Friday, August 10, 2018

Mother Nature surprises city girls

8/1/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Fish in the trees and Blue Jays in the pond!

As a former city girl, I am constantly amazed at Mother Nature’s surprises. Living in the country has been a whole new learning experience. My latest wildlife encounter had me shaking my head and my heart pounding. It seems worthy of sharing on this hot summer day. Feel free to sit back and laugh at or with me.

First, I am not a fisher woman. The closest I ever came to catching a fish was at the Blue Jay Trout Farm in the San Bernardino Mountains. My family spent a month every summer in nearby Crestline. My grandfather wasn’t a fisherman either but he loved trout. He would pile us kids in the car and off we would go to the trout farm where you paid to fish.

Grandpa said it was the most expensive activity of the summer. There, an employee baited the hook on your fishing pole and the fish would practically leap out of the water into your lap. Fortunately, I not only didn’t have to bait the hook but someone else took the slimy, squirming fish off the line and into the bucket for me.

Fast forward a few decades and I’m living at C.G. Lake where fishing is a regular pastime. But not me. I’m more like someone out of a Justin Moore Country song: I can’t even bait a hook. That all sort of changed a couple of weeks ago. A strong wind had blown through our six acres of trees and branches were scattered on the deck and under the trees closest to the house.

I got busy with my rake and wheelbarrow and began cleaning up. That’s when I saw what looked like a 12-inch log covered in mulch about 3 ft. inside the tree line. I went over to pick it up and it moved! It was breathing. Yikes! I practically jumped out of my jeans!

I gently nudged it with a stick and it rolled over and fanned out what looked like tail feathers. A bird? And it was still alive? Eek! I ran into the house, filled the tea kettle, dashed outside and poured water over the “bird.” Well, the bird was a fish and its gills were opening and closing. I had to rescue it!

I covered the fish with a damp cloth, laid it in a box, grabbed the car keys and drove over to the lake. At the boat ramp, I gently put the fish in the water, it briefly swam a few inches and was still. A fisherman was nearby with his little girl. I asked him if he knew anything about fish. Duh. Of course, he did. He was fishing in the lake.

I told him my fish story and could tell that he thought I was a few bricks short of a load. Finally, he got curious, came over and said, “Doggone, it’s a Catfish.” (Or something like that.) He called his daughter over to check it out as he nudged it into deeper water. The fish, however, had other ideas and kept coming back onto shore!

The fisherman asked me where I found it. I told him it was covered in mulch under the trees but came alive when I poured water on it from a tea kettle. I still didn’t know how it got there. Then it dawned on me. There’s an osprey nest nearby. Sometimes other birds try to steal their fish when they’re coming home. Perhaps there was a tussle and he dropped it on our property—but 3 ft. under the trees?

By this time my fisherman’s daughter is asking questions and he is describing the fish as identified it by its whiskers. Then, hoping to get rid of me, he assured me that my fish was going to be fine and I drove home—still shaking— to ponder what had happened.

Later, I was telling this story to my friend Emily who proceeded to confound me with her own Mother Nature story. She lives in a house on a city lot in Eugene. Her backyard has a nice big deck overlooking a little stream that runs into a pond. A small Blue Jay (slightly handicapped because of a chopped off tail!) has been frequenting the pond to drink water and check out the tadpoles.

One day while Emily was relaxing outside, she noticed that the tadpoles were now frogs. Suddenly, a HUGE Bullfrog leaped out of the water, jumped on her bluebird and swallowed its entire head!  Emily leaped into action and eventually was able to free her bird’s head from the bullfrog. The frog dove back into the pond and the bird has never been seen again. Emily will never trust her bullfrogs again. Evidently, they are carnivores and will even eat their own young. That’s Mother Nature at work. We city girls sure have a lot to learn.

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