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Pay(ing) Attention To The Other Animals

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A character in one of my novels, Mother Ursula, always refers to the other animals on Earth as the other animals. She is well aware that homo sapiens sapiens are but animals with pretensions – and the Grace of God. She fits in right well in the chapters set in Africa, where the other animals come to the fore. It is the author’s observation that the other animals still hold more sway in Africa than elsewhere on our benighted planet.

So, I pay attention to the other animals.

During a walk in the neighbourhood, a right old rumpus erupted in a parking lot to my left. A man was having a frantic time keeping his dog in check. The dog was on a leash, and actually pulling the man. They were in the middle of the empty parking lot, and I could see nothing to make the dog so agitated. The dog was straining mightily, but it was obvious that, if he broke free, he was not coming for me. He was wishing to get free to dash into an adjoining back yard. I carefully went on my way.

About five minutes later I turned onto another street. Now, I fully understand that the phrase “Can not believe my eyes” is not literal. We say it when we see something extraordinary. However, that was the phrase that immediately came to mind, even as I was seeing what I was seeing.

Part way along the street, an albino deer was standing in the middle of the road. There was not a patch of colour on the animal other than white. Head, body, legs. Looking right at me. Calmly. It stood stock still. Not a twitch.

Well, I did the same. Not a movement. It was about three houses along the street. Blessedly there was no traffic. No walkers. And I at least now knew why the dog had been so agitated. Perhaps it could not trust its senses, either.

The albino deer didn’t move. After three or four minutes, I wondered if it was ill. Somehow stunned. Dealing with some sort of trauma. Regardless, I knew it was not safe for the albino deer to keep standing in the middle of a street. I started to – very slowly – walk toward it.

And it didn’t move.

I went closer and it still didn’t move. I wondered if deer could be rabid. Was its mind gone? Was I in danger? I was not going to confront a hefty deer. I stopped.

About a couple of minutes after I stopped, two fawns came trotting between two houses. Seemingly not a care in the world. They were of a normal deer colour. The albino deer turned and started to trot toward a swath of bushes and trees on the other side of the road. The fawns quickly followed. Exit three deer, as if responding to stage directions.

Those other animals, eh?

 

[Image] http://i.pinimg.com/736x/a2/da/0e/a2da0ee76b4b8d0e8dca30f7f86e93cf.jpg

Birds Of A Feather / Loons Of The Water

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The surface of the lake is so smooth, the flow of the differing currents are clearly seen as shimmering streaks reflecting the sunshine.

Breaking through these jewelled bands, like shadows over unrecognized borders, are three loons. Two black-capped Common and one red-throated.  They stray apart, become lost in shafts of sparkling water, and as unexpectedly re-appear further along the shore.

The red-throated loon keeps a slight distance from the other two. Usually, it is the first to dive. Dive and disappear so cleanly there is only the barest ripple to betray it.

The other two then quickly go without a sound, a liquid dive that leaves the water empty, save for the dancing sunshine.

And then a head.

And then two more bodies break the surface, far from where they went under. They move with an ease that makes them seem part of the water.

One of them wallows slightly on its side, then reaches far down its breast to preen. After a few nibbles, it rights itself and unhurriedly joins its companions.

They become a distant trio of sleek shapes, and disappear in the haze of horizon and glinting sun.

A Bear Does Whatever It Wants In The Woods

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One Christmas season over a decade ago, I looked after a dog whilst her owners went out of town.

Tibbit is a big, friendly dawg who likes inspecting piles of leaves. She has a long lead which her benevolent human allows to go as far as possible. She knows (better than her accompanying human) that there are treats at the end of each walk.

One Saturday I didn’t get Tibbit out until after dark. We skirted the university (where her masters work) and went up a street bordering the campus. We both liked the Christmas lights. Near the top of the street we met an inebriated gentleman, warning us of a bear in the surrounding woods.

“Flush him out,” said he, pointing at the dog, “And I’ll get my 3 aught 3.”

“Get the rifle first,” I replied.

We then went our respective ways.

Tibbit and I doubted the veracity of the gentleman, so when we came to a trail through the woods, we took it. I will admit I did peer more intently into the gloom than usual. One trail led to a larger trail, which led back to the university. We advanced without incident.

On Sunday, I again walked Tibbit toward the university, though from a different direction. It was a crisp, clear day, and she gamboled (as much as the leash allowed ) through the new fallen snow. Sunshine gleamed. This time we were on the other side of the campus, but our walk eventually led to a position about half a mile away from where we were the previous evening.

We followed another trail into the woods, and admired the sun through the fir trees. The path was wide and sloped. It came to a turn some distance away, that led us even closer to where we were the day before. At the top of the slope, Tibbit stopped dead in her tracks.

She stared and stared. 

She glanced briefly into the woods, but mainly kept staring along the trail.

I saw nothing nor heard anything (and I was intent upon both).

Tibbit did not move and made not a sound. She just kept staring. After a solid two minutes of this, I started to backtrack.

She made no complaint.

You betcha she got her dog treats.

(image) https://i.cbc.ca/1.4288335.1505334305!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_620/bears-trail-camera-nova-scotia.jpg

Kafka And A Hungry Bird Give Thanks

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[Franz Kafka and his sister, Ottla.]

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the many diary entries Franz Kafka either did not make, or destroyed after the fact. He would have made no references to an actual ‘Thanksgiving Day’, but I feel this is close enough.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

30 September 1917

There was a knocking at the window this morning. A polite and concise rap rap rap. It awoke me while the room was barely light.

Who could want me so early? And then again, an insistent rap rap rap. I was confused, wondering where I was. The panic of Prague weighted down the covers, and I was sorry I had opened my eyes. The room, the smells – even the bed – was not familiar, so I was both bothered and assured by the strangeness.

When I realized I was not in Prague – for who could knock on my third floor window – I remembered I was in Zurau, where things were different. Here my window looked onto a yard, and anyone could  be at it. Was there something wrong? Was Ottla after my help? I even wondered, as I searched for my slippers, if her young man had somehow arranged leave from the army, and after much travail had managed to reach the wrong room. I could understand that very well.

I walked hesitantly over to the window, and cautiously pulled back the curtain. Such a commotion ensued that I stepped back in some fright. A bird flew immediately past the glass, its wings frantic as it screeched in agitation. It had been perched on my window ledge, pecking away at the frame. Ottla says it may have been after insects or grubs settled in for the winter.

“Insects in the walls of the house?” I asked.  “Yes.” She was quite matter-of-fact.  “It is a warm place for them during the cold months.”  I was not inclined to argue with the logic, but neither had I thought I would be existing in such close proximity with the tenants of nature.

Houses for warmth and bugs for food. It is a blend of the base and the subtle which I can appreciate. Much – I like to think – as does the annoyed bird.

Follow That Elephant

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The elephant was a curious pachyderm, and followed his persistent quest with a guileless intensity.

“More lucky than smart,” said some of the other elephants, as he blundered his way toward another piece of knowledge. They nodded their heads in his direction with the heavy weight of caution, and warned their small ones that too much thought would make them strange.

“An elephant wades in water,” they would sagely say, “only if the mud hole is wide enough.”

And the little ones would watch him, as they stood between the legs of their parents, and wish that they could follow.

[Image] https: //artofsafari.travel/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Kenya_Amboseli_CorletteWesselsWildlifeElephant2.jpg

A Beaver Tale For Canada On Dominion Day

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We know that Canada Day is really Dominion Day.

But – that said – there is still no better symbol for Canada than the industrious beaver. But even hard-working beavers hard-working beavers need their time at play. This is what I saw.

I was walking along the river and heard the strangest noise.

It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should. A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river.

First there were small rolling noises, as the branch went through its hands.

Then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’.

And then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.

This went on fifteen minutes or so, until the beaver and I both heard noises in the river.We both saw another beaver approaching.

The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which). They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and sniffed each other. They then swam in different directions.

This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver that had first approached rubbed noses once again, then made the bawling sounds one more time.

I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg). The sun was setting and they became difficult to see.

However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour and one headed to the other shore.

Perhaps they had just had a date. Perhaps they had just arranged for a date. Whatever the case, I had the distinct impression they were more than friends.

[Image] https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-AuCz15l2mk0/VtYoT60BuQI/AAAAAAAAPKg/Zcu976hYp7Q/s1600/Canada%2B5%2BCents%2B1948.jpg

A Blue Jay Goes To Sleep Outside My Window

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In the dusk, a blue jay has gone hop … hop … hop, from one branch of the fir tree to another, right up to my window. And he has perched there, looking in for the past four minutes. I whisper “hello”

The blue jay has been there twenty-five minutes. I thought it might have gone to sleep, but it just shifted, and then pecked at some tree needles. I doubt I have ever seen a sleeping bird.

Two crows just flew over, making their crow sounds. Woke up the blue jay, who paid attention. But then, as far as I can tell, the blue jay went back to sleep.

A window is a quarter open, a fan is on, and I’m watching NCIS (with the sound lower than usual). Yet the blue jay seems to sleep on. I might not be able to see it when it becomes totally dark.

Well, it is now too dark to see the blue jay asleep on the branch – just the barest silhouette. I’m guessing the blue jay will be gone before I awake. But I’ll look.

These were my twitter feeds until half past midnight, when I went to bed. I turned off the lights, and would not turn them on again in case the change would wake up the blue jay. The following were scrawled in the dark, except for the street light coming in the window. The time checks are from the alarm clock.

12:30 There is now some rain, though not heavy. The blue jay sleeps on.

 4:45  The blue jay is still asleep. The wind is strong enough to make the branch sway.

5:15  There are some distant bird calls, which are answered within five minutes. The blue jay sleeps.

5:25 There is some pre-sunrise light from the east. It is green. There are now a number of birds chirping in the distance. No movement from the blue jay.

5:50 There is enough light from the windows to read my hand-writing. The blue jay is gone. It slept the night one meter (three feet) from my window.
(image)4.bp.blogspot.com/-hBaC-comxFA/UCEpdJmcg4I/AAAAAAAAA64/pyW3DTw-aLM/s1600/A_Proud_Blue_Jay.jpg

A Bird Digs The Earth For Earth Day

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I saw a sight that I believe I have actually never seen, though it is fabled the world over.

Standing on the front stoop to test the air I saw a robin on the grass. Robins are rather skittish and usually, when a human presence is so close, it will make them hop (and they truly do *hop*) away. But this one stayed put.

My understanding is that birds ‘hear’ the worms under the earth – that is how they detect them. I assume that is why they so often have their head in a cocked position. However, for this robin, the listening part of the chase was over.

As I watched the robin made a strike into the earth with its beak. It was then that an almost cartoon-like image occurred. The bird had a portion of the worm in its beak and began to pull. It pulled and pulled and the worm stretched and stretched. It made me think of someone pulling a threaded needle from the fabric they were sewing. The length of the worm became even longer than the robin’s body. With this constant and slow tug, the worm finally popped out of the earth.

Then the robin had a go at it.

The bird took at the long, brown earthworm and began to snip off pieces with its beak. It could not have been more effective if it had a pair of scissors. Substantial, beak-sized pieces which it swallowed quickly. The long earthworm became shorter and shorter, giving the robin less to hold on to. In under two minutes the worm became one remaining morsel hanging from the robin’s beak. It was only then that the robin began to hop across the grass. The last piece of worm disappeared inside the robin and the robin quickly took off.

One satisfied predator.

One less worm.

(image)1.bp.blogspot.com/-da07hMgESEs/VT1Y9cNgOCI/AAAAAAAAMIs/DVG3oaeFGME/s1600/American-Robin.jpg

Through The Fog Came The Birds

The fog had nearly engulfed the house, swirling across the bay and up the cliffs. Most of the surrounding buildings were nearly gone. White, trailing mists swirled around as if they were hiding the secrets of a spooky movie.

And, it was kind of spooky when the fog across the street parted and filled in, parted and filled in, leaving vague impressions of something on the ground. Then parted and stayed that way a bit longer.

Foraging on the grass were two huge Canada geese and a handful of robins. Both species absent for lo these many months. The robins had their usual agitated hops, but the two geese were nearly stock-still. One was bent over, showing an expansive goose ass as it nibbled and rooted in the yellow grass. Its partner stood upright, almost at the back of the other goose.

The fog still wafted in and out, above and beyond. Perhaps the stationary goose had had its fill. Perhaps it was guarding its partner, looking intently through the fog. Perhaps they took turns doing so. It seemed that their only movement was caused by the fog itself.

The robins, however, performed their usual acrobatic dance and scuttle over the grass. They hopped in-and-out of the fog, and the fog swirled this-way-and-that around them. The lay of the land was the play of the land. And then the curtain of fog descended.

(image)https:www.youngspestcontrol.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Canada-Geese.jpg

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