News from the Cove

I live on a boat moored in a covered slip at the far end of a boathouse in the middle of a cove, and have come to know my neighbors quite well.

Frog Holler Cove

We have a stiff breeze in Frog Holler tonight, so we’re all hunkered down hoping for the winds to die down so everyone can get back to the business of croaking, squawking, howling, and hunting. Hunkering down for me means siting on the boathouse deck watching the waves roll in under the southern wind instead of being out among my neighbors in my kayak. For my frog neighbors it means finding shelter under the shoreline weeds while they wait for the winds to leave and the insects to return. The few herons who stalk the shoreline in in these conditions go home to roost early, long before sunset.

I’m not sure why coyotes and barn owls take a holiday from their hunting during stiff winds but they have been silent the past two nights. Maybe its a chain reaction. No insects flying, no frogs or other small predators out. No small animals like field mice, rats, rabbits out foraging, no snakes, coyotes, barn owls, or hawks out on the town stalking them. There is also a cloud cover, meaning no moonlight. It’s like sitting in a lawn chair on a vacated Main street in a small town on Saturday night.

On a still night, though, my cove is like downtown Chicago, if you can imagine it being populated with frogs, ducks, snakes, beavers, barn owls, foxes, coyotes, and an occasional deer. It is a ruckus best observed from the stealth of a kayak moving silently and slowly around the banks of the cove. I say stealth, because I have learned that, as I am watching and listening to them, they are watching me. If I get close to a knot of frogs, they go silent until I back my kayak to a safe distance. I’ve learned the barn owls watch, me, too, from their perches atop a pole derrick at anchor in the middle of the cove. It serves as a perfect hunting platform, giving them a 360 degree ariel view of the cove. A pair of owls change positions, jumping from one cross strut to another, but they never move when I am watching. Nor have I ever seen them come or go. One night an owl buzzed me when my kayak was facing away from the derrick. He appeared as a dark and silent blur, swooping only inches above my head with his talons extended, as if to deliver a message.

The creatures I hear or watch most frequently include great blue herons, white herons, ducks, coyotes, frogs, snakes, owls, and beavers. I occasionally get a surprise, such as the time I saw a pair painted buntings cavorting amid the shoreline trees. They were fire engine red with bright blue, green and yellow markings on their throat, backs and tail feathers. I’m told that is a rare sighting in this part of the country. I had not seen them before, nor since.

Last summer I surprised a fox who had jumped a baby blue heron. He had the bird by the neck and was thrashing it about when I rounded a bend in my kayak. Regrettably, he bolted when he saw me, leaving his unfinished dinner on the banks.

That’s the news from Frog Holler, as well as I know how to report it.