Talkin' Outdoors

For years, my favorite start for the day has been early morning when I walked to the end of our driveway to pick up the daily paper. I no longer subscribe to the paper but old habits are hard to break; I still walk the 100 yards down the driveway to the edge of our country road and pause for a minute or so to see what I can see.

Across the road from the driveway’s end is a pasture. Some mornings I see only a beautiful sunrise to the east. This is usually enough to make the walk worthwhile. Other times, different scenes capture my attention.

Occasionally, a herd of cows grazing in the pasture contentedly swatting at flies while munching on grass captures my attention. They spot me standing there and a few walk up to the fence, staring quizzically at me. I don’t know why exactly but this scene has a tranquilizing effect and starts my day off nicely. This is especially true when the pasture is shrouded with fog, giving the cattle a ghostly appearance.

Once as I stood at the edge of the road, three large birds sailed overhead. They weren’t vultures and were larger than the hawks that sometimes pass over the pasture. Then I saw white and stood mesmerized as I realized I was looking at three bald eagles headed north.

Just last week, there was a big bird sitting in the top of a large dead tree across the pasture, some 300 yards away. Another bird, a hawk, was diving at the bird on the limb which decided it had enough and left, but as it flew away, I got a glimpse of white. I can’t be sure but I think I was looking at an eagle.

One fall morning, I stood and watched a young buck deer chase a doe around the pasture. Other times, a doe and fawns have entertained me, the fawns kicking up heels and frolicking like puppies.

One morning, movement in the tall grass next to a small pond across the road captured my attention. A coyote searched the grass for something for breakfast, probably a rabbit or mouse and I watched it jump straight up and pounce on whatever the hapless little creature was.

The little pond hosts a small willow at one end. The tree serves as a perch for a red tail hawk on full alert, probably looking for a meal the coyote overlooked. This week, the willow has been host to a flock of cattle egrets. I’m not sure why they’re there but they could simply be relaxing and enjoying the view of the pond on a summer morning.

Other times, these graceful white birds flock to the pasture when the cows are there. Nothing is quite so attention-grabbing as observing the symbiotic relationship between cattle egrets and cattle. I’ve seen as many as half a dozen perched on the back of cows, acting as horsefly repellants and tick eradicators to the grateful cows.

The pasture also serves as a hay field and near a corner, the hay is left uncut. Songbirds, such as orchard orioles, blue grosbeaks and kingbirds like that little sanctuary and I’m glad that little section of pasture is left for the birds. Walking out to the end of the driveway during winter can provide a different view altogether. During last winter’s rare snowfall, there was no traffic on our road; icy conditions curtailed that. As I stood, I heard a crunch-crunch-crunch as I watched a lady, much more dedicated than I, jog along the margin of our road. Watching her sent a shiver down my spine as I picked up my snow-covered paper, thrust hands into pockets and made my way back to the coziness of our house all the while thinking she was a lot tougher than I.

I could sit in the house and watch nature programs on television but watching nature do what it does first-hand from the end of my driveway is better to me than the best nature show on the TV screen.