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Backyard adventures

We don’t have to travel far from home to experience wildlife encounters
Photo by Claudia MayfieldBald eagles are among the birds encountered along the Bear Creek Greenway.

A few days after Christmas, my sister and I were strolling along the Talent bike path in Lynn Newbry Park when she exclaimed, “There’s a hawk!”

We always have our binoculars with us for just such an event, but when we trained them on the big bird in a tree above us, we saw a bald eagle. Both of us thrill at such a sighting of this majestic bird. If we must come back to this place after finally exiting one day, I don’t think it’d be bad to come back as one of these gorgeous creatures.

As sis moves to get a better view, she exclaimed again, “Here’s another hawk!”

I looked where she was pointing at another large bird huddled with its back to us in the crook of a tree directly across the path from our bald. I was immediately suspicious, but we moved around to the front and I was pretty sure we were looking at an owl Then the bird turned to look down at us and we saw its pointed ears — a great horned owl. Magnificent. What a gift.

A couple days later on the same path, we saw a large bird soaring above us that we couldn’t identify. Its head seemed brownish, and it had white areas in its wings and tail. When we got home, we discovered from our bird book that it was a first-year golden eagle. We’ve never seen one of these along our path before, but my sister and I regularly have such “adventures” just going for our local walk.

We are almost always presented with something interesting and fun here. During the summer we see warblers, orioles, chats and sometimes even tanagers. Since the Almeda fire, the summer birds seem fewer, but in the winter, we still get our variety of ducks, including northern shovelers, American wigeons, ringed-necked ducks, gadwalls, buffleheads, wood ducks and sometimes a flock of canvasbacks passing through. We even see common mergansers and hooded mergansers (one of my favorites) here some.

This fall and winter we’ve seen a peregrin falcon frequently, as well as Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks. We occasionally see river otters swimming in the creeks or ponds.

The July before the fire we were on our path early one morning and saw a opossum on the side of the path. We watched amazed as she slowly crossed the path in front of us with at least six youngsters clinging to her back. We probably won’t see anything like that again for a long time now with the trees and bushes gone, but birds are resilient and we still see many of our feathered friends.

Depending on the time of day, we regularly encounter certain neighbors as well. In early morning we see ones who always hit the trail first thing. Later, we see those who prefer the afternoon. We’ve even shared names with our fellow walkers and fire stories. Fortunately, though most of us had to evacuate, none of us lost our homes. It’s nice to smile and wave and greet each other as we enjoy this park together.

Sis and I know there are likely more exciting surprises in store here. By spring, we may see one of our all-time favorites, a green heron, fly in. For an adventure, all we have to do is head to our path and see what awaits us.

Rachel O'Neal lives in Talent.

Share Your Adventure

The Mail Tribune wants to share your adventure. We’re looking for accounts of hikes, climbs, river runs, fishing trips, bike rides, ocean outings, camping trips, wildlife encounters and anything else you’ve done outdoors. Email your story (shoot for about 500 words) and pictures to Mail Tribune features editor David Smigelski at dsmigelski@rosebudmedia.com.