Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Find Your Place To Be With Nature
March 28, 2020
By Steve Grinley
Last week, I repeated a story of the therapeutic benefits of watching and feeding birds.
During these difficult times with stay at home orders and social distancing, more people are turning to walks in nature to keep cabin fever tolerable. Unfortunately, many of the natural places we usually visit have also been closed, including tens of thousands of acres owned by the Trustees of Reservations and Mass Audubon.
Fortunately in our area Essex County Greenbelt has, as of this writing, kept its properties open for people to find solace. Most State Parks and Forests also remain open. There are also numerous local conservation properties owned by cities and towns that should remain open. Now is a good time to explore those properties, or a local park, cemetery, or woodland where you might find some peace, and some birds.
Doug Chickering could walk to a heron rookery near his house when he lived in Groveland. He told us about the visit he made there some nine years ago:
“Today I took a walk around the block at home. It’s a nice two and a half mile jaunt that is good exercise and good for my health as long as I watch out for the traffic. It’s also a nice walk to look for birds, which is the most important feature – especially now when my walk takes me by the nesting Great Horned Owl on Bare Hill Road. It was warm enough today and the traffic was light and the birding was okay.
“As I walked under the Power Lines that cross over the heron rookery and Bare Hill Road I could hear the growing chorus of a lot of calling Crows; all excited. I was a little concerned, for this racket was coming from the general direction of the nesting Owl. Sure enough when I reached the point where I could see the Owl on nest there were several Crows surrounding her. Some were hopping from tree to tree, some were flying around, and many were perched in the trees around the nest. A few occasionally dove at the Owl, but none seemed to actually touch it, and although they were raising a great commotion they generally kept their distance.
“Through all of this the Owl sat still; attentive and upright, its ears erect and giving an air of quiet, determined defiance. An example of grace under pressure. I counted 23 Crows but I am sure there were more. I guessed that the Crows wanted to drive the owl off its nest in order to feed on the eggs or fledglings. I think by its behavior the owl probably thought this was true as well, for it soon became evident that if the Crows wanted this bird to leave they were going to have to do more than just holler at it.
“As I was watching the drama unfold I was briefly distracted by the arrival of a male Pileated Woodpecker in the tree right beside me. It was a year bird and it is hard not to watch a Pileated under any circumstances. After a few trips from tree to tree around the area, the Woodpecker left and I turned my attention back to the Owl/Crow fracas.
“I noticed that the tumult began to die down. Then, one by one, the crows got bored, or disappointed, or whatever and flew off. My admiration for the courageous qualities of the magnificent creature only increased and I hope the poor Owl doesn’t have to endure this ordeal every afternoon.”
Many of you may have your own sanctuary in your backyard, especially if you feed the birds. But even with that haven, you probably will have a need to venture elsewhere. Look for a place nearby and discover the birds and nature that it has to offer. May it be a temporary diversion from the turmoil around us today.