Friday, August 15, 2008

BEEN A HOOT OWL HOWLIN' BY MY WINDOW NOW

Welcome to my 100th post folks...took me a bit longer than some of you but I finally got here.

So, my normally peaceful solo walks have been somewhat clouded by recent stories of bears on Trinidad Head. I find myself looking over my shoulder more often as I make my way across campus, especially first thing in the work day. There have always been occasional mountain lion sightings (though mostly by dormies and, to be honest, we're never really sure how lucid they were when they saw a big cat in the shadows…) in and around the trees on campus but several weeks ago, a bear was spotted near Creative Arts.

In the rural (translate: desolate) neighborhood where we lived in Minden, Nevada, there ran a wash …. a gulley about 15 feet wide and equally deep. Being the desert *shudder* it was susceptible to flash floods. Lightening storms would come and water would flow out of the Pine Nut Range in torrents; the alkaline soil unable to drink fast enough would allow runoff of astonishing amounts. One summer, one such flood enveloped our neighborhood, filling a few homes as well as the aforementioned wash with silt. The waters also washed away small rodents that fed the local raptor population.

On summer mornings, the dog and I used to walk out in the desert in the wee hours before it got too (freaking) hot. We would head out into the sagebrush for what would be a three or four mile loop of me power-walking and him chasing jackrabbits. Occasionally, I’d hear a noise in a bush and a jackrabbit would bolt by for Grizz’s entertainment or I’d spot a lizard scurrying in the sand. Once in a while, however, I’d here a crackling in the shrubs nearby and nothing would materialize. I would, on those occasions, become very aware of the fact that I was a ways off of the road and earshot of residents. Was it just a jackrabbit? Or perhaps a coyote? What would the coyote do? Hell, what would I do?!

These things cross my mind as I walk now….What was that noise? This morning, it was an odd noise that cut through the music of my iPod. I turned quickly … right, left, up….ah, just a crow making an odd noise. Just a crow…..which got me thinking about that wash in Nevada and the Burrowing Owls that lived in its walls. One morning, several years after a flash flood forced the owls to seek food elsewhere, I spotted one of the squatty little creatures, watching me from the top of a sagebrush. Grizz and I were walking along the trail on the opposite side of the wash. When I saw it, I stopped….”hey Grizz, check it out…the owls are back”. I stood there for a moment, admiring the little bird…8-10” tops…..happy it had returned to our stark little piece of the landscape. As we admired, it “SCHRIEK”ed….opening its wings to a full eight feet (well they LOOKED that wide) and came at me! The little bastard was hell-bent and chased me a good eighth of a mile along the trail while I ran as if I was running for my life, hood pulled up to protect my scalp from what I was certain were six-inch talons. Run, Grizz, Run! We ran like the wind, owl screaming overhead, until I came to a crossing over the wash allowing me to get to the road that would lead me to salvation.

So, in conclusion, in my world there is no longer such thing as “just a crow” -- or, “just a pigeon” or “just a sparrow” for that matter. Any flutter of wings over head will still cause me to involuntarily flinch and duck just a bit. Now they tell me there are bears on campus…

1 comment:

Fred said...

I get creeped out at at least one place I work at the thought of a mountain lion maybe lurking in the bushes.

You should get a .22 pistol and carry it with you when you're hiking.