A Pleasant Surprise

Part of the fun of taking a nature walk is that you never know what you’re going to see. Encounters with nature, no matter how small, are blessings to be enjoyed and appreciated.

A bluebird sitting on the branch of a tree.
A meadowlark rummaging on a hillside for insects.
Numerous vultures huddled together in a tree top.
A Green frog sunning itself on a muddy embankment.
Deer grazing at the edge of the woods.
A Carolina wren flitting from tree to tree in the woods.
A flock of snow geese foraging in a local farm field.
A muskrat nibbling greenery beside a lake road.

“Unexpected and pleasant surprises occur every day … We will notice if we look. We will see good sprinkled liberally over every day if we are open.” ~Steve Goodier

A Common Goal

While hiking a wooded trail that runs beside the lake, we found a view through the tree tops of a group of White Pelicans flying high overhead. 

Continuing on, we suddenly heard a loud noise, and were surprised to see a flock of White Pelicans mixed with Double-crested Cormorants plummeting onto the lake near where we were hiking. Two birds that you wouldn’t expect to see together, but united in a common purpose.

After the commotion of the landing, the fishing party proceeded quietly along the shore for a short distance and then headed out across the lake toward the opposite shore.

“Teamwork is a powerful advantage when you share a common goal.”  ~Phil Geldart

Cormorants

Other than a gentle whir of wings, there is nothing to indicate that a flock of Double-crested Cormorants are quietly flying overhead.  Shortly before sundown, they can be seen moving swiftly through the sky, perhaps heading for a nearby roosting sight.

While Double-crested Cormorants are interesting birds to watch,

their growing presence at Reelfoot Lake is having damaging and irreversible effects on the local habitat, including the Cypress trees, many of which have been around for hundreds of years. 

These birds strip the bark off of the trees and, over time, their acidic droppings kill the trees and surrounding vegetation.

“A nuisance may be merely a right thing in the wrong place — like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard.” ~George Sutherland

Early March along the Levee

It’s that time of the year when the eagles are taking turns sitting on the newly-laid eggs in their nest.  This lucky pair has a perfect view overlooking life along the Mississippi River.

On flooded land near the levee we also spotted a Pied-billed Grebe, some American Coots, and a Great Blue Heron.

“I sat there and forgot and forgot, until what remained was the river that went by and I who watched …”  ~Norman Mcclean

Frosty Feet

During the recent arctic blast, Reelfoot Lake froze over and ice formed around the base or foot of the Cypress trees which stand out in the water. This usually happens once or twice each winter, and is a beautiful gift of nature that shouldn’t be missed.

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.”  ~Aristotle

“[W]hat a severe yet master artist old Winter is … No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.” ~John Burroughs

… Winter is the king of showmen
Turning tree stumps into snowmen …

… And spreading sugar over lakes.
Smooth and clean and frosty white,

The world world looks good enough to bite …
~Ogden Nash

“Winter giveth the fields, and the trees so old, their beards of icicles and snow.”  ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“If you listen carefully, the silence is beautiful.”  ~Unknown

The Barred Owl

We often hear the call of a Barred Owl as we walk in the woods of the refuge, but never seem to be in the right place to actually see one. Recently, however, while driving through the refuge, we stopped the car because I wanted to get a photo of a stream running through the woods.  As I opened the door to get out, a startled Barred Owl in a nearby tree took flight and landed in another tree a few yards down the road.  We had unknowingly stopped in the same place where an owl was sitting.  It was a very pleasant surprise.

The Barred Owl with its Razor-sharp Talons.


Barred Owl scrambling up the branch of a tree.


Now you see me, now you don’t.


A stream running through the woods near where the owl sat.

“The best part of the journey is the surprise and wonder along the way.”  ~Ken Poirot

Small Blessings

“Sameness” is a good word to describe these cold winter days of COVID-19.  Yet within the sameness of each day come small blessings which make it more tolerable.  The beauty of the sun glistening on the snow and icicles hanging from holly branches.  A variety of birds which appear at the feeder with their many colors and personalities and songs.  Robins gathering to drink water from melted snow puddles and huddling in sheltered spots with their big fluffy feathers.  A flock of cardinals descending in unison on a nearby bush at feeding time. Daffodils and magic lily leaves peeping out of the ground bringing the promise of spring.  A phone call from a loved one.  Sometimes, small things are precious things — gifts given by our Creator to add variety to our day and uplift the heart.  It’s important to remember to be thankful and not let the “sameness” put a damper on our souls.

“A good memory is one that can remember the day’s blessings and forget the day’s troubles.”  ~Irish Blessings

Relaxing

I’ve found that even squirrels sometimes need to find a quiet place, away from the hurry and scurry, to rest and be alone.

“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.”  ~Mark Black

“It’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.”  ~Donna Karan

“Stop a minute, right where you are …
Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.”
~Barbara Kingsolver

 

“Even when in the midst of disturbance, the stillness of the mind can offer sanctuary.”  ~Stephen Richards

“Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges.  So relax.”  ~Bryant McGill

“Like a small gray coffee pot sits the squirrel.”  ~Humbert Wolfe

A Memorable Sound

At this time of the year, we have learned to keep an eye out for the Snow Geese in open fields near the Mississippi River.  On this day, we found a large group of Snow Geese, mixed with other species of geese and some ducks, out grazing for food.  The sound that they make as they move about the field reminds me of a room full of ladies all talking and laughing at the same time.  But even more memorable is the sound that a startled flock makes when it shoots off the ground simultaneously.  The wave of flapping wings and loud, high pitched squawks echo as the frenzied birds soar skyward.

“If you want to live a memorable life, you have to be the kind of person who remembers to remember.”  ~Joshua Foer

 

Dawdling

Walking the trails and road in the wildlife refuge during the summer can be challenging due to heat, high humidity and a large number of mosquitoes which live there.   It’s always nice when the weather cools down and the mosquitoes hibernate or die.  Then, it is possible to walk at a slower pace and take the time to enjoy the sights.

“So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”  ~Brenda Ueland