When I answered a knock on the door yesterday morning, I was greeted "Good Morning!" by a stranger. After I asked the young man what I could do for him, he proceeded to tell me that he was a bow hunter. He had been hunting on my neighbor's land late the day before, and had shot a deer that he couldn't find—but had trailed him to this side of the fence. He said he thought the deer might have laid down in the meadow behind my house, and was just asking for my permission to check it out. I told him I'd grab my coat and hat and go out there with him.
We didn't have any trouble spotting the 10-point buck lying dead in the grass. I told him I was glad he had stopped to get my permission, and all I asked is that he field dress the deer a few yards from where he fell, so I could watch the gut pile from the house.
Early the next morning there were 30 black crows clambering around in the trees near the meadow. I set my old spotting scope up on a tripod in front of the window, and was able to zoom in to watch the crows feed. I counted 9 of them all at once in an area of only 2 or 3 feet. I'm always amazed how well a flock of crows will get along with each other. They fly together, eat together, sleep together, and I've even seen them bathing together. Heck, they even talk to each other. It's clear that they are happy with their sociable lives. Crows are always fun to watch, whether there is a large mob of them, or just one or two.
A half hour later, I was surprised to notice what looked like an Eagle standing on the gut pile in the meadow. I wasted no time focusing in the spotting scope, and found a large, brown, young female Bald Eagle. What a treat it was to observe a magnificent bird so close up, without even leaving the house! She ate quickly, and in no time the crop above her breast was bulging. Her hunger finally satisfied, she flew up into a tree next to the house and began preening her feathers in the morning sun.
A second Eagle had been patiently waiting in a tree further up the valley. As soon as the female had left the ground, this smaller male glided over and dropped down directly onto the free meal. This bird had the striking white feathered head and tail feathers of a full, adult Bald Eagle. So again I was able to watch an Eagle at his breakfast. Like the other, he wasted no time filling his crop with fresh meat. When he finally flew off across the meadow, it looked like he struggled to get moving, because of the extra couple of pounds he was carrying.
It was mostly crows that came and went all day, but around mid-day there was a beautiful adult female Red-tailed hawk that stopped in for a free lunch. I could tell by her plumage and her nearly-black eyes that she was an older bird, yet she was clean, healthy and feather-perfect. Just like the crows and Eagles, she filled her crop quickly. She had barely flown off when her mate, the male Red tail, came to take her place at the table. He too was an older adult, with rich yellow feet—and he was also feather perfect, down to his lovely, red tail feathers.
Later, a pretty juvenile Red-tailed hawk stopped at the pile. She was a large female with long, brown tail feathers and a chocolate breast. Then, just before dark, the adult Bald Eagle came back for seconds.
It is fascinating that the taking of this deer's life brought food and life to others. I have some questions about the ethics of hunting for sport alone, but I feel better knowing the animal who lost its life was able to provide for other hungry creatures. As we learn more about our mother Earth and its inhabitants, we think more seriously about treating them with respect.
The spirit of the deer lingered as the last of the remains disappeared in the night in the jaws of a hungry Coyote. It was as it should be—one life comes to an end, so others may continue on.
I was treated to a special sight the other day when I spotted a small flock of ducks flying over the Kickapoo River. It has become a rare treat to see a duck at all these days, so six together was enough to make me pull the car over to could get a better look at them with binoculars. As luck would have it, they made a big turn and flew right past my car. That's when I could see that they were Blue-winged teal. They zoomed by me and quickly disappeared through the willows downstream. My mind quickly filled with a flood of memories of teal from the distant past. I learned how to identify wild ducks as a boy and young man in the 1950s and 60s, a time when there seemed to be Blue-winged and Green-winged teal everywhere. I learned a great deal about waterfowl in my early life. These days it would be much harder to learn about ducks, because there are so few. There was a time that I would spend my early November mornings and evenings crouched down in a duck blind, watching the horizon for a flock of wild ducks. The vision of wild ducks on the wing will forever be one of the fondest memories that Nature has given me.
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