Animal Adventures

There were several very cool animal-related happenings on my retreat.  (That’s one of the benefits of taking a wilderness retreat; nature is all around.)  When I first arrived, as I was taking my camp chair and National Geographic out to the water’s edge, I had to stop in my tracks.  A Pileated Woodpecker, one of my favorite species, was at the base of a tree not thirty feet away.  I just stood and watched it as it slowly climbed the trunk, pecking here and there to check for a tasty bug.  I knew those birds were large, but seeing one that closely, and right at ground level, really brought home for me just how huge they are.  It went about its business, even staying in a neighboring tree as I continued moving about.

I also discovered, on one of my hikes, a frog called a sheep frog.  It has this silly name because it sounds just like a sheep or goat bleating.  Imagine my surprise on my first hike to hear “maaa” coming from the edge of a little pond.

The first night I was on my retreat, I got to hear the sound shift that occurs throughout the night.  When I went to bed, it was frogs.  Crazy numbers of frogs, from at least 3 species, were calling from the lake.  Then, when the frogs went to bed, the crickets and other insects started up.  Just before dawn, when the sky is barely starting to lighten, a cardinal started singing and woke me up.  Apparently he woke every bird in the vicinity up, too, because within minutes I could hear birdsong filling the world around me.

The morning after the storm, I was treated to one more neat animal moment.  I was sitting inside my shelter, writing, when two crows arrived in my campsite.  They started picking around at the base of one of the trees.  Shortly after they came, a Turkey Vulture joined them.  I never figured out what had drawn them; all three picked around my campsite a bit, mostly working around the base of one tree, but I didn’t see anything large they were eating.  I watched them until a truck driving by spooked all three to fly away.

One of the wonderful things about taking a writer’s retreat in the wilderness is the opportunity to pause and watch wildlife.