Lime Hollow Nature Center
Covered Bridge at the Lime Hollow Visitor Center

From My Sit Spot

by Pete Angie

SquirrelFor about half an hour I proudly thought I had increased my visual acuity, which explained the deer, squirrels and birds I had sighted far away through the trees, by the slightest of their movements. Then I realized, however, that it was absence that had led to this sudden increase in wildlife sightings: the leaves were completely gone from the limbs. They were blowing wildly in the cold wind, or were settled on the ground, greatly increasing my range of sight through an annual change in scenery. I’ve now watched one whole cycle of seasons up on this ridge, having celebrated a year living at our new house and the new sit spot that came with it. The trees were bare, the sky gray and the air cold with a hint of snow when we moved in, and they are that way again.

The expanded sight has afforded several recent observations. A doe and fawn are visible almost daily, and stick so close together that they are never more than several feet apart. I think they must be mother and daughter. My wife, Danielle, watched a buck with curving, large antlers drop his head and chase a smaller deer on our lawn, feeling his strength as rutting season is in the air. I saw a squirrel amble easily on thin branches high in the air with a wad of leaves in its mouth, and take those leaves into a cavity in a large tree trunk. The cavity was one I suspected last spring of being a nest, and now felt my suspicion was confirmed. A turkey astonished me by appearing out of nowhere like an apparition, flying down toward me to land. All I could think was that it had been roosting, possibly in plain sight, and I hadn’t noticed until it took wing. As the leaf drop has made these animals more visible to me, so the coming snow fall will make their tracks accessible, and their forms stand out against a backdrop of white. It is an exciting time of year, as tantalizing as those first snowflakes to come drifting down.

Inside, this time of year brings a different type of excitement and discovery. Bird feeding season has returned to our home, and we are delighted by the daily assembly on the other side of the window pane. Tufted titmice present in a flock, likely comprised of family members, which will stay together through the winter. They are aggressive birds, putting their heads forward with their bodies held horizontal to intimidate other birds, or raising their crests. A blue jay approaches step-wise, landing on one branch, then another, before finally entering the feeder. It scatters kernels with its large beak, searching for sunflower seeds and cracked corn. This jay, like most of its species, has chosen to stay around for winter. Other blue jays, however—often first year birds—have migrated south. Chickadees arrive to feed, starting with the dominant pair first. Taking an individual seed, a chickadee will fly away to a branch and hold the seed between its feet to crack it open with its beak. There are many other regulars who we look forward to watching as well: juncos, cardinals, red bellied and hairy woodpeckers, gold finches and wrens, even a red breasted nuthatch.

Several days ago while outside, my nearly four year old son Odin and I heard a chorus of frantic crows and I told him they might be mobbing a hawk. He replied by saying “I thought there might be a hawk over there.” We’d encountered and talked about this before and his recollection made me proud. I could see in his face a look of eager anticipation, and admired the way his emotions so readily connected with nature. “The sun illuminates only the eye of the man,” Emerson said of this phenomenon, “but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.” I believe that must apply not only to the sun, but to birds, deer and everything else that is wild under these beautiful, cold skies.

References

Richardson, R. D. Ed. 1990. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Selected Essays, Lectures, and Poems. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
Stokes, D. 1979. A Guide to Bird Behavior: Volume I. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.
Stoke, D. and Stokes, L. 1983. A Guide to Bird Behavior: Volume II. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.