, Newburyport, MA


April 17, 2014

A walk on the wild side

Man has planted a giant footprint on Planet Earth, but nature is relentless about filling niches around that impact, even within it. Exiled species have crept back into our midst — sometimes right under our noses.

For the past 20 years or so, I have taken a walk into West Newbury and back through Maudslay State Park. One of the joys is in noticing those things that go on in nature every day below our “radar.” Herewith, compressed from 20 years, are some highlights in my loop:

A skunk, meeting us as the dog and I exited the property through a gap in the stone wall. You can guess the rest of the story.

A large barred owl, sitting with its back to me in a tree at water’s edge of the Artichoke River and thus at eye level with me on the elevated highway, perhaps 20 feet away, idly turning its head to face me.

A red fox trotting along the top of an old stone wall, perhaps looking for chipmunks, but unperturbed by my presence.

Canada geese in an aerial “V” as they descended to feed on the debris from a hillside cornfield on Emery Lane in West Newbury.

Wild turkeys feeding, sometimes at the same time as the geese, on the same food source.

Chipmunks darting in and out of those same stone walls, an obvious exception to the rule that man is ruining the environment for other species.

A red-tailed hawk swooping up onto a bare tree limb with a chipmunk in its talon, the chipmunk’s tail still twitching as the hawk began to feed.

A white tail buck, jerking its head up from the tall grasses to make sure that I was not a threat, then deciding that I was.

Bluebirds flitting around a huge brush pile in the middle of a field.

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