Posts Tagged ‘Aldo Leopold’

Super Bowl Sunday 2012 – For the Birds

February 7, 2012

Sandhill Cranes Scoring a Touchdown

When we first saw them, the Raven was negotiating with the Golden Eagle about the carcass of a Snow Goose upon which the eagle was perched. Too far away to be certain, we supposed that the raven was explaining to the eagle that contributions would be gratefully accepted. The eagle appeared disinterested.

That was the tail end of our annual Super Bowl Sunday birding trip and was one of the highlights. The juvenile Western Meadowlarks added spice and the Black Phoebe and Says Phoebes weren’t bad either. And we saw numbers of Northern Harrier Hawks at work even though it was a Sunday. Northern Harriers lack religion.

We missed, by two days and three miles, the latest Aplomado Falcon visit. But several Kestrels made up for that, hovering like the best of helicopters and swooping down faster than any helicopter. Two Towhees rearranged last autumn’s leaves, White-crowned Sparrows posed, and Snow Geese swirled for no apparent reason. Except for the time the Harrier glided into their territory. That caused political unrest.

Snowing Geese

And 8,400 trumpets in the orchestra of evolution trumpeted. Aldo Leopold was right about Sandhill Cranes. They played several concerts during our sunset/sunrise visits. They go to bed earlier than the Snow Geese and begin their morning commute after the geese. The geese are last in, first out and the Sandhills don’t care. Sandhills aren’t as excitable as Snow Geese and they worry less. If Sandhills are the trumpets of evolution, Snow Geese are the violins and are, accordingly, more high strung.

We wanted to show you a photo of that Raven and Golden Eagle discussion but, as we set up the shot, a cretin who works at the refuge careened into the field in his big white pick-up, scared the eagle and the Raven away and stole the goose carcass for himself, unceremoniously pitching it in the back of the pick-up, leaving us with only back-lit photos of the eagle and raven flying away and leaving both of them without lunch. A strong letter of protest to the refuge will be dispatched. If that man needed the goose for food, we’re not paying him enough; if he dislikes Golden Eagles, he ought to have a desk job. Either way, good manners required that he wait for me to make my photograph before scuttling the negotiations between the eagle and the raven.

 

 

 

 

The Muds of March

March 14, 2010

March is here, the Sandhill Cranes are mostly gone, and the Canada Geese are leaving.  That means it’s time for our annual reminder of Aldo Leopold.

One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.

A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence. A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath, but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed.  but a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance of finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat.  His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges.

Leopold lived on a farm in Wisconsin so when he saw the geese in March, they were passing through on their way north. Writing sometime before 1948, he notes in his book A Sand County Almanac, that the geese he saw were well-educated and knew something about the Wisconsin statutes. In November, when flying south, the geese took a direct line over his farm and flew as high as they could get.  In the spring, they flew low, landed, and even idled about for a couple of weeks. The geese, Leopold hypothesized, knew that Wisconsin’s hunting laws allowed people to shoot them in November, but not in March. And so, natural selection marched on.

A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese. I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the revolving seasons to her well-insulated roof. Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth?  The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers.

As geese can be under-educated, and get shot in Wisconsin in November, humans can be over-educated and miss their connection to the earth. Of the ten known human species that so far have walked this planet, nine are extinct. Makes you nervous.

But, for now anyway, the geese fly and, “the whole continent receives as net profit a wild poem dropped from the murky skies upon the muds of March.”

_______________________

The quotes are from A Sand County Almanac, “March: The Geese Return.”

Thought for this March Day

March 29, 2008

Snow Geese

One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw is the spring.  A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence.  A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed.  But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance of finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat.  His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges.

- Aldo Leopold -


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