Friday, 4 July 2008

Bears, racoons and owls

Ever since our escapade up on the escarpment three years ago I have been even more respectful of bears. We went out for a “stroll” along part of the Bruce Trail, Makaila walking or on Ty’s shoulders and Kieran in the babybjörn, carrying a dirty nappy and without food or water. We were gone for way too long, were tired, hot and thirsty and nervous about “bumping into” a bear – even in the heat of the day. To add to it all we were kind of lost and couldn’t find a way down to get back to the cottage. We eventually found a spot to climb down the steep drop, and I stood a then 21/2 year old girl on the edge of a cliff before passing her down to her father, all the while carrying a 4 month old. We came down on top of some caves, and to cut a long story short I can say I have never, ever been so scared in all my life (and it takes a lot to scare me)! To this day we will never know if it was a roar of warning from within the cave, or a roar of a boat engine out on the bay, but we didn’t stop to find out. We bolted down over those caves and all the way home, hearts pounding every inch of the way.

There have been many, many other incidents, and even more stories, since then, most of them funny. The visions of cousin Andrew heading off into the bush with a shovel, hoping to meet the growling creature, or of his wife Jen almost going through the closed screen door, are imprinted on my mind forever. All the same, I think often of the bears, and my senses are alerted every time I am outside, especially on my own.

We sat around the fire on Monday night(Canada Day Eve), listening to the racoons over at the neighbour’s. I was just heading to bed when they called me back and told me they were close by. I came equipped with a camera – expecting to get a shot – instead all I got was a photo of Ty, Mark, Gabriele and Kaylee watching the hot coals warm the crisp night air. There were no racoons in sight, just the distant sound of their distinctive calling.The next night we were suddenly here on our own. Ty went to bed early and I was locking up when I heard the racoons just the other side of the fence – I thought I might get a shot of them this time and went out to investigate. As I tentively walked towards the fence, ready to climb it to get a better look, something caught my eye – it was a little owl, no bigger than my hand. I looked at it, it looked at me. I took a photo, I took a few steps closer to get a better shot, it took flight, unfortunately.

After consulting the Ontario Birds book I’m guessing it was a tiny Eastern Screech Owl, measuring just 20-22cm. Shame I didn’t get a better photos for identification purposes, but it was cool to yet again come face to face with an owl.
I came inside and carefully locked the door behind me, the barbeque still smelt of meat and we don’t want any of those cute little black bears pushing their way through that screen door – even if it would be kind of exciting to see one – at least from a distance.

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