Water gurgles and splashes over stones and boulders into a pool where a pair of Mallards paddle lazily. In a few weeks, they will be leading a brood of youngsters.[pullquote]… an owl hoo-hoo-hoooos. I flatter myself to think he’s laughing at me …[/pullquote]
Around another curve, a sextet of Canada geese hurry away. They are shy, sort of, like a group of prima donnas that want to be seen, but not looked at – and certainly not photographed.
On a leaning sycamore, a spider hides in plain sight, splayed out on the bark, almost blending with the color and pattern of the tree. Had she not moved, I would likely not have noticed, but she did and I did, and the photographs I brought home were worth the trip.
One of the funnest parts of these trips is harvesting pictures, then entering the Internet to identify what I have found. The one on the sycamore was, I think, a Dolomedes tenebrosus, sometimes called a Fishing Spider because it lives near water and has been known to catch small fish and aquatic bugs.
And I found something else I’d not previously noticed – sycamore puff balls – hanging on strings like brown Christmas ornaments. Actually, the balls are thousands of seeds, each with a feathered fin like a badminton shuttlecock, that bursts from the ball to be blown across the forest and caught in spider webs or, the birthing tree hopes, in the duff composting into the ground, there to become baby sycamores.
For a few more days, huge tapestries of Redbuds will backdrop the stream. The flowers, I’ve read, need a chilly winter about which they can boast profusely of having survived.
Dogwood flowers, a few weeks ago only tiny, end-of-branch buds clenched tightly around their future, have opened like a fabled four-armed divinity spreading high its arms, first red, then giving way, in turn, to pink, then white, and finally flying off on spring breezes to leave behind the summer greenery.
A pair of Downy Woodpeckers rattle the top of a nearly expired timber, trying to spook any under-bark bugs into moving and revealing their presence. Failing, they zoom in loose formation on their quest for more promising digs.
Somewhere back in the forest, on the other side of the stream, an owl hoo-hoo-hoooos. I flatter myself to think he’s laughing at me, but the truth is more likely he is paying little, if any, attention to my existence.
Grady, my faithful wandering companion, is slowing down. He still is excited to go on these outings, and eager to jump out of the Outback when we park beside the water. But though he still must always lead me where I choose to go, he no longer ranges far in front. Now he stays within sight, stopping to sniff the ground, inventorying and cataloging plants and creatures, some no longer there except to his nose. I am certain, like me with my camera, he finds such explorations a valid excuse to rest from climbing over and around rocks and tree falls.
Like me, he has learned that if it will not be there when he arrives, it probably wasn’t worth chasing after. Besides, we would like to find that owl.