This time of year I can wander my yard, equal parts naturalized woodsy, goldenrod-filled meadow, and human-cultivated garden, and hear the earth’s pulse. A Tufted Titmouse song peals over the trees, setting up territory for one more clutch. Soft coos drift between Mourning Dove mates, one on nest, the other on roof. And high pitched whistles drift among leaf rustles, feathered ventriloquists hiding their fledged selves from two and four legged threats. The robins have had another successful clutch emerge into my private preserve. One short-tailed fledgling remained composed as I gingerly captured her wait. I anticipate a week of new generation sightings.
I had both dogs with me today, and decided to take a path back from the lake edge rather than retrace our steps on macadem, our usual hike. Off the group camping area, the path is two dogs and two persons wide, narrowing to two dogs wide with human behind, narrowing to one human with dogs kinda off to the side wide. Rocky and rain-washed, the path was a mindfulness exercise.
Avoiding leash entanglement pulled my attention totally off bird song ID. Fortunately I am so into birding right now every little movement captures a modicum of my brain so I caught the sight of a few sparrow-sized birds about 10 feet ahead of us, odd for mid-forest, in time to halt the dogs, who were super cool nosing around while the LBBs (birder lingo for little brown birds) moved with confused deliberation off the path.
Whoosh! Out dashed a mom Ruffed Grouse, feathers wide, tail fanned, belting a piercing whistle warning. I choked up on the leashes but the dogs only lifted their heads in mild curiosity. I waited a few seconds for her chicks, the LBBs now identified, to get deeply buried away from the path and mom settled down a bit. Then we continued on our way, accompanied by a whistling, pissed off Ruffed Grouse for another 100 yards or so. Like a Killdeer she traveled away from where I suspect her chicks crouched waiting her all clear.
Really cool experience, and a deep reminder of why I never let my dogs off leash. Had they been free roaming, I am certain that curiosity would have led to working dog mind games within seconds, disturbing the chicks and the adult.