Sunday, June 9, 2013

Watching and Whistling

4:45 a.m. sunrise
June 9 5 a.m. Pond Report:

The pond is misty again, and so are my eyes. Yet I can see a pond visitor close to the garage. Dogs and I step outside and a wood duck flies off the pond to the trees southwest. I hear turkeys in the trees across the road where they roost. I've not seen them near the pond. Mergansers keep post on their log, and I go back to bed. After all, it is a day of rest.

June 9 Afternoon Pond Report:

Mergansers in the Mist
Wind gusts against the house and tree limbs dance to its music. It's been too windy to even sit on the porch. Even indoors I sense the presence of the osprey as if I have some built-in "sprey-dar."  They do not rest; they hunt. One circles higher as the other hovers lower. The hunter dives, but comes out of the splash with empty feet.

Where Ospreys Converse
What happens next is a first. The hunting osprey flies up to the second and there is an exchange of sorts. Then the watcher becomes the hunter; the hunter the watcher. They have shifted positions. Yet the second osprey hovers several times but never plunges. It must be hard to see fish beneath the wind-rippled water.

They fly away south and I continue to rest, sipping cranberry-water. Today I am just the watcher.

June 9 Garden Report:

Whistling to Ospreys
No weeding, no seeding, just life-giving water. The wind is whipping tender leaves, yet it is these tough moments that bring out hardiness. I'm bringing water. The dogs are with me since I am watering the south garden through the fence. Pistol and Snapper meander our way and munch grass in our presence.

I'm not watching the dogs and a tug on Grendel's leash makes me realize he has gone under the pasture fence. He stands between two horses. Turning, I spray Pistol full in the face, not meaning to. He doesn't spook, but he gives me the horse eye. I untangle Grendel's leash and open the gate to get him back on the dog-side. Horses continue to munch.

7:22 p.m.
I drag the hose and two dogs across the lawn to the north side of the garden, and look up. A great blue heron flies overhead. I know it's not Blue Heron because this bird's flight is in travel-mode with legs tucked up, yet he is flying lower than most of the great blue herons fly through this valley. It's as if he's watching me.

The watcher is watched.

Sunset Comes Early for Summer
Since I need to go into the north side of the garden, I take dogs inside the house. Beans, potatoes, sweet peas, corn, pumpkins and squash drink. My "sprey-dar" goes off and I look toward the pond. Sure enough, one is hovering to hunt. He glides out of his hover and begins circling his way north, away from the pond. His path goes over the top of the garden and I get a full-belly view.

An old memory pushes into recall. When I was a kid, riding my horse in the pastures and slopes of northern California, I would whistle at the red-tail hawks and they would whistle back. Just as the osprey disappears from my view behind tall pines, I whistle. I hear him chirp, and I smile.

Horses Hit the Hay Early
Osprey circles back over the garden chirping. It's not a monotone chirp; it has inflection. I whistle an imitation back to him. He circles lower and chirps more. I repeat his chirps in whistle. Another, louder chirp comes from behind. A second osprey has joined us. I whistle to them both and they hover directly over  my head just 50 to 60 feet away.

For a terrified moment I wonder if osprey attack people. When osprey hover, they are preparing to plunge. What did I whistle? "Yo mama wears combat boots!" Or, "Hey guys, I have fish in my hands!" I stop whistling, they chirp and break back into glides, lifting higher and soon are across the valley west to the hills.

My heart is pounding. I'm an osprey whisperer!

Sleepy Pistol Comes to Say Goodnight
June 9 Evening Pond Report:

Wind has died down and sun is bursting brightly before dipping behind the valley's western hills. I'm on the south porch scoping the pond with binoculars. Ducks land and take off in skittish flight. It's hard for me to figure out what they are. Several females appear in and out of the reeds, but they are harder to identify. The pond is hatching some sort of insect, calling the fish to rise and the tree swallows to dip and splash. Both make water rings. This would be the perfect time to hunt fish (note to osprey).

At 7:22 p.m. the sun dips behind the tallest hill. The official sunset is 8:45 p.m. Sunrise is 4:45 a.m. What crazy corridor am I living in? This time of year, in Minnesota the sun would be up until 9 p.m. without any hill to hinder its light. Just three and a half hours away (and further south) is Missoula, MT. And the sun doesn't set until 9:30 p.m. Oh, sure, I could stay up after 5 a.m. but I have not yet evolved into an early bird. I do miss long summer evenings. It's 8:30 p.m. and the eastern horizon is pink.

No longer restless, the horses hit the hay early, sleep-standing in the wood shed. I snap a photo and Pistol raises a sleepy head and walks across the pasture to kiss me goodnight.

It's been a good day of rest.

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