Unhinged Alaska: Nature’s great stage

Everyone has their opinion of when spring finally announced its royal presence.

Anxious gardeners started scraping aside indolent wisps of minuscule snow berms dawdling beneath the limbs of shrubs probing for a struggling sprout of greenery. If successful, numerous fanatics went storm trooper and invaded any nearby box store hyping flats of young flowers.

Usually not a good idea. Ma Nature is a sneaky &$%#@ and has been known to send a specious wave of warmth and then loiter around until the last plant is set, watered and fed before unleashing a sudden cold snap nasty enough to neuter a young bull moose on its knees munching lawn grass while morphing the fledgling shoots into swizzle sticks.

This year both the animal and dirt diggers lucked out. The plants hardened nicely and Bullwinkle kept his acorns. Even the lawnmowers lumbered out of hibernation early.

In our neighborhood it only took one hearty soul to unleash his grass dragon and the spawn of flashing blades was on. It sounded like a Daytona .5 with two John Deere 140s leading the pack closely followed by a Pro Series Craftsman and an ancient Cub Cadet blowing so much black smoke it looked coal fired.

The derby didn’t last long. Most of us maintain yards that resemble putting greens on a miniature golf course so things were back to library-quiet in less than an hour including cosmetic weed-eating and general chore pondering.

We look upon formal landscaping as a method to run up bills faster than a politician’s earmark so, other than a few tweaks, we let our little slice of life create its own habitat that frames the glaciers across the bay while providing affordable housing for our little feral buddies homesteading within our cabin’s environs.

Most of our migrating birds are back in their summer digs setting up new nests, squabbling over squatter rights and filling the air with everything from subtle songs and serenades to brash squawks, caws, screeches that sound like the fowl have inadvertently squatted on something mortifyingly intrusive.

Eagles are soaring high over the beach implementing their tumultuous and aerobatic mating technique while attempting to hit their moment of truth before taking unseemly headers into the white capping sea.

Have you ever seen an eagle swim? It’s not elegant and once on shore they keep gawking around as if they were embarrassed by the debacle. As well they should be. Regal and eagle don’t match up well when the latter resembles a massive waterlogged feather duster with feet.

The head of our resident ermine family has been poking his nose out the wood pile and seems a bit restless. Hopefully he and his shy mate will have some young ones wrestling around under the truck again this year but the old boy needs to keep his head on a swivel.

We have a couple of newcomers in the hood and the diminutive low flying hawks would just love to dine on fresh kit-on-a-claw.

Fortunately, weasels are primarily nighttime hunters but the threat level has changed since yesterday evening when a rather annoying owl decided to take up a scouting position on our metal roof.

I’m not sure yet what we are dealing with but it’s not a mellow hooter and has a set of lungs a bellowing hippo would envy.

I did a bit of research and found out that the not so subtle beastie is probably looking for a mate. Well that’s just fine. So is almost every critter lurking in the trees, weeds and other sundry flora but they aren’t roosting on the ridge of our cabin making a plaintive fool out of itself at two in the morning.

Come to think of it, although I haven’t been able to spot the hormonally distressed miscreant because it ghosts as soon as I step out on the deck, there’s only one thing it can be with its bellicose calls and haughty disregard for its neighbors’ nocturnal serenity.

It has to be a Great Horned Owl with emphasis on the horned part.

Happily, there may be some relief in sight. Last night its entreaties were countered from somewhere within a large set of pines below the cabin and it vanished for the evening in search of a tune up.

We’ll see, but as of now we are keeping a watchful eye on our resident cow moose as she indelicately explains to her hovering yearlings that the time has come for them to fend for themselves.

Her low slung and heavy belly is indicative of twins again this year and she has little patience with the would be “hanger-ons” charging and nipping at their butts while throwing a few kicks their way.

As tough as it sounds, it’s just another remarkable spring scene of the many played out on nature’s massive stage. All worthy of a standing ovation.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com as he and his wife await the next act.

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