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THE FARTHERMOST VIEW

Selected Podpieces

WATCHING WILDLIFE

The other day I saw a video of a weatherman standing in front of a live camera, talking about, of all things, the weather. He was pointing out at the San Francisco Bay, and was about to launch into a weather update, when suddenly the upside down face of a giant, wild-eyed bird appearedat the top of the screen, peering out at us.
“Oh my goodness,” said the weatherman, “look at this! We have a visitor.”

And I'll be darned if the weatherman didn't back out of the picture, a sensible move in the presence of such a large unpredictable creature, and he and the television audience watched in what I call delight as the goofy-looking bird peered into the lens. Judging by the glimpses of the bill, it think it was a crow. He certainly had a crow's curiosity, poking around at the lens in a nervous, pecky way; but he soon lost interest; the weather in San Francisco was not going to change very soon, and there was nothing to eat inside the lens. He disappeared as quickly as he had come.

What I like about this visitation wasn't just the fact of seeing the crow, but the way the weatherman liked it, too, and stepped out of the picture, leaving the limelight to the crow for as long as he wanted it. Which, fortunately for ad revenue for that segment of the news, wasn't very long.

I love it when people are fascinated by animals. This morning I was casually staring out my study window, as is my wont, when a coyote came down out of my neighbor Tony's yard and crossed the driveway onto my front walk. I called to my companion, and he looked out his window, too, and we watched the coyote, a tall, healthy-looking animal, stop, sniff at some snow-covered grass, and then stroll down through the shade garden and into my other neighbor Tony's yard.

I love the way people drive for hours and miles in cold weather to see the Snowy Owls at the Cape's beaches. The way millions of people put out food for the birds, and watch from their kitchen windows as the birds flit in and out. My mother used to report regularly on the methodology used by chickadees to select sunflower seeds from the hanging tube. Drivers stop to watch turkeys cross the road. People pay large sums of money to be taken out on the open seas in hopes of seeing a whale breathe; they pay other sums of money to be taken out into a bay at low tide to see vast crowds of seals lying around on the sand singing.

Every year, a pair of red-tailed hawks nesting somewhere in the vicinity of Nickerson Park produces at least one young red-tailed hawk who spends what seems like months sailing around in the sky shouting “Feed me! Feed me!” One of the salesmen at the Toyota place near the Orleans Transfer Station told me that he looks forward to seeing the latest young hawk every year. During his coffee breaks, he said, he often steps outside and watches the hawkling flying far overhead, wings spread against the blue sky and sun now and then lighting up its red tailfeathers. Just watches it for a while, and then goes back inside to work.
I liked it that the guy did that. It was almost enough to convince me to buy a new car.
But not quite.

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