By Sandy Beck
March is barred owl mating season.
On full moon nights
careful swamp creatures
stick to the shadows
while on a cypress roof
his round head
slowly turns, listening,
and the weightless body
From a crooked snag
another cackles, hoots
caws and gurgles –
a ghostly duet
that silences tree frogs.
behind a curtain
of Spanish moss,
drops beside her,
raises his wings
She preens his face.
He nibbles at hers.
Soft eyelids close.
Striped bodies nuzzle.
This night belongs
to barred owls.
Living at the Edge
An ectotone is a transitional community, an edge, where two ecosystems overlap. It’s a rich, diverse place where trees, bugs and birds visit and share. Disabled wild animals that live at places like the Tallahassee Museum and the St. Francis Wildlife rehabilitation center are edge dwellers too.
The edge is an educational place
where one gets a second chance, trading
a broken wing, a blinded eye
for mice, already killed
and laid out side by side.
Great horned owls click beaks,
round wings, widen eyes
and swell to twice their size
as cool bath water is poured
and rat bones shoveled from the sand.
A tiny kestrel pulls and rips
at easy flesh while, hidden
in a leafy tree, a wren studies
her hooked beak, sharp talons,
and flicking tail – a balancing act
with just one good wing.
The hawks stand tall. Their long, red tails
shimmer in the morning sun. Above
their cage, two hummingbirds suckle
on a purple morning glory vine, then zoom
back to the woods, hawk eyes still focused
on their shiny red throats.
They live at the edge,
where woods and lawn meet,
where wild things sometimes
forget their names.
- Unnatural History
- Red Watt raised his
pet crow, Judas from a fledgling to become a live decoy who lured thousands of unsuspecting crows within shotgun range.
- Millions of crows flock
to Fort Cobb, Oklahoma each year
to feast on peanuts that lay scattered after harvest time.
- Hundreds of crow hunters also flock to Fort Cobb.
They bring decoys, blinds, shotguns,
- and a well-rehearsed repertoire
of crow language.
- The distress call:
- seventy-five percent fall with it.
The come-back call: Look what I've found!
And the mourning call: for crippled
- or stone-dead comrades.
It's a battle of wits.
- Red Watt, who comes all
the way from Omaha, scores
- between eighty and ninety thousand
- each year. After forty-five years,
- his technique is smooth:
a good blind, lusty distress call,
- number nine shells,
- and the Judas crow.
Mated pairs will always insure two-fers,
but multiple kills, Red says,
are his chief delight.
- From his front porch, John
James Audubon once watched
a single flock pass overhead --
- three million each hour
- for three days. They darkened
- the skies. Passenger pigeons,
- he wrote, are the most abundant bird
- on our planet.
- In the fall of 1808, E.V.
- led his annual pigeon party
- to a hilltop near Frankfort, Kentucky.
- The birds sprang upward
- from the tall grasses --
- of millions and millions of wings.
- The sportsmen pointed their
weapons skyward, ripping small holes
- in mile-long fluttering ribbons
of slate blue and wine red.