The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Behind Mommy’s leg

A spring calf hides behind its mother's leg while a second calf trusts her friend's mom to keep them both safe.The Canada goose couple came across the creek to check me out and show off their kids. I think they’ve become used to my frequent presence. Not long ago, they would have gone the other way.

That’s the thing about wildlife photography. It takes patience, but with enough persistence one can be rewarded with some nice images of Mom and Dad goose and their fuzzy yellow kiddies.

I have had the opportunity to observe and photograph many species over the years. Moms and dads, it turns out, like to show off their kids, from a distance, at first. Eventually, if they decide that tall stranger in the odd colors at the edge of the wood, seems not threatening, then come closer.The geese do not watch much TV, so they do not have the benefit of the evening news warning them about the dangers waiting for the offspring, but they know.

Around another curve in the watercourse, a flock of Mallards launched as though on some leader’s command, together. Most of them flew down the creek, then climbed over the trees to gather loosely over a far cornfield. Three of the menfolk had a different mission.

They entered a long racetrack pattern, one end of it near to where I stood by the woods, camera to my face, watching them watching me, each learning the intentions of the other. I was a stranger to them, so they stayed, even when they were close, far enough that if the stranger they watch seemed at all threatening, they could swiftly turn away.

Later, I stood by the fence to watch a calf cavort around the field. I remember when I had that kind of energy. Now, I need to want to be someplace else to put the effort into walking there, but there was a time when I ran simply for the pleasure of making the muscles work. Often, walking along the creek is all the reason I need.

As I stood quietly by the fencepost, the calf moved in close to Mom, and played at grazing, not really interested in eating but watching under Mom’s belly like a child peeking around Mommy’s leg, not really afraid, watching from the comfort of the safe zone. Little ones trust their adults to keep them safe. One of my granddaughters was demonstrably fearless from birth. She would stand on the edge of the pool and jump to Grandma, confident that whether or not Gramma saw the little one jump, she would notice the inbound body in mid-flight and put out her hands to catch the flying youngster.

After a few minutes, Momma cow signaled to her kid to “stay there while I step over to see about this guy who thinks the fencepost’s purpose is to hold him from falling.” The calf watched his mother amble across 100 feet of pasture to within a few yards of where I stood. We chatted silently. “All I want is a few pictures,” I said. “Sure is a cute kid you’ve got there.”

“Thank you,” she said. “He is a handsome lad.”

She eased back to her youngster.

People, I have noticed, are much like the birds and other critters I have had the privilege of observing. When I was traveling with the U.S. Navy, I wandered everywhere with my camera, watching people go about their daily errands. Now, my quarry is animals and other critters, and I am regularly impressed with the similarities.

Like the geese and the cow, we know the stranger by the post is harmless, but we watch awhile to be sure he will not prove us wrong.

Thanks for taking me along in your day. I hope the ride was fun, or at least informative. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Please click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.


  1. Anne Thomas

    May 18, 2020 at 15:23


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