Posts Tagged ‘owls’

Late Night Visitors

11:15 p.m. 

Plagued by my usual insomnia, I am listening to sounds from the woods.  I hear a loon’s cry in the distance – – probably from either Kezar Lake (2 miles away) or Horseshoe Pond (3 miles away):  sound travels far here.  A pair of owls call to one another, hooting “hoo-hoo-hoo-HOO.”  And then I hear the sound of something traipsing through grass.  Something big.  Something loud.  Right under my bedroom window.

“Wake up!” I whisper to my husband.  “Get the flashlight!  I hear something!”

We run to the dining room window, peering outside into the night’s blackness, moving the flashlight to and fro towards the direction of the sound.  I am worried it’s a bear, making its way to our beehives.

Suddenly, a glow:  two pairs of eyes stare back at us.  It’s a cow moose and her calf, munching leaves from trees and bushes!  They stop and survey us with interest, and decide we are a threat.  They quickly move back into the woods.  I am glad they have circumvented my apple tree saplings, because my homespun fence (poles with a few wires strung across) is certainly not moose-proof.

“Well, they’re gone now.  I am sure they won’t be back tonight.  Instead of counting sheep, try counting moose,” my husband says, referring to my insomnia.  I scowl and he quickly falls back to sleep.

Sleep?  How can he sleep?  We just had TWO MOOSE under our bedroom window!  My adrenalin is pumping, my insomnia is roaring.

“Wake up!  I think they’re back!” I say, an hour later.

My husband groans, but dutifully he follows me back to the window.  Yep, the same two moose are munching away.  They don’t like the glare of the flashlight, and so they move back into the woods.

I am happy with the knowledge that while we sleep, unbeknownst to us, our property is pulsing with activity. Despite our physical presence, humans can really never conquer the woods.   I feel almost childlike, like those storybooks about children whose lives are scheduled, patterned, innocuous.  But at night, when the child’s  parents go to sleep, all the toys and stuffed animals in the child’s bedroom spring to life.  The child shares a secret experience with the toys that are his and his alone.   At night there is an entirely different reality but it’s one to which only he is privy.  It quietly empowers him.

This time I fall asleep quickly,  smiling softly to myself.  Even the owls can’t keep me awake.

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Quiet

Many people have asked how I enjoy the quiet here in the Maine woods.

Our house sits on the middle of a hill, surrounded by mountains and a boggy pond.  Sound echoes and carries far; every sound is magnified. When I heard what I thought was a deer running in our woods, it turned out to be only a small red squirrel!

There is no “white noise” so each sound is distinct.  I can hear a car coming from a mile away, and conversations from hundreds of feet away.  I can hear a single dried leaf falling from the top of a tree, gently hitting the brittle leaves that still remain on the same tree as the leaf floats its way down to the ground.

Although I haven’t made an effort to make my own recordings, you can share in the sounds I hear by listening to these sound bytes I found on the Internet.  Although there are many variations, I’ve chosen the ones that sound just like the noises in my own backyard.  Please note, unless otherwise indicated, the majority of these pictures were taken by others, were found on the Internet, and are used for visual reference only.

I can hear (and see) wild turkeys almost daily: http://www.nwtf.org/audio/Gobbling.mp3

Late at night I may be awakened by far-off coyotes (click on “Coyote 1”):

http://www.soundboard.com/sb/Wild_Coyote_sounds.aspx

The haunting call of a loon, from several ponds away: http://www.nhest.org/cloon.wav

We have both grey and red foxes in this part of Maine.  Foxes calling to one another sound very  eerie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxLHUxzEoRU

Barred Owls are busy too: http://pelotes.jea.com/AnimalFact/Birds/owlbard.wav

A few times I’ve seen moose at the pond across from our house (sometimes with a calf).  I took these photos in May.

(click to enlarge)

 

(click to enlarge)

 

Each time it took a step, the moose “krechtzed” and I nearly laughed out loud.  The bull moose in this video taken in Glacier National Park is making a quieter version of the same sound, albeit a bit less dramatically: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xZdWhVQ4RU

Here is a photo I took of  some moose hoof-prints on the sandy edge of the road just across from our driveway, at the rim of the pond:

(click to enlarge)

I took this photo of a bull moose about an hour’s drive from our house in early June.  Bull moose lose their antlers in the beginning of winter and they regrow in the spring.

 

Bull Moose in "velvet" (click on photo to enlarge)

The new antler growth is initially covered in a velvety coating which the moose removes by rubbing on the nearest tree trunk, at which point they begin to look the way you’d expect moose antlers to look!

During the summer there was deafening high decibel chirping by what sounded like thousands of birds at the pond, from dusk to dawn.  A naturalist  I queried via email suggested they might be frogs!  So I did a search for “frogs of Maine” and listened to the various frog calls.  (Ok, I know, you’re thinking “Get a life!”)  Bingo!  The nocturnal sounds that drive us nuts are indeed “Spring Peepers” – a kind of frog.  Here is an audio file, but really you can’t begin to imagine the intensity unless you could turn the volume up ten times louder than you will hear now:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Springpeepers.ogg

One frog “concert” that I actually enjoy is the sound of Green Frogs in the spring.  Their call sounds like a loose banjo string being plucked (click on the word “listen”)

http://imagess3.enature.com/listen.swf?rndm=1580&audio=AR0027

My grandchildren were very excited about sleeping outside in our pop-up camper when they came to visit this summer.  But all these noises were too discomforting, and they were back inside the house with eyes as wide as saucers within the first 30 minutes of their evening camp-out.

So much for “quiet” . . .