Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Life in the big city, a three part series

Since moving to the big city - well, actually we are in a suburb, but it is closer than we have ever been to a city and a bigger city, at that - we have had many strange encounters.
Like last night, we had the windows open in our room - it's actually quiet enough, although bright from the shopping center lights nearby, and it's the third-and-a-half floor, so it's not a security risk. But we were woken up at 2 am by Nigel barking at the window, something in the woods. Tim checked the back yard, from standing on the window ledge and looking straight down to the backyard, where there is a sliding door to enter the basement. He didn't see anything, and went promptly back to sleep. I, however, was suffering from adrenalin cramps in both legs and knots in my stomach, so I stood by the window for a good while, trying to see any movement in the woods. There is a lot of panhandling at the shopping center (this has prompted discussion with the kids about social responsibility... more on that later.) So I thought if someone was back there, heard the dog barking, lay low for a while, then would start moving again. Come on, you have these thoughts too, strange sounds in the middle of the night, you have to make sense out of them or you'll be up for two hours staring at animal planet reruns on mute. I eventually did hear something in the woods and sure enough Nigel responded by barking again. (This is quite ironic because two nights ago when Tim got home late from running an errand, I was in bed asleep, the dog by my bedside. Tim came into the house, cleaned up the den in the basement, checked email, and then came upstairs around midnight. The dog never flinched. We had a talk this morning about getting priorities in line - that's Nigel and I had a talk) This got Tim up and we heard an owl come up the creek. It started in the distance and got closer, then he settled right outside our gate. He must have been flying low over the creek because we never did see any movement, but he was getting closer.
We live in a development of townhomes and single family homes which backs right up to Huntley Meadows, a 1452 acre nature preserve smack in the middle of the Washington DC suburbs. There is a proliferation of wildlife in our neighborhood. There is actually a stand of trees with a creek/drainage ditch of some kind running through in between our back yard and the parking lot of the next row of townhouses.
I remember one day within the first month we had lived here, sitting with the kids in our living room watching a hawk of some kind perched on a branch in the stand of trees. We waited quietly, as I explained that he might stay for a while. He puffed up his feathers and we held our breath wondering what he was going to do, when he let out a shot of white bird waste about four feet long. A chorus of eeeeeewwwwww (me included) rose into the air and out the window downstairs where Tim was trying to get a picture. The hawk (spooked, I guess) took flight and we all just laughed and laughed.
Then last week we were playing at the neighborhood playground when a neighbor, an older gentleman who is a retired Marine, was walking his poodle (yeah, I know) walked by and invited us to walk with him to the woods. Sounds creepy now that I write it out, but it's not.. . anyway.
He was referring to the section of woods that is Huntley Meadows. We walked in only a few feet and saw half a dozen deer within sight not far into the woods. Since then we have seen many many deer running in the woods near the playground. We have been hiking a few times at Huntley Meadows, they have a two mile flat trail with includes a half mile boardwalk over the marsh. We have seen lots of wildlife there (eight different kinds one day, Chas was keeping count one day.) If anyone wants to come visit us in the big city, we'll be sure to include a hike there. It's one of my favorite places.

On further research, I found this article (scroll down to page two of The News for the Folks of Lake Accotink Park, which is in Maryland across the Potomac) with more about the barred owl, which I think is the kind we had last night, judging from the description of its hoot. whooo-cooks-for-yoooo!

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