A Walk Down to the River

It was starting to snow and 14 inches were being called for within the next 36 hours, I thought now would be a good time to take a walk down to the river.

On the other side of the river is a huge field ringed with trees. There are no homes in that stretch. Three deer could be seen in the field. They looked like they were playing in the snow. They would run, then stop. Then run again. Whenever they would stop they would look across the river at me. I had to be a good 150 yards away, but they were still cautious of this lone figure wandering down the hill toward them. Then they would go back to playing.

The river was pretty empty. A few geese were in the open water and I counted a half dozen blue herons spread out and hunkered down on the edge of the ice. Hunting I assume.

I got to the edge of the bluff, still a good 30 feet above the river and started wandering down the thin tree line. In one of the tallest trees that hangs out over the river were a couple of adult eagles. Of course I had to see how close I could get to them.

One didn’t like that and took off. The other didn’t seem to mind so much.

Debbie Granat and her daughter pulled up on the side of the road and I wandered over to talk. Her husband Larry started the Facebook page The Kendall County Bird Page and I rely on him for all things eagles in this stretch of the river. One of these days I’ll have a better camera and I can quit asking him for eagle images. Or, I’ll never tell him I got a better camera, keep borrowing eagle images and give him the publicity he deserves.

That sounds better.

After they left I turned around and the skittish eagle was back. I tried stalking up to them again, and again the skittish one took off. Decided to leave them alone and head downstream.

Off on the island was another eagle. In that short period of time, more geese were coming down to the river and a couple of hundred of them were circling the area.

I live about 80 feet away from a pretty heavily wooded ravine. I walked along the top of the bluff, heading for the mouth of the ravine. The tracks of deer, squirrels and what I assume are either coyote or fox were all using the ravine like a highway. I tracked them to the top of the bluff overlooking the ravine.

On a good day wandering down the steep slope of the bluff is a no brainer. Conditions did not make this a good day. All I could imagine was gravity taking over and suddenly finding myself in a heap at the bottom. The tracks being seen were all old, I convinced myself. No point wandering down there.

A juvenile bald eagle drifted overhead and landed in a tree a hundred feet away. This one was on to me, it took off long before I could get any closer.

In that short time, hundreds more geese had arrived. The honking was starting to echo down the river valley. The only ducks I can recognize from a distance are mallards, but I can see that others are different even if I can’t identify them. I saw a couple of other different types of ducks mixed in with all the other waterfowl.

The other day while out shoveling snow at sunset I stopped counting the geese flying overhead when I got to 500. Today, the geese weren’t coming in from north or south. The bulk of them were coming straight down the river out of the west.

This is what I’m going to miss when I move at the end of the month, that ability to wander down a hill and see such a variety of wildlife. Granted, I’ll still be living two blocks from the river, but it’s slightly more urban. There will still be plenty of geese and ducks around, but for the deer and coyote and the bulk of the eagles I’ll have to walk a good half mile downstream.

Maybe a little less.

I’ll try to think of that as a motivating factor, hiking that extra half mile.

I could use the exercise.

_______________

It’s 7 PM and I just came in from wandering around while smoking a cheap cigar. It has to be about 30 degrees out there, no wind, the snow is falling straight down and the neighborhood is dead quiet.

Down on the river a few geese were honking and at the mouth of the ravine, coyotes were howling.

8 thoughts on “A Walk Down to the River

  1. bob

    dead quiet is good. wild life is, at this moment, based upon my city living, almost beyond my comprehension; something exists in books, on the web, at the zoo, in my imagination.

    “It was just my imagination…running away with me,” sang the Temptations. They were talking about an imaginary relationship with a particular woman, which is cool, but at my age, my imagination includes relationships with so many other things as well.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I kept doing that fake yawn thing to make my ears pop, it was that quiet. I thought I was imagining it or went deaf.

      I seem to have got good at walking up on deer. I’d have to show you how.

  2. bob

    book, book, book…or at least, blog, blog, blog. My patience is endless and I doubt I’ll ever tire of saying that.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I just don’t see how what I say and do translates to book format. Words rely on pictures and the other way around. Blog format it works okay. I can do one to look like this, that’s what I do for a living. It’s been thought about and stewing.

  3. walt

    Wonderful account of a river outing, Ken. It was good to grab the opportunity before the big freeze comes. Really like that double eagle pic.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Thanks Walt, now with at least 6 inches of snow on the ground and up to 4 more coming, I may have to go for another one later.

      It’s killing me that I don’t have a better camera to get those shots.

  4. Jim McClellan

    For some reason, I immediately pictured a coyote watching all this with a small jar of orange sauce and an open cookbook in front of him. Also, you were wise not to challenge the bluff. To paraphrase Futurama, “The law of gravity be a harsh mistress.” Very enjoyable reading, Ken.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Hey Jim, saw this you left on Walt’s blog…

      Really good stories don’t start with, “We decided to stay inside because it was cold . . ”

      You’d change that tune if you were up this way today.
      Age makes gravity much more painful too.

      I hear the coyotes all the time, but only once seen. One wandered through the front yard one night, completely ignored me. I think they have a penchant for bunnies, you never see those around here.

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