Thursday, November 5, 2009

two landscapes

A Tale of Two Landscapes – Appeared in the Chattanooga Chat, Newsletter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, Chattanooga Chapter and in my chap book Guardians and Other Sightings.

The land had once been a private estate, and the large front lawn was green and well fertilized and manicured, and much like any other lawn, but behind a hill stood a wild and “unkempt” thicket where shrubs and vines and blackberries abounded. It was a somewhat wet landscape, enough to attract an occasional killdeer.
Every spring the thicket produced a crop of young rabbits, in fact the property was never short of rabbits. Occasionally a red fox would saunter by, no doubt gathering a dinner of rabbit meat. Beyond the thicket was a hay field and beyond that, a forest. At night, coyotes howled in the near distance.
One winter day I led a bird watching expedition and we saw a female Peregrine falcon land in a tree. Soon a male bird joined her, dropping a prey item as he landed. Perhaps he saw us at the last minute and dropped the bird that he was carrying to his mate. Soon, both falcons flew away and we discovered that the dropped bird was a killdeer.
A high ranking government official dropped by my office one spring day and informed me that we would embark on a project of “landscaping for wildlife.” Soon the bush hog arrived and the thicket was leveled to be replaced with a few trees, whose fruit is reputed to attract birds. Low lying areas were filled to accommodate foot traffic.
The last time I visited the property, I saw neither rabbits, nor fox, nor killdeer. I definitely saw no peregrine falcon. Where branches in the thicket had been alive with the songs of nesting birds, it was eerily silent. And so the landscape was tamed, and so it was “landscaped for wildlife.”

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