Hi again. Sorry for so many posts in a row, but I had to tell you what I did last night! Are you on the edge of your chair?
We are back at “The Farm” and last night, Gerry and I went over to our neighbors’ and met up with the Rock County Conservationists and went for a night hike. Forget the flashlight! This was with no light but the tiny sliver of moon and the light from the cities around us reflecting off the clouds.
The purpose of the hike was to call for owls. The first two stops we made produced nothing. Our guide would call out to the owls and we would wait for a reply. Nada. A little further on though – jackpot! We get an answering owl. Then another owl joined in. Naturally we couldn’t see a thing but we could hear them quite clearly. Finally we had a third owl join in for just one call. These three were barred owls, known by their hoot which sounds like “Who cooks for you?”
The moment of the first answering call was so neat. The guide was right in among us (about 20 people in all) so he was really loud. The owls in the trees were fainter, but we could hear them clearly. Apparently, owls just sit up quietly in the trees and don’t make any sound all on their own for no good reason. Calling them does get them talking, both to us and each other. Who knows what the guide or they were saying to one another. I don’t think I want to know. Something along the lines of “Listen to those goofy humans!”
Also in our group were two people who are part of the Wisconsin wolf survey – meaning they work at counting wolves. There aren’t any wolf packs down in southern WI – just a lone wolf every now and then. They count by going out at night, howling like a wolf and listeneng for a response. From the response they estimate the number of individuals in the pack and their ages.
A wolf howl will elicit a response from coyotes, who are now numerous in southern Wisconsin. The man set up a wolf howl. (It is amazing how he and the owl caller sound just like the real thing!)
At first, like the owls, we heard nothing, but then the coyotes started to answer. We heard both adults and pups (believe me you know instinctively that they are pups when you hear them). And they sounded like they were headed toward us, but that was probably just that the adults were returning to where the pups were. The expert explained that their answer is their way of saying “We’re over here and this is our territory, so go somewhere else!” Amazingly, it sounded as it they were right over near our house…
The other (and last thing I am going to talk about) cool thing I learned was about fireflies. Last night there were a ton – though we were told that in a dry year like this one, there aren’t as many as there can be when we have a normal summer. Males are up in the air flashing; females are down in the grass flashing. Different species have different flashing patterns and if you know your fireflies, you can actually identify them by the flash pattern.
While we were waiting and listening to the owls, you could turn around 360 degrees and watch the twinkling of the firefly lights all around you. It was a little bit like Christmas!
The moral of this story? Try a night hike and see what you can hear.