The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

In this together

Not often seen, taking a break in plain sight.I have a favorite spot by a stream, where catbirds flit through the leaves with a call like a kitten mewling up a tree. 

The thing about patience is if one sits long enough waiting for the critters to accept ones presence, relaxing is the inevitable result. The critters, not always me. 

Watching my fellow critters go about their daily ministrations is a great way to get away from the television, with its 24/7 warnings that Donald J. Trump is the best or worst president ever but it doesn’t matter because the coronavirus is leading us to the next mass extinction.

The past few days, I’ve stood at the edge of a creek and watched a largemouth bass lazily circle through a school of minnows. The diminutive fishlings seemed to know they were not in danger. I thought maybe I would see the big fish open his maw and suck in great volumes of shiners, but instead he simply cruised through the school, which scattered just enough to let him through.

I’ve got some nice footage of painted turtles snacking atop beds of water weeds. One swam too close to a frog, which responded in a blurred streak across a few frames of video, narrowly escaping becoming a snack.

On the other hand, I saw the same shellback grab a flower fallen from a creekside bush, taste it and find it lacking, and spit it out.

But one of my favorite finds was a Yellow-billed cuckoo, a really pretty brown and white bird with the potentially irritating habit of leaving its kids-to-be in other birds nests. I wager that could lead to some interesting discussions around the host nest-builders’ post-natal breakfast table.

Sometimes the female of a species can be fairly crafty, especially when she wants the guy in her life to do something to which he’s disinclined. Like the time I sat on Mom’s porch, sitting quietly as a trio of hummingbirds tried to enjoy Sunday brunch.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are, it turns out, a patriarchal species. Thus when a female tried to draw from the feeder, the Alpha Male would come speeding down from a nearby hemlock and chase her away. I have met a few humans in similar relationships.

The tiny avians were pretty friendly to humans; at least, not afraid of us. Often they’d come flying so close you could feel their wind on your throat as they carved a path beneath your chin. On the morning I’m describing, after a few cycles of being chased away by the bully-boy, one of the two females lit on the arm of my chair.

On the morning in memory, one of the lady hummingbirds landed on the armrest of a chair less than three inches from my right elbow. I sat as still as I could thinking maybe she would perch on my arm. I have seen pictures of a guy who got hummingbirds to sip sugar water from his tongue.

Soon, however, the second young lady hummer arrived. She approached the feeder, then commenced to thrumming her wings (one of the ways hummingbirds communicate) to, it turned out, taunt Mr. King-of-the-Forest, who quickly came zooming down upon her. Just as he seemed sure to run into her, she zipped off into the forest, Mr. King in hot pursuit.

And the diminutive damsel who’d been sitting by my arm popped up and glided over to the “table” to have breakfast in peace.

It is fun to observe the similarities among the various inhabitants of this whirling chunk of rock and mud as it plays snap-the-whip on a gravity rope. We really are all in this together.

Thanks for taking me along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. 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.



    June 22, 2020 at 19:33

    Palavras de rara sensibilidade; uma verdadeira viagem com a natureza. Obrigado!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.