Mar 26

Creatures Large and Small—Part 1

In Brief— With apologies to James Herriot, the author rambles through some of his experiences with a few of the furry and feathered creatures that share this planet with us.


Anyone Who Loves Animals Can’t Be All Bad—

The little lady squirrel sat on my knee eating sunflower seeds out of my hand. Bold as brass with her soft little paws, teats testifying to a brood of baby squirrels in a nearby tree, she cracked the shells and ate the nuts within as if she hadn’t a care in the world. Sated, she slowly hopped across the yard and disappeared into the forest.

That was just one incident that not only enriched my life but showed me that our fellow creatures are smarter than we ever imagined. They showed me that it is essential for humanity to preserve and nurture earth’s creatures for the future. We are all part of that great web of life that has endured since we evolved from the seas all those millennia ago.

That little squirrel came from the feeding station I erected next to the forest when we moved to Sweden. It consisted of a pole atop which sat a small platform that I stocked each day with sunflower seeds for the birds, squirrels and deer that regularly emerged from the forest, particularly during the late fall, winter and spring when their food was scarce. Four large bags of sunflower seeds was not unusual. The deer fed on the seeds that dropped on the ground, but the other creatures relied on the elevated feeding platform.

Intelligent Feathered Creatures—

How many times have you heard the put-down “bird brain?” Youtube features a clever crow figuring out how to get food from a device to measure a crow’s intelligence. I can personally attest to the fact that magpies, members of the intelligent crow family, are unbelievably smart. Magpies mate for life. Watch one magpie and you will usually see the mate nearby.

Two incidents stand out. One day I watched a magpie struggle with a long stick intended to be part of a nest being built next to the warmth emanating from our chimney. That in itself shows their intelligence. Try as s/he might, the magpie was unable to get the long stick to the chimney top. S/he called his/her mate to help. One bird held one end while the other took the opposite end. Together they flew the stick up to the chimney. What I watched was cooperation.

Every winter, stores sold suet balls coated with seeds for the small birds. Each ball was enclosed in a plastic net. Knowing that the magpies would steal the suet balls if they could reach them, I suspended a ball from a tree branch so it couldn’t be reached from above or below, but the little birds could easily cling to the net. A magpie landed on the upper branch, paused to consider the problem, then grasped the string and reeled in the suet ball until s/he could reach it. S/he ripped open the net with his/her beak, the ball fell and s/he picked it up to carry to the nest. Stupid? Not!

Our Large Furred Friends—

One evening I started down the driveway for the evening constitutional with the dog when the dog suddenly reacted. I looked to the right and saw two large moose in the neighbor’s driveway about fifteen feet away. Since moose can sometimes be aggressive, I froze in my tracks as we eyed one another. Slowly, the moose moved down the driveway and crossed the street into the trees. Only then did we continue the evening walk.

So why was I leery of two moose? Earlier, a good friend was chased down the street by an angry mother moose who felt her young calf was threatened. Only an oncoming car served to break off what could have been a very dangerous encounter.

For those who aren’t familiar with moose or possibly only at a distance, when they are accidentally hit by a car at dusk they cause considerable damage to both moose and car. As an aside, it should be noted that a moose’s fur is coated with oily lanolin that protects it from the weather.

Just outside of town is Moosegarden where tourists can see moose up close and personal. In the nearby shop, they sell stationery made from moose droppings. “Ugh,” you say, but those droppings are pure cellulose that is turned into paper. Want to drop an unusual note to Aunt Lulu? Stop by Moosegarden.

One other occasion occurs to me. Our train was moving ver-ry slowly through the deep winter snow. At last, a curve revealed the reason for our snail’s pace: a moose thought it was easier to walk on the railroad right-of-way than fight the deep snow. Eventually, he decided the iron monster following him wasn’t going away.

It helps to live close to both nature and civilization, but I’ve run out of space so I’ll continue in Part 2. Meanwhile, your pet may not be part of nature in the raw, but is smarter than you think.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on June 2014


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    • Kit Moorhouse on March 26, 2017 at 16:38

    Your latest blog follows my watching “Planet Earth II” narrated so eloquently by Richard Attenborough last night. I recorded it off of our local PBS channel. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. Talk about the intelligence of particular birds, You will be amazed.
    Thank you for sharing your encounters with the wondrous wildlife that surrounds us. There isn’t a day I don’t count myself lucky for living here on this beautiful island where daily I can see the likes of deer, fox, Bald Eagles, Red Tailed Hawks, raccoons, Sea Otters, etc. Love it!

      • Don Bay on March 26, 2017 at 18:03

      “Planet Earth II” sounds like a necessary viewing stop. I also urge you to read scientist Carl Safina’s “Beyond Words” to learn just how intelligent our fellow creatures are. Not only is the book thoroughly readable, it will put the cork in human belief that animals are dumb and humans are the pinnacle of development. After all, we are animals, too.

      Safina has studied a number of creatures in the wild and has been astonished at their intelligence. Orcas, dolphins, elephants chimps, bonobos, wolves, dogs and more are covered by his research. I have read numerous books and articles on animal intelligence and all reveal the astounding levels of intelligence of our fellow creatures. The pig, too often a staple in the human diet, has been shown to be smarter than an average dog. The lowly octopus has been proven to be intelligent despite the fact that it lives beneath the sea and is believed to be primitive.

      I could go on, but the moral is that we humans mustn’t make the mistake of assuming animals are dumb. They aren’t. You are lucky to live in a place where you can see these wonderful creatures in nature. Let’s do our utmost to assure that they survive. We may have to change our eating habits and our ways of living, but we must certainly change our attitude.

      • Susan on March 26, 2017 at 20:07

      Which island do you live on Kit?

    • Dave Meyers on March 26, 2017 at 17:42

    Having grown up in Southern California, I still, after 25 years, marvel at the diversity of wildlife around me here in Colorado. The deer roam my neighborhood without a care, scoff at you as you approach in a car, lay about my landscaping as though they own the place, and leave me little piles of ‘Milk-Duds’ just for fun.
    The occasional bear is spotted exploring the sub-division along with Bobcat, Rabbits, Racoon, an occasional Porcupine, and all manor of birds….owls, hawks, magpie, and too many little chirping things for me to identify.
    My brother came to visit once from LA and was spellbound as a fawn and a magpie faced off on my driveway. “That’s so cool” he proclaimed……”Yeah, I don’t even notice anymore”, I replied with indifference …….But I do.

    • Susan on March 26, 2017 at 20:03

    I only had a moose encounter once. My daughter and I were horse riding near Ouray Colorado. My horse shyed and reared before I saw that big mother .AND.❤️😿💖🙏🏽😇
    The sad news is our sweet Lulu kitty of 22 years had
    to exit her furry ,adorably precious body just yesterday. Marty and I and the grown kids pretty damn sad.

      • Don Bay on March 27, 2017 at 06:44

      The loss of a family member like Lulu is a heavy burden. Condolences at your loss. I hope the next few days will ease the pain, but the memories will be with you as long as you live.

      The moral to any moose story is…don’t mess with a moose. Our friend, Lionel, had a very funny moose joke. I still laugh at the accent.

        • Susan on March 27, 2017 at 20:25

        I made Lional tell that moose joke over and over. It always got me to laugh , even
        after we all knew the punchline! Where is that moose imogi when you need it🐀’S!

          • Don Bay on March 28, 2017 at 06:49

          Like you, I cracked up every time Lionel told that moose joke. Of course, it was the French-Canadian accent that did it. Coming from Quebec, Lionel had that accent down pat.

    • Linda on March 27, 2017 at 17:23

    Living in Los Angeles in the mid-Wilshire area, in elementary school one year, our older son’s science project was titled “The Jungle in My Back Yard.” He recorded daily sightings of wildlife: squirrels, raccoons,egrets, opossums, mallards, parrots, hawks, humming birds, and an assortment of other birds, along with cats. It was fun and exciting for him to see what was in his own backyard. If you look, the city holds wildlife, too, even twenty minutes from downtown Los Angeles!

      • Don Bay on March 28, 2017 at 06:43

      Wildlife coexists with us in even the largest cities. Deer have been seen on the Hollywood freeway. When we lived in Pacific Palisades it was quite common to see a variety of wild animals including mountain lions and coyotes. More than one pet was carried off by wild animals. I’d like to have a dollar for every time I saw flocks of green parrots squawking in the trees on our street. Mid-Wilshire was not exceptional.

      Thanks for reminding us that our wild fellow creatures are part of our urban neighborhoods. Don’t grouse about them, treasure them as your son did.

    • Donna Boe on March 30, 2017 at 05:16

    I loved your tales of the creatures you have seen – and really look forward to part 2 of your accounts.

    Like many of your friends, we in Idaho also see many animals and birds. Living in the city, we see mostly squirrels, crows, sparrows, chick a dees, gulls, geese, and an occasional rabbit. Some times deer wander across the road in the suburbs, and an occasional adolescent moose sometimes ends up in the middle of down town! Deer and cougar make it difficult for the people on the benches to protect their trees and their small animals. But most of us are learning to live together and appreciate each other.

      • Don Bay on March 30, 2017 at 06:56

      Wild animals are everywhere…including urban areas. Unfortunately, they sometimes cause harm in an effort to survive. The question to be asked is whether we value wild animals or human interests? Best guess after looking around, is that wild animals come in last. Mankind’s commercial interests trump all else. The moral to this story is to remember that we are animals, too, and wild animals are the canary in the mine indicating that humanity is circling the drain. Sad but true.

      Meanwhile, as you point out, let’s enjoy sharing Earth with them no matter where we live.

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