Saturday, March 6, 2010
Wild Plants And Wooly Bears
Late Friday night, while viewing Saturn’s rings through my 8-inch Dobsonian telescope, I heard a large animal padding around in the woods by my house. “There goes a big buck,” I said to myself and quickly forgot the incident.
Saturn had just risen to a point where seeing was not severely compromised by the earth’s atmosphere and I reveled in the experience. My having been out in the dark long enough so that my night vision was fairly acute further enhanced the quality of my session.
While departing from Saturn to hunt for a nearby nebula, I heard the animal walking again, this time closer and possibly headed for me. “That ain’t no deer,” I thought. But what was it? Speculation runs rampant in darkness, especially in a woodland setting such as mine. Every species of big game living in Maine has, at one time or another, paid me a “dooryard visit.” And a few animals that aren’t supposed to live here have passed by, too.
Now, with a certainty, the animal drew steadily closer. I could take the suspense no longer and ran to the house in order to flip the switch that would turn on the outside light that would illuminate my dooryard. Night vision be darned, this was something of considerable consequence.
The light flashed on and there, at the edge of my lawn not 40 feet away and staring straight at me, stood a group of the largest ducks I had ever seen.
These were some kind of domestic ducks, as far as I could tell. But were did they come from? As I watched, the ducks, heads held high and not uttering a single sound, marched around the periphery of my woodland opening and disappeared into the darkness. Apparently, ducks do not quack at night.
The next morning just after sunrise, I awoke and went to my front door to peer out at the new day. And there, in front of my greenhouse, were five, huge ducks, huddled together for warmth.
As I write, the ducks remain, sitting on the sunny side of my little greenhouse. Whose are they? How did they get here? And what will I do with them?
Such are the questions that confront those whose lives revolve around wild plants and wooly bears.