Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Another Moosey Day

     The snow is very crunchy as I walk through the mature aspen forest. It is a crispy -4 degrees and the fog is just lifting with a promise of blue skies and light wind. Hoar frost clings and sparkles from every branch and rose bush thorn. I am hoping to photograph a moose in the hoar frost. Got to have a goal, eh?
Frosted Ginseng

    As I head southeast down the trail the sun tries to peak through the fog and into the forest depths. It is low at this time of year; never clearing the tree tops and glares right into my eyes and camera lens. In the distance I can hear a loud tap, tap,tap on a dead tree. I pause as I try to locate the tapper.
Tapping Pileated Woodpecker

     Eventually a Pileated woodpecker is revealed. It is a large, colourful bird with a very distinctive flight pattern that I recognise as it dips and dives toward a new tree. They are often very skittish. I wander on and enjoy the morning. It is so peaceful and quiet except for my crunching shoes in the snow. I will never sneak up on a moose with this racket. Even a bison hears me and takes off .
Watchful Wood Bison

     I enjoy many of the plants that are frosted heavily and eventually wander onto a ridge overlooking a small lake. It is dotted with muskrat push-ups and still has a narrow strip of open water. I watch in the distance as a pair of bald eagles fly beyond the horizon. I enjoy sitting here on the edge of a well used buffalo wallow overlooking the scenery absorbing the peacefulness of the world in this quiet spot. It is hard to imagine that 20 miles away is a big city with over a million people struggling for survival.

Frosty Lake Shore
     Here is a different kind of survival, a more basic type of life and death survival of the fittest and the aware. Even though I am in Elk Island National Park, the wildlife don't know what that means.They rely upon their natural wits to survive and I am a potential predator to them. I am not natural to their world. They may be familiar with my shape but I am not a natural addition to their forest habitat. I am noisy, I am clumsy, I stink and I look and act oddly. I point my large eye at them which makes them nervous. They all pay particular attention and monitor my where-a bouts and actions. All I can do is walk slowly and try not to appear too predatorial. They know I am here.

     I leave the viewpoint heading back into the forest. It is a very mature aspen forest that is heavily browsed by moose,deer,elk and bison. There is very little chance for new aspen to grow beyond the reach of the tall browsers. Most of the underbrush consists of raspberry canes, rose bushes and cropped off aspen. Plenty of sunlight penetrates the thinning aspen as they mature and get blown over. They are tall for this region; probably 70 feet or so. Most aspen around here is the Parkland type that grows very short and stunted. There are plenty of rotten snags and blow-down which I climb over. They provide nice resting spots for tired legs and aching back also.
Watchful Cow Moose

     As I walk I pause and watch often. I see a cow moose in the distance, just her head poking through the trees watching me.

Rutting Bull
A little further there is a bull watching but he is distracted by something else. It is a cow that must be in oestrus. I watch him as he is not letting her get too far away. She must not have caught during her first heat and is now coming on again.
Browsing Bull

     I see a pair of antlers and a moose lying on the edge of a small marsh. He is watching me carefully as I approach. I am sure he is the same moose that I saw and photographed a week or so ago. He is very tolerant but I take my time getting to a blown down tree upon which I sit. He has a hole through his right antler which I recognise. He gets up and begins his noon time lunch. For half an hour he browses upon tender aspen shoots and then he casually lays down and begins to chew his cud. I am only a few feet away but he is unconcerned. I snap a few more pictures and then take my leave with thanks. I am honoured to have this opportunity once again. I am humbled by his acceptance of me in this wilderness setting. Thank you.
At Ease


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