Monday, July 19, 2010

July 19: Wild Kingdom

I bet if you polled a group of nature lovers / conservation professionals about my age or older, you'd find that the majority of them watched "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" as a kid. Marlin Perkins and his trusty sidekick Jim were always tracking down wily wild animals on the savannah of Africa, shooting them with tranquilizer guns, and in the process, somehow doing something beneficial for science and nature. My grandmother semi-jokingly referred to it as the "torture torture show." I was simply happy to see cool wild animals up close on the screen.

The thing about watching nature shows like that is that you get the impression wild animals are lurking around every corner, just waiting to be chased and tranquilized, or at least observed through binoculars. When you get out into the woods on your own, however, you realize that most days seeing a red squirrel or the hind end of a deer might be about as exciting as it gets.

Today my director and I were walking a property with some donors--one of those situations when you want a place to be at its best. While we weren't so lucky as to have a bull moose walk through the field or a bald eagle soar past, Mother Nature didn't completely let us down. A red-tailed hawk circled overhead, then called dramatically. At our feet, we found two ruddy turkey feathers. Further along the trail, we came across turkey tracks in what was once mud, and then, the crescents of deer prints. And to crown the moment, a hermit thrush's lilting song rose from the trees. Nothing extraordinary, but the value of the place as wildlife habitat was validated. The donors were delighted; the animals had done their jobs well, even though the hawk was the only one we actually saw.

Deer tracks in the mud
and two feathers, patterned fans
telling wild stories.

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