Tonight, as I often do, I will borrow my friend Brenda Jones’ magnificent images of the short-eared owls of Lawrenceville’s broad preserve, the Pole Farm, to give you some sense of my Tuesday evening experience. Thank you, masterful Brenda!
Too often, these days, I need to remind people, “All that it takes, for evil to happen, is for good people to do nothing.”
I’ll paraphrase that reality to urge NJWILDBEAUTY READERS: “All that it takes, for miracles to happen, is for good people to be OUT THERE.”
So many hectic nights. So much ghastly weather. Yet, Tuesday I dashed in the door at 5:30. I threw my work clothes onto the floor and left them there; jumped into outdoor gear and went straight over to the Pole Farm.
There was sun and no rain and I hadn’t seen the short-eared owls since the day before my February meniscus tear last year.
Would they still be there, with all this inappropriate heat? Would they be in the field I might reach in those few moments before sundown? Would I recognize them? Was I too tired from work to dash along the wooded path? Would anyone else be on the observation platform to point out owls and harriers with hushed excitement, as last year?
Still on the woods-and-understory-framed trail by the red barn, I watched one slow thin shadow, the color of antique pewter, coast knowingly, determinedly along the reaped beige field to my right. One warbler hopped about in a shrub, but light was no use in identification. The shrubs that sheltered the small bird kept me from really seeing the raptor.
I made it to “Elaine’s Bench”, out-of-breath from almost running, weighty binoculars having beat a tattoo along my back.
There wasn’t another birder anywhere in sight.
But, across the reaped field, at the far tree line, that frieze that looks as though Lucy McVicker had drawn it with archival ink, two grey shadows emerged in tandem. Low to the ground, completely at peace, circling, circling. A pas de deux with wings instead of feet. Raptors, but not hunting.
There was still enough light that I could immerse myself in the delight of their grey/white lustre. The short-eared owls’ heads were the size of small grapefruits or large oranges. I felt, more than saw, their intensely focused eyes.
The leisured circling continued, as though they were from a faerie realm, able to dissolve every tension of my workday, my deep concern over the world situation.
A third ghostly floater emerged, low and flat and sure, from the far forest. The circling two danced their way across the field and out of sight.
I’ve been told that they are not actually hunting in these pre-sunset moments. That short-eared owls’ heads function as ears. As they coast and turn those white disks, they are hearing mice and voles that will become their feast when dark arrives.
No, I didn’t see bluebirds. But Brenda did, at the Pole Farm. They’ll be along any time now, as there are bluebird boxes hither and yon, on either side of the trail.
My flashlight proved nearly worthless, the sun had dropped so fast. I did not remember not to step on the horse manure, now on the right side for my return. I worried that my car would be locked in by an intense and righteous ranger.
Dashing back through the wooded end of the trail, I was suddenly deafened all over again by spring’s first peepers. The short-ears had made me forget all about that raucous miracle at entry.
Miracles. Always out there in Nature for us. But we do have to place ourselves where miracles can happen.
And I don’t have to remind NJWILDBEAUTY readers, that the Pole Farm is a preserve. That courageous people fought long and hard to save most of that land, to give it over to the wild creatures whose whom it rightfully is. To be EVER VIGILANT in terms of advocating and paying preservation, stewardship. To prevent PIPELINES!
Nature is essential. We are part of nature. In this Anthropocene Era, we ARE “The Sixth Extinction.” We turned that around re peregrines, osprey, eagles and condors.
“All that it takes, for evil to happen, is for good people to do nothing!” NEVER FORGET!