A walk in the woods

Of course, I’d been going out every day. I’d taken the dogs out two or three times a day. I’d gone to the barn, helped get the horses into their stalls and fed them, turned them out when they’d finished eating their supplements. I’d driven somewhere almost every day, to visit someone, to go to a grocery store, to run some other errand. But I wanted to get out in nature, out of the car.

And I did. That afternoon I drove to an area called a nature preserve, a semi-natural area, parked my car, got out and went for a walk in a woods.

I call the area semi-natural because it has been modified by people. The trail I took is a boardwalk, a raised wooden walkway with handrails, not for safely but to keep people on the walk. There are signs along the walk that give information about the geology of the area and some of the trees and other plants and animals. There are seats at intervals also, some with a roof overhead.

In spite of the walkway, however, and the rails and signs and benches, I had the feeling there that I was in a natural area. To begin with, as soon as I was out of the car I heard a sandhill crane call, then another. Perhaps there was a third. The calls of the cranes were distant. I could barely hear them. But they were sounds of the wild, completely different than the sounds of other vehicles, of traffic, the usual sounds I hear when I step out of my car.

As I started walking a bird flew from one tree to another along one side of the walkway. It was a red-bellied woodpecker, a common bird to me, one of the species of birds that come to my bird feeders every day. But this bird flew from tree to tree in a woods, a natural setting and that, somehow, made it different.

That boardwalk dead- ends near the shore of a small lake. As I approached the lake a flock of ducks flushed from the water. By the far shore of the lake stood a great blue heron. The ducks were mallards, perhaps the most common of North American ducks.  Great blue herons are common too. I see mallards on the marsh by our pasture. I see great blue herons wading in the marsh and on the shore. Here, however, as with the woodpecker, they were in a natural setting and that made them seem more wild.

I didn’t see the sandhill cranes. The only birds I saw that dull, gray afternoon were one red-bellied woodpecker, a flock of mallards and one great blue heron.

I did see some other wildlife. I saw three deer. They started from near the boardwalk as I approached, ran a short distance to one side, then stopped, turned and stood watching as I walked past. I saw three fox squirrels, each at a different place along the boardwalk.

I’d have seen more wildlife, more birds at least, at my bird feeders at home. But getting out, walking in a woods made that afternoon a different, more wild experience.

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