YAKIMA, Wash. — If you spend some time outdoors and look around — I mean really look around — you will see some amazing things.
I was reminded of this a couple times in the past few weeks when I saw some things you don’t normally see.
Two weeks ago some friends and I were fishing up at Billy Clapp Lake. We were trolling in some deep water not too far from one of the shorelines that featured some rim rock and small cliffs, when a couple of ravens started raising a racket.
The big black birds were squawking and dive-bombing something. I thought they might be protecting a nest and fledglings from a hawk or eagle when Greg Wilson took a look at the swooping birds with his binocular.
“It’s a bobcat,” Wilson declared.
Sure enough here came a semi-harried bobcat working along a path just under the cliffs, doing its darndest to stay somewhat concealed, while making a steady retreat from the ravens.
Because the cat had nowhere else to go but along the shoreline, we got to watch it for quite a while. I have seen several bobcats in the wild over the years, but it is a bit of a rarity, and had the ravens not started pitching a fit, and Greg hadn’t checked it out with the glasses, we may have missed it.
It reminded me of the time several years ago some friends and I were fishing for walleye over on Potholes Reservoir. It was in the spring of the year and as we fished I kept noticing some splashing and movement quite a ways a way in another part of the lake.
Finally we got close enough to see that it was birds creating the commotion on the water. An even closer look showed birds, paired up, literally running on the water.
The second I saw it I was transported immediately back to the front room of my grandparent’s house and on the color television was an episode of Wild Kingdom.
We went to their house for Sunday dinner on occasions and because they had an actual color television it was a treat to watch whatever was on, including Walt Disney and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. (Today everyone has five or six color televisions, and nobody does Sunday dinner anymore.)
If you remember Wild Kingdom, there were two hosts. One was Marlin Perkins, a very quiet, prim and proper man, who could have easily passed for a librarian. The other was Jim Fowler, who always got the trickier assignments.
Marlin would say something like, “while I am in this fortified tree blind watching for the Bohemian titmouse, Jim will be in search of a rare green anaconda.”
Then they would cut to Jim rolling around in the dirt, wrestling with some giant snake as if his life was in jeopardy.
Anyway, seeing the birds splattering and running on top of the water I knew instantly what they were because I remember watching them on Wild Kingdom when I was a kid. Little did I know that the mating dance of the Western Grebe actually happened around here.
I was mesmerized watching the waterbirds erupt from the surface of the lake and start running on top of the water, with their necks all contorted in front of them. Over and over again they did the dance, which, according to Marlin (Jim was probably off trying to corral a cougar) can cover up to 66 feet and will include some 20 steps.
Evidently, in the grebe world, and in others as well, if you can dance, you get a mate. If not, well, you better turn up the music and start moving.
Later that day, when we got back to the boat launch, there was a large group of folks piling out of a big bus. They had khaki vests on, and were wearing floppy hats, and each person had a binocular and camera dangling from their neck.
I knew immediately they were bird watchers and when I told them that we had been watching the mating dance of the Western Grebe just around the corner they got all excited. I hope they got to see it, because it was definitely cool to see.
Over the years spending time on the water and in the woods I have seen lots of other amazing things. From the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets to some rare birds and animals.
It is even fun to see the more common flora and fauna.
Last week, in need of some scenic photos for a magazine article I was submitting to a hunting magazine, my wife Terri and I ran up into the hills near Chinook pass. We got our photos and on the way down the mountain I spotted some deer in the brush. A closer look showed three bucks, all in the velvet, just casually browsing away. We watched them for quite a while, from less than 50 yards away and I even got a few photos, without them spooking, or really having any worries about us.
The deer populations in Yakima County are not great right now, so it was nice to see the three healthy bucks.
It’s a perfect time to get out and enjoy the outdoors in the great Northwest. If you do get out, take a look around. You might be surprised by what you see.