Lime Hollow Nature Center
Covered Bridge at the Lime Hollow Visitor Center

From My Sit Spot

by Pete Angie

ChipmunkTonight I sat in the woods after sunset and watched the night descend, slowly shortening my vision and peeling away the cares of the day.  I startled a deer that came across me, causing it to look, sniff the air, move on, then come back to investigate more.  Holding still, my eyes grew dry as I tried not to blink and the deer puzzled over what it had found.  While we watched each other, in my peripheral vision a dark figure swooped to perch on a nearby tree and seemed to be watching us.  Heart quickening, I wondered how close the deer would get as it moved forward, paused, moved again.  A mere thirty feet away it stopped for good and stomped the ground several times before it walked away with quiet, easy steps. Turning my face up I glimpsed the mysterious bird take flight with broad wings and glide silently, assuredly down through the trees out of sight.  Only owls fly without some noise, as their wing feathers are edged with a short fringe to deaden the sound of rushing air.  This was a large one, maybe a great horned or barred owl.  The deer came back to investigate me four more times, repeating the pattern, before darkness led me home. 

This afternoon, while driving my car I watched a bald eagle labor to fly above route 34 beside Cayuga lake, holding a large fish in its talons, which shined silver.  Passing beneath its immense wings, I looked up at the bright white fan of its tail, illuminated from overhead sunlight.  There are few events that compare to the thrill of sighting a bald eagle, and I fondly recalled the only others I've seen, flying powerfully along the shores of the Tioughnioga river south of Cortland near Blodgett Mills.

Two days ago, morning.  Eastern phoebes sing and a deluge of other calls fills the air.  As I settle in at the base of my sit spot tree a pileated wood pecker exudes sonorous laughter from nearby, then drums into dead wood searching for carpenter ants.  A squirrel comes out of a tree cavity I've been keeping my eye on and ambles along the branch highways.  There is a festive feeling under the canopy of open and opening pale green leaves.  When the limbs were bare and snow covered the forest floor I looked long for signs of wildlife, but at this time of year the presence animals and the processes of nature cannot be avoided—all seem to be filled with a head long verve.      

Spreading from near my feet are legions of cohosh, May apples, colt's foot and collections of striped jack-in-the-pulpit.  A lonely singular trillium hangs its white head.  Cardinals are calling to each other, repeating each other's clarion notes back and forth. This countersinging is done initially between rival males to establish territories, but identical behavior occurs at this time of year between mates during courtship as well.  Another cardinal courtship behavior, which I long to witness, is mate feeding, when the male feeds his partner beak to beak.  Many other birds are breeding now as well, and three pairs of phoebes have made their homes close to mine. 

On an eve above my bedroom windows, and on two separate rafters in a low roof behind our garage, my wife Danielle located nests.  They are beautifully and carefully constructed of grasses and mud, and the outside is covered by a thick layer of delicately textured green moss.  Standing on my tip toes, I see that the inside of one of the nests is lined with white deer hair.  No eggs yet, but I'm looking forward to watching this avian family drama, and taking in the other developments, rituals and mysteries that are spring.  There is so much happening in the woods and all around us, so many voices to be heard and so much life unfolding.