bird adventure (Sy's new book is called Birdology). As I was emailing, I heard crows making a ruckus, then heard the sound of something crashing through the trees and a thump on the ground. I leapt out of my chair and looked out the window. The crows were now on the ground (crows? They were huge. Maybe they were ravens. I'm not sure. They were as big as small barn owls). And then I saw a large animal thrashing on the ground w/ the crows attacking it. I thought it was the mother rabbit who lives in the wood pile below my window. She has babies, so I started yelling, "Stop it! Leave her alone! Go away!"

This didn't have the effect I had wanted so I threw on some sandals and raced down the stairs and out the back door, and up the embankment toward the crows, yelling. As I did, they backed off and the animal they were attacking stood up. It was a female red tailed hawk! She was beautiful, magnificent!

She was shaken and took a second to get her bearings, then she flew away as fast as she could. Thank God her wings or back were not broken. I was worried they might have pecked her eyes so I followed her. So did the crows. I followed crows and flushed crows for about an hour, and I tromped around the forest looking very carefully for the Red Tailed Hawk and for perhaps any babies or fallen nest.

Apparently there had been no fallen babies. Cait didn't think they had a nest nearby, and she's an astute observer of nature, so she would know.

But here's the part that I've never experienced before:
As I walked through the forest, it was completely devoid of animal sounds. All the animals were aware of what had happened. As I peered closely at trees and branches, and even at the ground, I began to see the animals, lots and lots of animals, frozen in place as they had been when this all happened. I walked right up to a branch at eye level where an adolescent gray squirrel sat like a statue, not even twitching his tail or moving his eyes. He was not afraid of me, compared to a hawk or mob of crows. I stood looking at him and talking to him for awhile and then moved on. When I came back that way, he was still frozen in place.

I would have thought something was wrong with him, except that the birds were also frozen! I saw some amazing birds, all completely still. I would have stepped on one had I not been looking where I was going. They were not trying to get away from me at all! They knew the hawk or crows were the greater threat. I was impressed by how long every animal stayed frozen - long after the hawk and crows had left the area. These animals are WILD animals and are survivors.

It was almost an hour before I began to hear birdsong and see chickadees and finches moving in the trees again.

The amazing thing was that it felt like time had stopped and I was walking through some kind of museum piece, where the animals are forever preserved in position at the "waterhole" or in the "forest". The other amazing thing is that the animals had figured out that the greater threat was the hawk/crows.

Later that day, Cait and I took a walk on the roads around her house, and we heard the crows again. This time we knew that it meant there was a predator around. So we looked down the slope to where the crows were making their ruckus and we saw a large fox trotting along with a VERY ANNOYED look on his face. The crows had ruined any chance of him getting a good hunt, because they had alarmed every animal for who knows how far around that there was a predator in the area! He looked soo annoyed, like he was saying, "Scat! Get away! Shoot! Shoot shoot. There goes my dinner. Gosh darn it. Go away. Stupid crows. I hate when this happens."

Again, he wasn't concerned with us at all but continued to trot, annoyed, away.

I am continually amazed at the dramas that go on around us in the wilderness. The fox's ruined day, the hawk's trauma, the terrible fright the birds and squirrels had. Each species has their own world, their own culture, their own dramas and fears and triumphs, and they are all emotional about what happens in their day or night.

I wonder what today will bring?

This is how humans are meant to live - in the middle of all this. This is how we have lived for millions of years. The more out of touch we become with the wild ones, the more out of touch we become with ourselves, because this is the world that we share with the wild ones.

I look at the selfishness, the pure greed, the evil that spawned this oil nightmare. Some of America's most precious land is being as surely destroyed as if an enemy combatant had dropped a nuclear bomb on the area. It's the chernobyl of America. And the fact that a foreign country did this to us is even more odious. It just feels like we've been bombed by some other country. It's not THEIR land, animals, precious delicate habitats, that are being destroyed! They can go on as they please, while they ruin some of the most irreplaceable habitat on earth.

Thank God we didn't let anyone "drill, baby, drill". Remember hearing that it was "perfectly safe" and how "there were so many precautions in place that drilling would not affect the environment?" Well I give you exhibit A in the gulf of how "safe" it is. I'm so furious and so sad and helpless I can't even express it. It's the most helpless feeling.

I love the fact that there is one parish that is not waiting, not taking no for an answer. In Louisiana they have learned not to wait for help from the federal government. They've lost any sense of innocence about that. So they're dredging and creating a sandbar to block the oil from reaching their wetlands. They have t-shirts that say, "Dredge, baby, Dredge"> haha.

When you are in a habitat where wild animals are carrying out their precious lives in front of you every day, you realize that they have emotions, attachments, friends, family, love, empathy, pain, joy, playfulness, and you realize how precious they really are. If we all lived like we were made to live - in close proximity w/ nature - I think we would not be so glib about using this earth and these animals as if they were all here just for us to exploit. They are not "ours" to exploit!

A little humility would go a long way in almost every one of these cases where animals or habitats get abused by pompous, arrogant people who have no idea who they're hurting when they hurt these wild ones. We're not only hurting them, but by hurting them, we are hurting ourselves.

Maybe someday, we will collectively understand this. I hope it's not too late by then.



Ter-o-fla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ter-o-fla said...

I love the story of the crows - or ravens - and the hawk, and how the other forest animals were so stunned by the argument!
It would be wonderful if we could witness more of these things; perhaps we would then have more respect and understanding of wildlife.

About the oil spill - terrifying and horrible and sickening!

I have read that the oil companies (dutch Shell and American Exxon) which extract oil in Nigeria have lost more oil to the environment there than in the gulf - many times over.
It is sadly not reported on much, and the gov. there does not make the companies responsible for the disasters.
(see: )
quote: "If this Gulf accident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor the company would have paid much attention," said the writer Ben Ikari, a member of the Ogoni people. "This kind of spill happens all the time in the delta."

I fervently hope that we in the rich countries which use so much of the resources can learn to use less, so that we are not so dependent on these obviously dangerous sources of fossil fuels.

RainbowGirl said...

A beautiful entry! What happened with the hawk reminds me of what happens here with our native falcons and magpies.

Here in New Zealand we are surrounded by coastline. If there were an oil spill the size of the one that is happening in your neck of the woods, our whole way of life would be crippled. We rely so heavily on the sea, we live and play by the sea. My favorite place on the coast, Kaikoura, is a haven for whale watching and an abundance of sea life that is not found in such great numbers elsewhere. We would all be personally affected. So I feel a great pain that I cannot help in a direct way with the clean-up over in the US.

Keep on keeping on- we love your adventures and we love what you do!

chipmonk said...

What a great story,and how wonderful that you share it with us.I never stop learning from you Stacey.Its about nature,but you give us a whole lot more,you give us life lessons,that we all forget at times.Thank you from me,and all of us.Because of you I now have a passion,I never had before.
you starting the Owl Box Alliance,has brought us all together,for the good of nature.thank you again.

Susan said...

Human beings are the most destructive invasive species ever. What will it take for us to wake up to the miraculous planet we live on and the beautiful creatures on it? Our focus on enriching ourselves is impoverishing the world.

Eagle Eye said...

Very well said Stacey!!!

Charlotte said...

Wow. When you write of your adventures we get to come along, to very heart of the stillness, to the splendor that is present in every moment of nature. I love that you came to the rescue of that red tailed hawk! You were just another part of the natural world for a few precious moments. I wonder if some of those stone still wild ones imagined you as the villain rather than the heroine that you were in that adventure. Special stuff.

I really enjoy the reader comments following your posts as well. Tonight I was moved to think of how you're bringing us together across the globe.. US, Germany, New Zealand.. probably far more than any of us can imagine. It's a gift. Thanks for your part in it.

Victoria B said...

Wow, Stacey: Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience. This is one powerful, magical story that I will never forget. Not all of us are lucky enough to witness something as extraordinary. And then to have you relate it to a message...bravo!

Donna said...

Hi Stacey, It's exciting here in the Rocky Mountains! We are surrounded by wildlife everyday and are lucky to witness so much! This is a big area, and of course, I don't know where you are, but if you have a chance you should go visit the Birds Of Prey in Broomfield. They have the best record of returning injured birds to the wild and the work they do is incredible! Take care on your journeys,