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We don’t need to travel far from home to experience wildlife encounters
Photo by Claudia MayfieldBald eagles are among the birds encountered along the Bear Creek Greenway.
A few days after Christmas, my sister and I were walking along the Talent Bike Trail in Lynn Newbry Park when she exclaimed, “There’s a hawk!”
We always have our binoculars with us for such an event, but when we trained them on the big bird in a tree above us, we saw a bald eagle. We both shudder at such a sighting of this majestic bird. If we have to come back to this place after finally getting out one day, I don’t think it would hurt to come back as one of these magnificent creatures.
As sis moves to get a better view, she exclaims again, “Here comes another hawk!”
I looked where she was pointing at another large bird huddled with its back to us in the hollow of a tree directly in front of our bald. I immediately had my suspicions, but we moved forward and I was pretty sure we were looking at an owl. Then the bird turned to look at us and we saw its pointy ears – a great horned owl. Magnificent. Which gift.
A few days later, on the same path, we saw a large bird hovering above us which we could not identify. Its head appeared brownish and it had white areas in its wings and tail. When we got home we found in our bird book that it was a first year golden eagle. We have never seen one on our way before, but my sister and I regularly have such “adventures” just for our local walk.
We are almost always presented with something interesting and fun here. During the summer we see warblers, orioles, cats and sometimes even tanagers. Since the Almeda fire the summer birds seem to be fewer but in the winter we still get our variety of ducks including shovelers, wigeons, ring ducks, gadwalls, goldeneyes, wood ducks and sometimes a flock of passing ducks. . We even see common mergansers and hooded mergansers (one of my favorites) here some.
This fall and winter we have seen a peregrine falcon frequently, as well as Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks. We occasionally see river otters swimming in the streams or ponds.
The July before the fire, we were on our way early one morning and saw a possum on the side of the road. We watched in amazement as she slowly crossed the path ahead of us with at least six youngsters clinging to her back. We probably won’t see anything like this again for a long time now that the trees and bushes are gone, but the birds are resilient and we still see many of our feathered friends.
Depending on the time of day, we also meet certain neighbors regularly. In the early morning, we see those who always take to the trail first. Later, we see those who prefer the afternoon. We even shared names with fellow walkers and fire stories. Luckily, although most of us had to evacuate, none of us lost our homes. It’s nice to smile, wave and wave at each other as we enjoy this park together.
Sis and I know there are probably more exciting surprises in store here. In the spring we may see one of our all-time favourites, a green heron, flying. For an adventure, all we have to do is head our way and see what lies ahead.
Rachel O’Neal lives in Talent.
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