While walking through the forest at Middle Run Natural Area last night, our group from the Delaware Nature Society’s Evening Walk Series experienced several magical moments that are the good-fortune reward for spending time outdoors.
The rainstorms of late afternoon had wiped away the heat and staleness of the atmosphere, leaving a refreshingly cool and fresh air to breathe in as we hiked. The long-hidden sun broke through the clouds and sent rays of light into the forest that looked white in the misty haze of the moisture-laden air. Only after a rainstorm do you witness this effect, and many a movie has featured this phenomenon that adds a magic (and mystical) touch.
As we headed down the trail I caught sight of an odd shape perched on a vine at eye-level. Staring right at us was a Barred Owl, that blue-eyed wonder owl of the wet woodlands. The owl allowed us to approach within twenty feet, as we made our way along the trail. A short flight later, and the owl was now even closer to the path, almost directly overhead. The owl looked at us calmly for a few minutes, then launched off the branch in a shower of rianwater, flying over our heads only to land again a short distance away. The owl seemed intent on hunting, and likely had young owlets still depending upon it to supply them with food.
Not expecting to find more wonder and amazement ahead, we then stumbled across anothing exciting animal: a female Box Turtle in the midst of excavating a nest! She carefully( and slowly of course!) dug with her hind legs into the soft soil. Soon she would deposit 3 to 6 tiny soft-shelled eggs, about the size of a nickel. We did not stay to witness this process, but wished her well as we walked out of sight…