I sit on my screened porch in the mornings, drinking a cup of coffee and watching life go on in the woods around me, as it must have a hundred years ago. This past week a hen turkey has been there eating black raspberries. I have seen every bird you can imagine up here on Lightnin’ Ridge for the last twenty years, including a road-runner. Migratory birds stop on occasion on the little pond I built to water wildlife, just down in the woods aways. Eagles sometimes roost in trees overlooking that pond. Most elusive of the birds which live here part of their lives is the rain crow, or yellow billed cuckoo, and they arrive sometime in late May usually. You hear them, but it is tough to see them, even as large as they are. They do know how to hide in those branches.
Most beautiful of them all is the male Baltimore oriole. He and his mate usually come early in May, and they nest in a medium sized walnut just beyond my garden. Their nest is like a sock, and a great construction feat, much more difficult than most nests. That male oriole is spectacular… bright orange. They stay to nest because I bought an oriole feeder, which you fill with nectar much like that the hummingbirds feed on. But the oriole has to perch when he drinks it. They have a raucous chattering call which is anything but musical, but they give a splash of color to green leaves you just have to see.
My twenty acres of woodland is filled with huge trees, some of them more than 200 years old. I am working on a winding trail which I can open up to local nature lovers in time, to school classes which want to see a mature forests and the creatures within it. The way they are logging our conservation areas today, trees like this will be uncommon someday. I have had visitors who see my woodlands and wonder why I haven’t sold the timber. But I would rather have these trees than the money. That makes me a real oddball I suppose. You’d have to sit here early on a summer morning listening to the birds to understand. If I can get it done, I‘ll have that trail built through this woodland by late fall, and make it available to those who want to enjoy a walk through the woods.
Remembering those days on the Buffalo River as a naturalist for the National Park Service, when I took folks on hikes through the woods and along the river almost every day, I would even like to schedule some hikes with groups of people. Maybe by this winter we can do that. I hope someday to make it Lightnin’ Ridge a place where others can enjoy the blessing these trees and birds have been to me.
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