It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood when I woke up this morning, and fellow volunteer Bridgett Hatch and I had a date to check some more of the back road trails for downed trees. We only had the morning, as Bridgett had to work the VC this afternoon.
The other day I had a chat with Janice, the volunteer coordinator, to see if she was comfortable with me doing my hours each week at my discretion. Mowing and some of the other things I do are really weather dependent, and even though on paper I’m scheduled to work six hours a day Wednesday through Saturday, she was Okay with me flexing those days so I could take advantage of weather related opportunities. Since the forecast is for rain tomorrow, I chose to do the trail checking this morning, and mowing this afternoon. VC work is kind of etched in stone, so I work around that.
Anyway, that’s how we ended up enjoying and ‘working’ on my day off. Tea Cracker Trail only had one downed tree, and we were able to haul that off of the trail. Next was to cover the River Road Trail. All of these trails are closed to the public at the present time.
River Road follows alongside the Otter Tail River. I always stop at this side bridge to enjoy the peacefulness and sounds of the rushing river. We don’t want to work too hard, don’t cha know, so we spent some time watching all the barn swallows coursing through the skies and a good sized fish (maybe a trout?) swimming around beneath us. The water is just absolutely crystal clear. Then I heard a tinkling sound like a small bell. What??
When I looked up from the water, Donna Dustin and her Springer Spaniel, Annie, were making they’re way towards us out of the woods. I had encountered these two on the same River Road almost exactly one year ago, and I had related the story to Bridgett just moments before.
I wrote about Donna and Annie last year, but if you don’t recall I’ll tell you again. Donna is a local lady that helps with the woodcock studies being done on the refuge. Woodcocks are in decline, and they help gather data and band woodcocks to hopefully increase their numbers once again. Annie wears a bell and a radio collar, and is trained to find woodcock nests. She goes off into the woods, and when her bell stops tinkling, Donna knows she is on point and has found a nest. Donna then bushwhacks her way to find Annie, and tries to catch the young birds with her net and band them. Last year, was a banner year for woodcock here, and she banded 97 birds. This year, she has only banded 21 birds so far. She feels it is due to the very cold spring where the initial nests were frozen out. Annie is getting up in years, so Donna is getting a new pup to train in very soon. I think Annie will be a great teacher. What a hoot to meet them both again in the middle of nowhere!
Well, that was pretty exciting for me, but the morning wasn’t over yet. As we made our way back to the rigs on Bruce Blvd, I spotted something in the middle of the road and pulled the truck over.
Up ahead was a ruffed grouse. Do you see those eight things that look like dark rocks? Well, they are newly hatched youngsters! That mama grouse was standing stock still while her babies rested on the warm rocks of the gravel road.
She was on alert, but didn’t move one little inch as I got out of the truck. That’s when I noticed a van speeding down the road from behind. Aw nuts! What to do? I got a little closer to the birds, but they didn’t move. So, I stood in the middle of the road and waved my hands around trying to get the van to slow down. It finally did. Then two more vehicles approached from the other direction. More hand waving. Every one stopped, thank goodness.
I moved closer and closer hoping mama would take her chicks off of the road. I was talking to her like she was a person. “Come on, mama, take your little ones off of the road.” Finally, she ran back (she didn’t fly) into the woods leaving all the chicks behind, but calling out to them constantly.
I got closer and closer, and some of them ran towards their mama, but others stubbornly stayed put. Isn’t this one just too cute? They were so tiny, I could have held all eight of them in my cupped hands. So, Bridgett and I leaned way over and started herding them with our hands to get them to go find their mama. I’m sure it was quite a sight! Little old lady stops traffic by waddling across the road…
Two wildlife rescues (remember the turtle?) in less than 48 hours. I was beginning to feel like Mighty Mouse! ♫ “Here I Come to Save the Day!”♪ ♫ Ha Ha!
I have to say once again, that nothing beats my experiences volunteering on our National Wildlife Refuges. I am one lucky person…
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy