Three things I saw on my walk today: an owl, a pileated woodpecker and a black fly. Really, I saw quite a bit more but the stand-out three were those aforementioned.
Murphy did his major exuberant hint that a walk together was wanted as soon as possible so at 1430 I started up the hill, figuring that the warmth of the day would keep Murphy from doing any major walkabout. I was on a roll with organizing the studio with a plan for the fabric chaos and didn’t want to make a production of the afternoon walk today.
I started up the hill and the last I saw of Murphy he’d stopped at the seasonal (when it rains a lot) stream that follows the trail and was tanking up. The beginning of the trail was the local ski slope in the 50’s, I’ve been told; auto wheel drums can still be seen by the trail, leftover from the old rope tow. I stopped partway and sat on a big boulder to see how Murphy would progress. I had a good wide view but I never saw him. I had my arms wrapped around my knees and that is when I saw the black fly.
I’m told it’s black fly season now, has been for more than a week and will continue through June. Mostly I know this because Ann and a couple of our neighbours are seen, when out of doors, ensconced in net shirts that totally cover their heads, obscuring their faces and giving them a spooky look. Ann has to wear long pants tucked into socks with shoes, no sandals and even with the net shirt she gets bit on her hands because she doesn’t wear gloves to garden. I’ve heard that the flies hang out in clouds and go for the eyes.
Today was warm enough that I wore a cotton gauze skirt, my Santiago Atitlan huipil and sandals, no hat. While I sat, the black fly that I saw flew toward my arm, touched down, then left again. I feel like those birders who, when they are new to birding, spot the big birds and the waterfowl, mostly but as they get more experienced they can find the smaller birds in the forest, concealed in their specific habitat. How cool is that that I could spot a black fly???!!!
After five minutes of nothing else happening I continued to the top of the hill and started the loop back to what I call the Narnia Intersection. I’ve created a decent loop trail that returns to the vertical, former ski-slope. Off to the other side our neighbour has a trail that connects there as well. In my mind’s eye I see an old-fashioned lamp post at this crossroad in the woods, like the one in Narnia. Someday when there is nothing else to buy, I could have a real one there, but really my imagination puts it there anyway. What one imagines, can be and often does seem as real as so-called reality. Imagination is sort of virtual reality squared, if you assume that what we perceive as consensual reality is virtual anyway. But I digress.
The back part of the loop can sometimes be very cold with its northerly access and the trail is steep and slippery in places; mud now, in the winter the ice or wet leaves make for tricky footing. The trail flattens at a grove of big old white pine trees. As I got there I heard the pileated woodpecker complaining and that caused me to look up. Thirty feet above me on a solitary (and lowest) branch of one of the pines was a big barred owl and the woodpecker was haranguing the owl from the same branch.
The complaining went on for a minute or so, then the woodpecker gave up and flew off. The owl barely moved, just turned its head occasionally and looked at me. I always enjoy seeing owls in the woods. I know there are more but they are silent, mostly during the day and we rarely look up to where they are likely to be. At night they call out a distinctive,’who cooks for you!’ Once again, if I’d had my camera I could have managed a decent picture of the owl, it was that close.
Back at the trail head, still no Murphy but for him it’s a walk together if we start at the same time and are in the same state, or is it continent? After a while I saw him lying on my sidewalk soaking wet from his belly down. I think he never got farther than the sort-of pool at the start of the trail. He shook in case I hadn’t noticed that he was wet and let me know it was time for food.
So today was unique for the three unusual things I saw; a barred owl, a nagging woodpecker and the Maine state bird ( and rare for me to see), the black fly.