I was out this morning for a stroll at the woods and swamp area near us. We've got a number of Wood Ducks stopping in for the next few weeks and I'm enjoying my time with them. They are beautiful Ducks!
A couple male Wood Ducks enjoying the sunny October morning.
I occasionally see the same people in my travels. I say "hello" to most and I get a variety of responses from head nods, smiles, returned greetings while others act like I wasn't even there.
Today I ran into a much older guy who I've known to be a Wood Duck fanatic. I think I've only ever spoken to him once before in the 3 years I've been seeing him at this area. But today we got chatting about the temporary return of the Wood Ducks and admiring the 5 adult males in the group.
He's a local like me, but happily retired, and enjoying the many great natural areas around us that he visits pretty much daily. He's got lots of stories and lots of time on his hands, so one with an open ear must be ready to get an overload of this and that from here and there. The trunk of his car is packed with bird seed, nuts, grains and unfortunately bread crumbs *sigh* which aren't a good food offering for the birds but it's difficult to argue this fact with a guy nearly twice my age who's been doing this for many years. He's also got envelopes and folders full of pictures from his local adventures and all contain a story with them. I like that. He's not a photographer, he carries a small point/shoot camera but wants to take memories home with him to show others. He shares them with family and friends. Gee, sounds like me now. LOL!
He's got newspaper articles and we had a laugh at one from a while back in the Toronto Star about someone really wanting to see and photograph male Wood Ducks. And for some reason they ended up down in Central Park in New York City to get theirs just before Christmas. You can see why we were laughing, right? We got these guys circling our feet almost and more often I can't get a picture with my 500mm lens, even at zero zoom, because they are so close. And this reporter ends up down there and still had a task to obtain a picture of one.
At one point he pulls out this small envelope of his photos of a Great Horned Owl. With the first shot he showed me, I immediately knew where he got the shot and of course I knew the Owl. It wasn't a captive one either. He went on and on about his encounter with this Owl. It was the first Owl he had ever seen in this park and in the wild. He was so happy! And two days later he was back in the park with hopes of seeing this Owl again during his routine walk (takes the same paths all the time). But he did not see it that day, nor did he ever see it again.
All the while he went on about this bird and how amazing it was for him to see it; my brain was having a fight with my mouth about releasing the story of this bird to him, what he doesn't know, why he found the bird as he did, and what happened in that day in between his two visits. I really wanted to tell him but in the end I just couldn't.
Long story short, this Owl was very unwell. It was on the ground because it could not fly anymore. It was emaciated and very weak. But with all those feathers, one could not tell by looking at him. And he had a steel cable wrapped around one of his legs, that was so tight, it cut off the circulation and eventually the leg "died" and mummified. The Owl sat quietly in the grass and was catching Garter Snakes for food. The old man showed me a picture he had of it with one in it's mouth.
The day in between the old man's visits, my friends and I, along with the assistance of a wildlife rescuer named Andrew from Toronto Wildlife Centre recovered the poor Owl in those woods. We so hoped it was going to be a rescue, where he have been brought back to health; but his body had been eating itself in order to sustain itself, that went too far by this time, and he was too weak to fly as I stated in the paragraph above. And the fact his leg was useless now and he couldn't even rest on it, which in turn, did a lot of damage to his other leg as it took all the weight and was overused. In the end, after examination and much thought for this bird's well being, it was best that he be humanely euthanized and end his suffering.
I'm an honest guy, I don't like lying and I don't do bullshit very well either. Its all pointless to me even with most strangers. Just not my nature. So I bit my tongue, smiled, nodded, said "wow" and "amazing", etc as I immersed myself in his tale of his first encounter with an Owl in the wild. I couldn't tell him what I knew. It would have crushed him. I could plainly see his love for the natural world around us and the creatures we cross paths with. I couldn't help but think here's a 70 something year old man, just saw his first Owl last Spring and I tarnished his tale he's probably told a 1000 times now to others and he'd take this sadness to the grave with him. I don't know! Just a thought in my head. He could live to be 100 and see more Owls; but this was his first, we never forget our firsts. I couldn't take this from him.
Anyways, funny how things come back to us like this. Such a small time frame with this Owl in the park 18 months ago and now it feels like it was yesterday. I did blog about it if you'd like to get deeper into that afternoon with the poor bird. Click here to read it.
If not, here he is, and sadly, the last living day of his on Earth.