My Walk

by Jessica Tschetter | Jul 1, 2023 | 0 comments

Spruce Grouse
Spruce Grouse. Photo © Jessica Tschetter.

It’s early May. Summer is now installed, and so is the itch to find and photograph summer wildlife—in me anyway. The sunny afternoon seemed an ideal time to go prowling around the fields and woods, keeping an eye out for their wild inhabitants.

Earlier that day, while taking our dog for a run with the Quad, I had seen a pair of Green-winged Teal swimming on a small lake not far away, and a white-tailed doe and her last year’s fawn grazing in a nearby hay field. I set out to locate both, armed with camera and plenty of optimism.

I walked up the road, pausing now and then to enjoy the sound of new green leaves rustling in the wind, and to listen to the bubbling chorus of robins. A White-throated Sparrow flitted in the foliage, cheerily evading my viewfinder. The sun was quite hot, and I was glad for the shade that the woods beside the road offered.

Arriving at the field where I had seen the deer, I slowed my pace and pussyfooted in. If the deer were there, I was not intending to scare them away. A careful scan of the field and the surrounding woods’ edge was unrewarding. The deer had moved on. Very well. I had been half expecting this, so I was not too disappointed. And there were still the ducks—maybe.

Farther along the road as I neared the lake, a Ruffed Grouse gave away its presence with rustling in the dry leaves a few feet away. I brought my camera up swiftly, but a photo of this fowl was not to be. It scuttled rapidly out of sight in the underbrush. I continued on.

I soon reached the lake and dropped to a half crouch as I sneaked up to it.

Just as I reached the point where the whole lake is open to view, I heard a splashing of water and a rapid beat of wings. The male Green-winged Teal soared up from the water, sped over the trees, and was out of sight in seconds. Not seeing the female fly with him, I focused my attention back on the lake. I waited patiently, hidden behind some trees, scanning the bulrush-lined shores in the hope that she was hiding somewhere and would soon swim forth into my camera’s viewfinder. But as time passed, this did not prove to be likely. So, my short list of guaranteed wildlife sightings had run out.

I shot a few pictures of scenery and then started toward home. I branched off the road to circle around through some trails in the woods.

This last lap of the walk proved more fruitful. In a cluster of pines, a red squirrel started scolding, and I promptly swerved in to investigate. But, though the squirrel was there, it did not sit still for more than two seconds in one place, certainly not long enough to get quality photos.

After trying for some time, I gave up and continued. Around a curve in the trail, I stopped short. Not far ahead, standing and staring at me, stood a male Spruce Grouse. Finally. I was almost certain of some pictures of this thing if I moved carefully enough. I adjusted a few settings and snapped away, pausing now and then to creep a little closer. He did not seem alarmed, and even faced me with puffed feathers as I got closer. I had not seen one of these grouse at close range before, and I was fascinated. The thick red above his eyes and the yellow tipping his tail feathers, contrasting with the the rest of his sombre feathering, was striking.

At length he strutted aside into some bushes. In trying to inch even nearer, I scared him, and off he flew. I straightened up from my crouch and watched him out of sight before continuing on, well-satisfied with the beautiful encounter with one of God’s creatures.

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