Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wow Moments

Anytime I see a badger I figure it is a 'wow' moment.
 A friend, Chris O’Brien,  gave me a delightful book recently, “Children and Other Wild Animals." Brian Doyle's writing is exceptionally full of life; but, more important, is his appreciation of both wildlife and children.  He has a wonderful ability to infect me with his enthusiasm for what he has seen, or even just heard of from someone else.  The book got me to thinking about some of the 'Wows' in my life.  I like to think a lot of my blog posts have some wow in them.  Here are three past journal entries, all from Yellowstone, that stand out as special wows.

Wows can come in many forms.  Sometimes during the moment I scarcely dare breath. I realize I'm listening to a very special moment in time: 

Five wolves from the Druid wolf pack are lying down near the river in the Lamar Valley. three greys and two blacks.  Ravens nearby.  Quite likely they have a kill just out of sight.  Frost crystals sparkle on every blade of grass.  Crisp, still morning.

The sun is just reaching the far slope, gradually inching its way towards the resting pack.  A grey stands and takes a couple of steps.  A black stands and stretches.  All settle down again.

All five are howling -- a chorus in unison.  Lovely, mellow howls drift across the frosted meadow.  They howl for about two minutes, disturbing about 50 ravens.  The ravens  rise up from behind the river banks and circle overhead. 

Some of my wow moments are just as memorable, but maybe not quite as ethereal.  Have you ever been close enough to a rutting elk to smell just how raunchy he is?  They get pretty potent. Elk cows like the strangest things!

 Such a raunchy guy!  He lowers his head and pumps urine onto the head and neck.  Urine sparkles as it ricochets off his antlers.  When he finally lifts his head, his thoroughly drenched neck hairs drip in the late afternoon sunlight.  He bellows a deep, bottom-of-the-well bugle followed by several short, higher pitched grunts.  He is ready for his ladies. 

And it is possible to miss the actual moment of 'wow' and still have the memory burned in my brain.  It was the first time we were able to watch a sandhill crane nest in Yellowstone.  The new nest was tucked in bullrushes and far enough from the road for us to observe without disturbing.  Cool, windy, snowflurries.  I set my spotting scope up inside the van and had it aimed out Dale's window.  He photographed for over an hour and dozed off. 
2:05 PM:  She (?) stands and bugles several times.  Her mate has arrived.  Both bugle.  This small valley resonates with their calls.  The “arriver” reaches down with its long bill and gently rolls the pale, lightly mottled egg.  One egg:  large and shiny as if wet.

The cranes pass nearby pieces of rushes one to the other and tuck it into the nest.  Three or four pieces and that’s enough.  As the first crane walks off, it picks up and tosses more pieces of reed to the crane on the nest.  The new crane rolls the egg again and starts to settle down onto it.  Ouch!  That position isn't quite right.  He (?) stands again and attempts to turn.  The crane is standing on it own foot!  First he must untangle its toes, then settle down again.  With his back to us, he tries again, but isn’t right either.  He stands and pivots to the right and settles for a third time.  Better.  He sits at an angle about 45 degrees from the first crane’s position. 

2:20 PM:  He preens on the nest.  Still one dab of snow unmelted on the nest.  More is falling, but it’s not sticking. 

2:25 PM: The crane stands, then eases down and sits on his elbows and looks around.  I think he is trying to find a solution to this lumpy problem.

2:30 PM:  Still sitting on his elbows.  He is pumping, sort of deep breathing?

2:32 PM:  She just laid an egg!  Damn.  I missed the actual egg laying by a hair.  I was busy drawing her head.  I looked back to the crane and saw she was standing over two eggs. The new one is a little darker and perhaps has just a tad of blood on it.  Damn!  Damn!  Damn!  I should of, could of, seen that egg pop out.  And Dale was taking a break (napping) too. 

How could I have been so dense!!

We all have special wow moments.  Have you thought about some of yours recently?