The greatest show on Earth

Families of Canada geese gather in a village to raise their offspring.I finally photographed my first Osprey. He came up from a creek, across the corn field where I stood trying to grab some pictures of Red-winged Blackbirds./p>

I wonder what he thought of the stranger standing alongside the road. He had seen humans, sometimes walking, sometimes driving a tractor, carving rows in the soil.

But there I stood with that huge cyclops eye poking out from where most people of my general construction had two small eyes, a nose and a mouth.

The Osprey locked his eyes on me as he swept above the cornfield. I returned the favor, my lens following him as he curved above the cornfield, ending his inspection by crossing above and in front of me before he exited the stage to my left, heading for a farm pond over yon hill.

We humans, generally, like to think we are at the top of the food chain. In a way, we are. Mr. Osprey – it definitely was a Mister – must get down and personal with his dinner. When I get hungry, I drive to a grocery store and take out a contract on a bovine or swine that some other human, far from my sight or personal awareness, will dissect into pieces with fancy names.

I once asked a butcher friend for advice cutting up an animal I had brought in from the wild. “Just cut along the dotted lines,” he said, explaining the various muscles are separated in layers. The big pieces are roasts, smaller pieces are steaks, and the really small pieces are sausage.

“They just put those names on – New York steak, tenderloin, etc. – to get you to pay more,” my butcher explained.

To an osprey, the whole thing is simply “dinner.”

But I digress. What I really wanted to do was flap my arms and get up there beside him.

Back in the car, I stored the camera – within reach but where it would not roll onto the floor – and was about to start the motor when I saw it walking across the top of the steering wheel.

It looked like a miniature grasshopper, almost translucent green, six legs, each pair marked with dark bands, its super-long antennae – about four times the length of its approximately three-sixteenth-inch body – waving in the air.

 It walked across the top of the steering wheel, stopping every inch or so to face me and move its body side-to-side, the way I might look at a picture and move my head to see behind it. It doesn’t help me looking at a picture; I wondered what effect the maneuver held for the insect.

Two pair of Canada geese, each with a half-dozen goslings, grazed on a grassy plain above a pond edge. When a third brood, leading its parents, attempted to climb onto the plateau, one of the first geese lowered her head nearly to the ground and attacked, like an old man chasing kids from his lawn. The kids rushed back to the water.

The intruders’ parent ordered the kids to “follow me” and headed back to the shore, Mom stomped up the slope, her youngers close astern, her mate bringing up the rear. 

The unhappy protector of the turf was left to object in decidedly unladylike manner, snapping her head up and down the way a human might forcefully extend the middle finger. Some language is universal.

Watching critters go about their lives is truly remarkable. A bird and a bug obviously inspecting an intruder, and parents defying a neighbor to ensure their offspring were well fed and safe from bullies.


Every day a new act in the real greatest show on Earth.

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