Tag Archives: animals

My Reaction to Reading Past Posts

A few years ago I read some of my past posts on this blog, not for any nostalgic reason, but to see if I coupd merge some of them into a book, codenamed Woodpecker Wars. My Reaction to Reading Past PostsHere’s what I found:

Though some posts are dated and others are not good, I generally like what I’m reading. Some posts are entertaining and others are insightful. Many are interesting—at least to me. Occasionally I’ll read a post I forgot about and be impressed.

However, when it comes to the details, I’m mostly dismayed. My past work contains errors and typos. The perfectionist in me wants to go back and fix them, but that would be too time-consuming. The impulse to edit my past work reminds me of the book Flowers for Algernon. A mentally challenged man who keeps a journal. He seeks permission to edit his past entries but is told to leave them as is—they are part of his history. Click To Tweet

That impulse to edit my past work reminds me of the book Flowers for Algernon. It’s about a mentally challenged man who undergoes an experimental process that catapults him to the genius level. Along the way, he’s encouraged to keep a journal. At first it’s hand-written and a mess but gets better over time. He learns to type and seeks permission to edit and type his past entries but is told to leave them as is—they are part of his history and shouldn’t be altered.

While I am neither mentally challenged or a genius, I’ll also leave my old posts as is—or maybe I’m just lazy. Regardless, the content that does end up in Woodpecker Wars—along with some new writing—will undergo careful editing and scrutiny. After all, I don’t want to make the same mistakes twice.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

The Power of Panic

Once when I was working in my yard, I noticed a baby bird in the grass. This is not uncommon in the spring. Apparently, the mother deems the hatching young enough to be on its own and gives it a nudge out of the nest. Sometimes they take off and fly; other times they fall to the ground. If the flightless bird doesn’t catch on quickly, it will either die of starvation or be eaten. Flying provides both food and freedom.

The Power of PanicHoping to “motivate” it to take off, I slowly approached it. It began nervously chirping and hopping—a sure sign that it didn’t yet know how to fly. With my continued approaching, it fluttered its wings, but remained earthbound. Becoming more fearful, it hopped and fluttered at the same time, rising a few inches before settling back down.

On a third try, it went a bit higher and made some forward movement. With me drawing still closer, it repeated the effort and faltered forward, sometimes only inches off the ground, and then with a newly acquired confident flap of its wings, gained altitude and glided to a nearby tree. Thankfully, this story had a happy ending. As a result of panic it gained the ability to fly.When panic occurs, we can do extraordinary things. There is power in panic. Click To Tweet

This reminded me when I was a kid. A friend and I were playing in a small pit, and my dog jumped in to join the fun. When we grew tired of this diversion, we climbed out, but my dog was stuck. It was too high for him to jump and too steep to climb. His repeated efforts to free himself ended in failure; no amount of coaxing or encouragement worked. I jumped back in to help, but he was too heavy to lift and each rescue attempt ended in failure.

We decided a stepladder might provide the needed assistance. I told my pet we would be right back (I really believed he could understand me) and hightailed it to find a ladder. Only a few hurried steps on my journey and my faithful dog was by my side. Overjoyed, I bent down and gave him a grateful hug. Apparently, as long as he could see me, he wasn’t too concerned, but once I faded from view, his panic of being left alone gave enough extra incentive to try harder.

In both these cases, panic helped these animals do something they wouldn’t have otherwise done. The same is true with people; when panic occurs, we can do extraordinary things. There is power in panic.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

A Lesson About Compassion

I learned something disconcerting about myself.

Regular readers may recall my post about mourning three bird eggs that had been knocked to the ground when a severe storm destroyed their next. I had compassion for their death, but there was nothing I could do.

When I was out moving sprinklers in my yard I was horrified to see three too-young baby birds on the ground. They couldn’t fly and one couldn’t even hop; as I approached, they opened their mouths in hope of some needed sustenance. Again, I had compassion, but was frozen in a state of inaction. A myriad of thoughts rushed through my mind: Compassion without action is worthless. Click To Tweet

  • I don’t know what to do.
  • They’re going to die anyway.
  • I’m too busy.
  • What if they carry disease?
  • I should let nature take its course?

I would periodically check on them with each move of the sprinklers. I continued to feel compassion and tried to justify my inaction. A couple of times I saw an adult bird on the ground near them. I convinced myself that their parents were tending to them. Yet each time I approached, they turned in my direction and opened their mouths.

By the next day, the weakest of the three wasn’t looking too good and he later died. Would I likewise be witness to his siblings’ demise?

On the third day, one of them was clinging to the side of a tree and later he was gone. I never saw him again and assume he was able to fly away.

On the fourth day, the remaining bird was hopping with a bit more vigor and for the first time was instinctively flapping his wings. An hour later, he too was gone.

I should be happy that two out of three made it, but I wonder if I should have tried to help their weaker brother.

What I do know is that compassion without action is worthless.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

A Lesson From Birds

One Friday we received some much-needed rain—1.8 inches in just a couple hours; it was a downpour.

The following day, to my dismay, I noticed that a Robin’s nest had been knocked out of my crabapple tree. I was saddened to see three unhatched eggs on the ground. They had been deserted; it was too late to do anything about it. (Even had I discovered them right away, the chance of keeping them warm enough to hatch would have been a long shot, not to mention nurturing them if they hatched.)A Lesson from Birds

Interestingly, the nest was intact. The problem was that it wasn’t adequately anchored to the tree. I could see where it once was attached and though it was at a “Y” it was surely not an optimal one. Additionally, since Robins often lay eggs twice a year, these parents will need to build a second nest if they intend to try again. Be careful on what foundation we build—make sure it is a firm one. Click To Tweet

As a nature lover, I derive great joy through the life of animals. Although dead animals are a real and natural part of nature, it is a side that I prefer to overlook. Yes, I know about natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Unfortunately, these babies didn’t stand a chance because their parents didn’t build a stronger, better nest. It is a small consolation to know that this particular trait is being effectively removed from the gene pool.

The lesson in this is to be careful on what foundation we build—make sure it is a firm one. Rarely in the US does this have literal life and death ramifications, but in other parts of the world it does, primarily the third-world parts. In other situations, the wrong foundation could be living in a bad neighborhood, sending your kids to an ineffective  school, starting a business without a plan or enough capital, investing in a shaky opportunity, and so forth.

Just as with building bird nests, it is important that we find the right foundation and carefully build upon it. The consequences of not doing so can be dire.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

What I Learned From Rabbits

Although I live in a rural area, my immediate surroundings are not; I reside in a subdivision. Even so, wildlife abounds. During the non-snowy months, I can, at any given time, look out my office window and see at least one animal and usually more; I’ve spent the last five months verifying this to be true.

The most common sight are birds. Squirrels come in second; sometimes they’re in pairs: darting, jumping, chasing, climbing.

I also see rabbits; they are common, but not a daily sight (though I don’t spent my time gazing out my window either.) When I see a hare, it’s always alone, which is a bit sad to mention.

But today I saw two: hopping, playing tag, hangin’ out. Then a third one appeared. One hops to my left, the other scurries right, while the third goes in a circle. They were on the smaller side, perhaps siblings from this year’s batch.

Then to my delight, a fourth one hopped into view. A bit larger and more deliberate in movement. I surmised this to be their mom. For quite a while I admired their comings and goings, their freedom and their life.

I’m glad I took the time to watch them frolic; it was good to slow down — and to marvel.

What do you do to slow down?

Where Do Frogs ComE From?

Last night while mowing my lawn, I saw three frogs in my yard. In 24 years of living here and mowing the grass, this was a first.

Where did the frogs come from? I know the biological answer and the evolutionary answer and the creation answer, but those are the wrong answers to my question. I want to know why this trio of amphibians suddenly showed up in my yard.

  • There is no water on my property or near by,
  • We are not in a low spot,
  • My lawn is not even damp, and
  • Given the drought earlier this summer, the water table is surely lower than normal.

Where did my frogs come from?

I asked the ever-resourceful Google and was treated with 29,300 exact matches to my query, but the top four sites didn’t provide the answer I was seeking. With 29,296 still to check, I’ve already given up.

I turn the question over to you: Where did the frogs in my yard come from?

Raccoons in the ‘Hood’

I’ve blogged about squirrels in my yard, which I see on a daily basis and rabbits in my yard, which I see almost as often. This is not the case with raccoons. I’ve never seen a raccoon near my house, at least not until a couple weeks ago.

I was outside as dawn was peaking forth, setting the lawn sprinklers for the day. Not fully awake, I walked around my house, looked up, and was startled to see a raccoon lumbering across my yard, headed in my direction. I froze. What should I do?

Do I yell to scare him off? Chase him away? Ignore him? In my early morning stupor, flashbacks of comedy/horror skits flooded my mind. I envisioned him rearing up on his hind legs and running towards me. With lightening quickness he would attack, mouth foaming and eyes ablaze with anger. Before I could react, he would leap into the air, hit my chest, and pin me to the ground. Then he would…

I shuttered, trying to shake my over-active imagination from my foggy mind. It was not logical, but filled me with fear just the same.

I clapped once to get his attention. He looked up with a start; he too was in a predawn stupor. To my relief, he made an abrupt U-turn and quickly waddled out of sight. He was not full grown, but with quite a tummy on him, was apparently well-fed.

I recalled my next door neighbor catching two adult raccons in her live animal trap earlier this spring. I wondered if those were his folks. The trap was still set in her yard, ready for a third, but this lad was too clever. If he was an orphan, he was doing okay, avoiding capture and finding plenty to eat.

Mr. Raccoon, I hope you have a long life and happy life — just do it in someone else’s yard.

Trolls Under the Bridge

I don’t actually have trolls under the bridge or for that matter a bridge, but what I do have is rabbits — rabbits under the deck.

It’s a good habitat for them. The deck floor provides somewhat of a roof and the lattice surrounding it serves as a means to keep larger animals out, while allowing the rabbits to pass through. It makes for a safe hare lair.

However, as the bunnies got bigger, the lattice became a tight squeeze. But rabbits are rodents and they’re good at gnawing, so they simply chomped a larger entrance. And it’s not just their front entrance, they have a back door, too.

I suspect these were the same rabbits who were enjoying the bean plants in our micro-garden this spring. (By the way, human hair is an effective hare repellant.)

The other day I startled a rabbit from under the deck and then he startled me with his hasty departure as he crashed through his back door. With blazing speed he darted away and into our neighbor’s yard. He circled behind a pine tree and poked his head out from the other side to keep an eye on me.

I had a momentary impulse to give chase and then considered chastising him. But the lattice has already been chewed and he’s leaving the beans alone, so I guess it’s okay for him to stick around. At least he gives me something to blog about.