My Half-hour Hike…

by Seth B. Hoover | Jun 4, 2022 | 0 comments

Henslow's Sparrow
Henslow’s Sparrow. Photo ©

I was in a hurry because I wanted to go on a hike before dinner, and I had only half an hour of free time. I could not expect to see much of anything in such a short period of time, but I would try.

This happened several years ago, and I was younger at the time, so I was still a little apprehensive about going to the woods alone. However, I desperately wanted to show my older brother that I could get more birds on my list than he could.

I strode down the field lane toward the woods at a rapid pace—that is, till I thought I heard something. I stopped and listened. Suddenly I heard it again—a yell or scream or something like that. I would’ve gone back, but I hated to think about what my brother would think if I would go back. And so, I bravely took one more step toward the woods. Instantly the scream rang out and stopped me in my tracks. I stood perfectly still for a while till I got the courage to take one more step, but as soon as I took the step, the scream rang out again.

So, it continued for some time till I became too scared to continue. I then decided it was coming from atop the old white pine and that it might be a panther. But I decided that if it was one, it would really be great seeing it. So, I continued. The screams became louder and more imperative till I was about 100 feet (30 m) from the pine tree. Suddenly a majestic Red-tailed Hawk sailed out of the treetop. What a relief!

I strolled leisurely along toward my well-used trail till I heard a strange sound. It sounded somewhat like a person trying to hiccup when he didn’t need to. I stared at the tall, waving weeds and grasses along the creek banks. Then suddenly I heard it again, and, more important, I saw its source, a little odd-looking sparrow with an olive-green head. I did not know its name, but I had seen it many times in the bird book. Quickly I scribbled “Green-headed Sparrow” on a scrap of paper that had for some reason been in my pocket. I watched as the sparrow disappeared among the grasses, and then I turned and headed into the woods.

I walked swiftly and quietly to my favorite spot, a log lying in our creek. I sat down to wait for the birds, but I didn’t need to wait. They were already there. After about five minutes of trying to identify restless warblers and watching a phoebe that appeared to be building a nest nearby, I had to head back for dinner.

I was just ready to stand up when I thought I saw a movement under the roots of an oak tree that was half in the creek. I immediately focused on the spot. About ten seconds later, a big slim, weasel-like animal popped out from under the roots about 10 feet (3 m) away and headed toward me. I was frightened. This animal looked like a weasel big enough to hurt a person. Quickly I moved my hand a little bit to see if this creature was going to run away or fight. But I did not need to worry. As soon as I moved my hand, the animal disappeared with speed like unto lightning.

Back home, I pulled the book, Nature of the Midwest, off the bookshelf and did some research. I discovered that I had seen a Henslow’s Sparrow and a Northern River Otter. Both had been in the wild, making it an enjoyable half hour. But I did wonder what would have happened if I had let the otter come right on, straight toward me….

River otter beside stream
River otter. Photo ©

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