Friday, July 12, 2013

Act two: The King's Court and the Evening Sentinels (aka we saw Yellow Rail and Great Gray Owl!!)

Ladies and Gentleman, I hope you have enjoyed the performance thus far. Our first act entitled Baird's Sparrow Madness, featuring the charming Baird's Sparrow, has come to a close. It is now time to introduce you to the characters of tonight's second act.

Our two main protagonists, Dominic Cormier and Tim Sneider return. In this act they are joined by the most interesting, and rather elusive, Yellow Rail, and the majestic Great Gray Owl.


Act Two begins, the curtain rises. 

The farm fields fly by as Tim and Dom take the trusty Nissan Sentra north of Cochrane Alberta to Horse Creek Road and the home of the Yellow Rail. The Nissan Sentra, a marvel of Japanese engineering, will take its owner over 100 kilometers once the low fuel light turns on. This is welcome information for our protagonists, as they would take the poor car 60 kms past empty before re-fueling her for the return journey to Revelstoke.

Arriving onto Horse Creek Rd, the car slows as beautiful wet sedge meadows appear on either side of the road. "This looks good", remarks Tim. "Shall we.." tick tick tick tick tick. Their conversation is abruptly suspended as the sound of a remarkable call hits their ears, almost as if someone were tapping two stones together repeatedly. However, they both know better.

"Holy shit there is a Yellow Rail right by the road," exclaims Dom. The Sentra comes to an abrupt halt. Tick tick tick tick. The unmistakable call of the Yellow Rail is heard again. 

At home in wet sedge meadows, the Yellow Rail is a master of stealth. Rarely encountered, the bird stalks the sedge, its strange call heard only by the most trained of ears, and rarely revealing itself under the ever watchful eyes of its pursuers.

Can you find a Yellow Rail?
However, they are not taken unaware, for this is precisely what they came for. Parking on the opposite side of the road they disembark. Tick tick tick. The excitement reaches a feverish pitch. Bounding across the road they take stock of the situation. The call appears to come from 5 meters into the meadow. Having had their heads filled with tales of the improbability of seeing a Yellow Rail in the sedge, even if oneself is practically standing over it, they nonetheless walk into the ditch and prepare to climb over the barbed wire and test their mettle as self-described "ballin" birders.

Deciding to go barefoot, Tim takes off his shoe and begins taking off the second when Dom bursts out, "ITS FLUSHING". 

For one so reluctant to be seen, the Yellow Rail is a creature of immense beauty. Dappled with gold from the bill to the back, silver banners on its wings contrast with the deep black of its behind. The Rallidae clan could not find a more regal ambassador. A mighty king is revealed.  A few Soras, the jesters of the king's court, sing out, but the two birders show no interest. They are beyond disbelief. Never have they heard of a Yellow Rail being seen so quickly. "This must be some kind of new birding record!?" Tim states, a massive grin forming on his face. "Indeed! We just saw a Yellow Rail!!!!!!!!"

Climbing through the barbed wire, an epic dance begins to play out. Tim and Dom slide through the sedge. Their graceful lines interrupted as the Rallidae king, displeased by the intrusion into his domain, rises above the sedge four times, ever under the watchful gaze of the the two birders.

The moment is surreal. Neither wants it to end. The thrill, the pure awesomeness of the bird washes over them. Nature, once again, shows its ability to surprise and awe, and the two birders can't help but feel its magnificent power.

Wielding the home made rope dragger which was ditched after only 30 seconds in favor of a more graceful technique.

But the night draws near, and finally its time to head on. There are more majestic creatures to seek in the looming foothills of the Rockies. Great Gray Owl and Northern Hawk Owl are known residents of the land and the two birders want very much  to have an evening encounter before retiring to the lonely boreal woods for the night.

The Great Gray is forever in Tim's heart, and he is constantly on the look out for the gray ghost. His wit and eyes don't fail him as he spies one sitting atop a spruce sapling across a field. Unfortunately, a warning of no trespassing is writ in plain view. A conundrum has arisen.

Scoping a Great Grey Owl

Then from a modest dwelling comes the sounds of raucous merrymaking. Perhaps the merrymakers will assist the two young adventurers. Tim leads the way and they are greeted by a most peculiar person. A women of indeterminable age is getting loaded on her lawn, good old rock-and-roll blasting forth from the house. However, this women is perhaps the most foul redneck anyone has ever encountered before, decked out in a bikini top and pink fuzzy booty shorts, and all the while taking slow painful draws from her cigarette.

It was no time for chit chat. Get the info and get out!

Finally breaking away from the pain of communicating with this person, they are at least assured no one will mind them trespassing to get a closer look at the owl. And so it went. The Great Gray dazzles with its stately demeanor and ever piercing eyes. Further down the road, another!

Self explanatory!
Two Great Grays seem like enough for one night so they slip through a texas gate and into the tent, ever reluctant to allow the mosquitos to have a banquet of their soft flesh.

Sun setting in the hills.
The sun rises over the land. The tent is packed up. The two ramblers cruise back down out of the hills for one last tour of the king's court. But first, they stop for another meeting with the gray ghost. The mighty owl cares not for our two protagonists, and allows a close approach. Infinitely satisfied, they leave the owl in peace.

Much like the previous evening, the Yellow Rails are calling from the sedge. Tick tick tick tick. However, they are wise to the dance of the birders, and refuse to show themselves again. Switching focus, Le Conte's Sparrows are chased down, enjoyed and let be.

Le Conte`s Sparrow

Dance in the sedge

The King`s Court guards: Wilson`s Snipe

The curtain slowly closes as the Sentra fades away, cruising the trans-can back to Revelstoke. From the car, Daft Punk's Doin' it Right drifts to the audience's ear. With it comes the feeling that much like the song says, when it comes to life, the swashbuckling companions are indeed doin' it right! 

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