Clark Hollow Ramblings: Natural observation 

I have been doing a lot of sitting and watching the wonders of the natural world lately. Since truth is the best policy, most of the sitting and waiting was part of my effort to restore my cache of protein in the freezer. But, nevertheless, this is one of the few things I can still multitask on, and I wanted to tell you about some of the things I’ve seen lately.

It must be a very good year for raccoons. I have seen them under our bird feeders at night, and I have seen them in the fields about dusk. Unfortunately, I have also seen a number of dead ones on the road, as well. And the skunks seem very plentiful this year. They have been aerating our yard for the last two months, and we see them about their business of making small round holes in the ground when they are digging for grubs.

The other night, about bedtime, Linda called me to the front window and there was a skunk under the dogwood tree, where we have a bird feeder. I immediately thought of my dad when I saw the skunk, because he was what dad would have called a 25-cent skunk. He was mostly white. My father used to trap skunks and sell the hides. The folks who bought them wanted as little white on the hides as possible. Dad said you could only get 25 cents for one with a lot of white on it.

Linda went back and took one last look before going to bed, and called me again. She said there was a cat out there where the skunk was. It was no cat: It was the biggest raccoon I have seen in a long time. Linda wondered what happened to the skunk. I surmised that big, bad raccoon sent him on his way.

He came back the next night, but was not content to forage on the ground. He was sitting on a limb, emptying the bird feeder. Then, last Sunday, coming back from our grandson’s birthday party, I saw something crossing the road in front of the firehouse. I rode up there and it was two more raccoons, about half grown. They were not very afraid of us, as I took a couple of pictures.

And the eagles are back. We had been working up some venison for the freezer, and I always put the bones and scraps in the back field for the crows and buzzards, and hopefully something bigger. We have seen two different eagles over a period of three days. The crows go absolutely nuts when the eagles show up and do everything they can to harass them and drive them away. Then the eagle grabs a big chunk and flies away with it. I think the crows are upset that they can’t do that.

And, finally, almost as rare and exciting as the eagles, was the group of much smaller birds I saw the other day. I was sitting watching the sun come up, and about 60 yards away was a big cedar tree that was heavy with blue cedar berries. I watched a flock of what I took to be migrating robins land in the tree, and shortly after that, a flock of smaller birds landed in the same tree, and they were actively feeding on the cedar berries. I thought they looked a lot like cedar waxwings, but I couldn’t be sure from that distance.

After carefully checking my surroundings, I eased up the black powder gun and looked through the scope. Sure enough, they were cedar waxwings. They are absolutely beautiful birds, with their black, lone ranger-like masks, their little top knot and a bit of shiny red near the end of each wing that looks like melted wax. It never ceases to amaze me that I always see this bird in a flock. I never see just one or two. But, that’s okay. It’s just another one of nature’s wonders to wonder about. I hope you are able to take a bit of time to enjoy some of what nature has to offer.

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Richard Brady
About Richard Brady 131 Articles
Richard Brady was born and raised within sight of Rappahannock Peak, as was his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, etc. He graduated from George Mason University and was employed for 35 years with various agencies of the federal government. He retired in 2001, and he and his wife, Linda, live in Flint Hill, Va.