Thursday, August 9, 2012

August 9th, 2012, begun by the call of an owl hunting in the dark on the 51th day of summer. What will you hunt for on the day of the Great Horned Owl, with 43 days left to summer?


The Chinook Salmon have begun their run up the Manistee River, a river only ninety miles north of the Muskegon River. I have heard a mere rainstorm could coax the Chinook to begin running up the White, Muskegon and Grand Rivers. I am wondering if the Sturgeon have felt the call of fall and have followed the Chinook lead up the Manistee? Every morning, I pull a cup of coffee from a coffee pot in the second floor breakroom. The pot awaits in the same place, left of the refrigerator. Nature is different every morning, and one day it's better to fish for Salmon in the river than two hundred feet beneath the big lake's surface.
I am bothered by another fact of lake living. We have had high waves for the last week. Today, the news advised us to keep an eye out for waterspouts. A big storm crossed the water from Wisconsin to middle Michigan in the early afternoon. Last weekend, an excellent surgeon left the beach in Lakeside, Michigan, Chickaming Township, and he never returned to the beach alive. He was trying to assist two boys who had fallen out of a kayak and the undertow pulled him into the deep. He left behind a wife and three children and a world of patients and doctors who respected his skill. I do not wish to fault this brilliant man, but it is our fault he is lost. We had not anticipated this incident. We could have planned so the surgeon had resources for reaching, rowing, and throwing before going. We could have planned so the boys had understood the dangers of the rip tide and undercurrent. Maybe the boys could have chosen to paddle closer to shore or postpone their journey, had the two been better informed. I didn't say a word in the way of education. I must accept the blame.
Last night, I was typing at my kitchen table and I heard a soft who who who who off in the distance. Since my sense of hearing once was excellent and isn't already gone, I imagined the owl was sitting in an oak tree on the northwestern corner of Hidden Cove, across the marsh from me. I didn't hear a repeat of the refrain. Although I hadn't heard the owl before during this summer, and I didn't see it with my own eyes, I made my guess from the softness of the call. Horned Owls hunt at night, and have large eyes that can see well in the dark. The feathers of the Horned Owl are engineered by evolution to make silent flying possible. A mouse wouldn't hear the Horned Owl until it was too late, until the talons clutched his plump, furry body.
Owls swallow animals whole if possible. Animals too big to swallow who must be eaten in one meal, the kill left for less capable hunters. The Great Horned Owl has little ability to airlift its food. Birds are striped of feathers and legs and wings. Skunks have  predators, but the Great Horned Owl tops the list. The Great Horned Owl causes such terror in the animal kingdom, a plastic replica clears out the rabble. The Great Horned can't digest bones, and regurgitates these as pellets. I can't easily find one of these owls, but some gatherer can find enough of these pellets to steam sanitize and sell to Cranbrook Science Museum. My daughter and I visited every year on Halloween Night and she picked all the bones of voles and mice out of her pellets, placing them onto the worksheet outlines.
I occasionally see a snowy owl perched in a roadside tree, and the appearance of a snowy makes the newspapers along the lakeshore. The snowy who flies all the way down to Michigan is taken as a sign of the lack of good hunting north of here. I often feel like the snowy when out driving 210 miles to see my daughter, when she should sleep across the hall from me. The polar bears are having to swim farther for good ice floes too. We have put so many miles on our cars thanks to modern way, or so many miles on our wings.
I thought I heard a Great Horned Owl. I did. I did.
Description English: Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) at Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Delta, BC, Canada.

6 September 2008
Brendan Lally

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