Passions & Pursuits

Connecting with Nature

I spend a lot of time in the woods with our guests. Most of the time it’s a pretty quiet place to be. We might run into a couple other hikers or a family enjoying the creek side, but generally we feel blessed by the solitude and embrace it! Even better, however, is if we are able to spot some wildlife along the way. The opportunity to see a wild animal in its natural habitat is always a special treat. Usually there is no real interaction – most critters turn to run whenever they see or hear people. But if you are able to at least make eye contact, there is a chance for a connection, even if it’s just recognition of each other.

There are some creatures that are easier to connect with than others – at least through communication by voice or body language. Certain songbirds can be fairly easy to call closer if you know a trick or two. Many birds will flock to the sound of a Carolina Wren’s alarm call, which sounds like a fussy “phishing” noise. Carolina Wrens are gossipy sorts of birds, and chickadees, titmice, and other species will often gather to see what the protest is about. Additionally, if you can vocally develop a legitimate owl call, you have the chance of interacting with those beautiful, elusive creatures. A dark-eyed barred owl on a branch in a silent, snowy woods is an image not soon forgotten!

Birds, of course, are perhaps the easiest wildlife to interact with in other ways. It is acceptable to feed them, for example, and they quickly get accustomed to human presence. Winter is a favorite time for bird walks, and we count up many species just around the feeders that we have on property.

I had the opportunity to join in on the last Falconry demonstration here at Blackberry Farm and was amazed to witness the special connection that those birds have with their handlers. We joined a falconer with his red tailed hawk on a squirrel hunt. The bird would follow the falconer’s path down a row of trees in the woods, keeping watchful eyes on any movement, waiting for a small creature to be stirred from its bed or hiding place by the man’s footsteps or actions. The handler used a stick to knock on tree trunks, hoping to flush out a sleeping squirrel. When at last this effort succeeded, the hawk was ready to focus in on his attack. The partnership of this squirrel hunt portrayed an incredible connection that is a blessing to the bird as well as the falconer.

That’s what connections with wildlife typically are: blessings. They may be unexpected, short-lived, and unpredictable, but its part of what draws us into the wilderness to explore and discover.

Joy Hopkins, Adventure Manager

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