Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wildlife opened my eyes to the Land Trust's mission

 “That’s a baby great horned owl,” my friend Craig Johnson said of the image I’d just emailed him. “These beautiful owls are breeding in your woods because you have good, healthy habitat. They’ll help keep down the rodents in your garden.”

Bubba kept us entertained all spring.
I hadn’t thought much about owls or even seen very many, though we often enjoyed their conversations in the evening and pre-dawn. I just thought the roly-poly, little guy perched on our blueberry cage was kinda cute and goofy. He was back in the same spot the next day, yawning, pacing, grooming his toes, and sleeping with one eye open.

Sue and I named the baby “Bubba” and watched him squawk and scream for dinner all spring. “Great horned owls take months to learn to hunt,” Craig said. We watched Bubba’s soft profile turn sharper as he caught slow-moving insects on the ground and gained the confidence to hunt small rodents from higher and higher perches. Bubba and his parents grew tolerant of me and my camera, letting me approach as often as I liked.

As Sue and I became better observers, we delighted in the other newborns in our woods: woodpeckers, coyotes, hawks, deer, raccoons, songbirds, rabbits, squirrels, bats, lizards, snakes, butterflies, and frogs. We were astounded to learn we had flying squir­rels but had never seen them because they fly at night. We became attuned to the birds’ voices, and the more we opened our eyes and ears, the more joy we took in them. We learned that the same individual humming­birds migrate back to our yard every spring, and started taking special pains to keep our hummingbird feeder fresh and clean.

We realized how poor our lives would be without wildlife, including the long-lived orcas and gray whales that visit our shores every year, and the salmon that are our icon. All wildlife need healthy habitat, and if we don't consciously preserve a place for them to live, we will carelessly destroy it - and them. 
We knew we were not alone in these feelings and discovered that many of our friends belonged to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. They shared a passion and sensitivity that inspired us. I don’t remember even discussing with Sue whether to join; we just did. The Land Trust was where we belonged, and we’ve been members for many years now. Nothing makes us prouder than to be among Land Trust people, our most cherished friends and neighbors, at the summer picnic or on a land tour.

Decades from now, if Bubba’s offspring still live and breed in our woods, we will know we were good stewards. We are committed to this work not only for Bubba’s sake, but for those future generations of humans who will spend the best years of their lives finding peace, rejuvenation and inspiration right here at home.

Note: The woods are alive right now with returning Rufous Hummingbirds, baby owls, newborn woodpeckers and the din of chirping! Courtship is under way in a big way and it's a marvelous time.  I published this piece originally on a blog of Whidbey Camano Land Trust that is no longer maintained. Rediscovering it the other day, I realized the sentiments remain more true than ever.

No comments:

Post a Comment