The crazy critters of Market Lake

Living the Wild Life

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Photos courtesy Bill Schiess |

While scrambling through some large lava rocks on the east side of Market Lake’s Main Marsh, I flushed a cackling cock pheasant that was followed quickly by two more, plus a quiet hen. After I got my heart settled back down, I perched myself on a large boulder and found myself eye to eye with a large bull moose.

I felt somewhat safe as I didn’t think he could make it through the large boulder field to get to me if he was so inclined to try to make me an ornament on his antlers. As I adjusted my position to get a better picture, he whirled and headed north.

After parking near the Jones Cemetery, it had been my intention to hike to the Peregrine falcon nesting site, but since the antler-wearer was headed there my plans were changed. I worked back through the sage kicking up two more pheasant cocks. I found it strange that the pheasants were out in the sage brush instead of the agriculture fields where they are usually stocked for hunting.

Deciding to complete my hike through the row of trees, I found the ag fields and the row of trees flooded. With the pheasant season opening last week, I had found it odd that there were no hunters out with their dogs. Instead of finding parked trucks full of dog enclosures, the only parked vehicle I found had two love-birds enjoying nature.

The west row of trees was unwalkable as I did not have hip boots so I drove around to the east row of trees. There I found the farm road wet, but dry enough to walk.

Two Northern Harriers were hunting the edge of the woods while some Black-billed Magpies were harassing something in a large Russian olive tree.

“Owl,” I thought to myself as I slipped and slid along because my shoes became laden with a grass-clay mix. There was not only one, but four Great-horned owls the magpies were making a fuss about. I really think the black-and-white thieves were encouraging the hunters to bag something so they could steal a dinner, but the owls were content to wait for darkness.

Three of the owls had no problem with me sloshing near them, but one looked unhappy as it laid it’s “horns” back, glared at me and soon flew to the other side of the row of trees. I had hoped to find a Long-eared or a Saw-whet owl, but they eluded me for the evening.

Later, as I traveled through the marshes, I saw no ducks or geese probably because that hunting season has been open for three weeks and the locals are dead or have parked themselves on Camas National Wildlife Refuge where they are safer. I did see a few coots and two young Pied-billed Grebes that were left behind when the others had migrated south. Hopefully the coots will let them join them when they head south or they will become dinner for something.

As I was trying to clean the immature brick-making material off my shoes I had to smile about my encounter with the moose and how much more fear I felt when the pheasant exploded near me. I am just thankful for the ability to get out and enjoy “Living the Wild Life.”