FIELD NOTES: A TREE FALLS …………? August 2019

By Jack McShane

We have all heard the query, “Is there a sound made when a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it?” In the following, although I definitely was there, the answer is yes. On an extremely blustery and beautiful day back in June I had been mowing a field and some trails for about two hours, (a very Sisyphusian task by the way); I decided to take a break and enjoy the view. I pulled up in one of my favorite places, the corner of the field with forest in the back and a spectacular view of the mountain above our home. The strong wind that day came in gusts making waves of green that reminded me of my surfing days in Hawaii and Mexico. Only now the waves were shades of green, not the blue and white of the ocean. The varying shades of green were caused by the wind exposing the undersides or lighter side, and then back to the darker, as the wind relaxed its hold. Somewhat mesmerized and about halfway through a tasty cigar, I heard a very loud snap and then the thunderous crash of a large tree coming down, only about 20 yards behind my very comfortable perch. Wow! Luckily the tree fell away from me and not on top of me. I believe a day was added to my life. The tree had been half dead, but still retained quite a few leaves, apparently enough to catch the very strong wind. With the weakened trunk the tree was doomed and downed.

It was time now to get to the house, have a glass of wine and mull over what had happened. Asked about death once, Confucius answered, simply, “We haven’t yet finished life, so why delve into the question of death?” And yes, when a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, a sound is made; the wild critters living in that forest do hear it; a nearby deer or other animal would have been spooked by the very loud crash. We in our innate hubris often think that it is only we who are of importance, an error of our ways.

On to what I love, and that is my observations of the natural world that surrounds us here in Andes. I have been watching a family of woodchucks that have been maturing slowly but very surely. They were born to a mom that had denned under the pole barn and the young have progressed to maturity unhindered by my scrutiny. There is Mom, Tom, Dick and Harry and then there is Mary. I named them knowing all along that they may be three females and one male. Nevertheless, they are who they are and go about their climb to maturity with noticeably differing personalities, some quite shy, others more aggressive and even evincing occasionally what appears to be bravado: pushing another out of his way and even climbing up a tree for a better view of the domain. Mom has slowly become bored, if not at times clearly annoyed, at some of the antics. Her fealty is on the wane. It appears she will be quite happy when these pesky kids go off in search of places to set up their own territorial turf and even just maybe find a suitable mate. I wish them all luck in this predator-filled and for them very dangerous world. I think Nancy and my co-writer Mel will not wish the same for these fancy plant-eating critters.

I have watched a number of painted turtles make their perilous journey to what in their minds is the perfect place to dig down and deposit their precious eggs. Most often it has been along the edge of one of our gravel entrance roads where the grass begins; here digging is easy and there is maximum sunshine. Their return trip to one of the ponds to which I always wish them safe passage is a slow but determined crawl, probably all the while sighing a great relief: “Ahh, great job and I am now egg free and approaching the safety of my beloved pond.” I sure do love to conjure up possible thoughts that might lie in the minds of our critter friends. Nest locations have been noted and will be checked once in a while for sign of predation or hatching.

Back in June a medium-sized bear visited a trail cam site. The DEC states that the potential for conflict between people and bears increases in Summer due to the dispersal of young from family groups and the onset of the breeding season.If you get lucky and encounter Macwa my advice has always been this: Grab your camera! If it appears that Macwa is thinking about a selfie with you, I suggest you chuck the camera and leave the scene forthwith!~