Bird Watching with a Chainsaw.

It is daylight in the forest, my favorite time of day. It’s all downhill from here. Still, it is good to revel in the absolute silence of the wilderness, while you can. Until the first trilling of the Townsends thrush tells us another summer’s day has begun. Then the rest of the birds wake up and start making enough noise to raise the dead. Then you can forget about the peace and quiet. 

It would only give one pause to consider how I ended up in this god-forsaken brush hole with a couple of dull chainsaws. One of them is broken, the other won’t start. Now I remember, being chain whipped into a crooked publishing fiasco that made me swear off writing for good. Which leaves me with a word of advice on electronic publishing: “don’t.”

From now on I intend to devote my life to my one true passion, bird watching. This can be tough in the forest until we knock down a few trees to get a better view. Birds come around to feed on bugs disturbed by the falling timber. Bird watching with a chainsaw may appear unorthodox to the uninformed. But it practically guarantees even the most myopic bird watcher sightings of such rare and colorful species as the scarlet tanager, ruby crowned kinglet, and shafted flicker.

A low rumble disturbs the silence of the forest. It is the mating call of the hickory shirted cat-skinner. He’s an unpredictable bird given to rigging fits. These are bursts of kinetic energy accompanied by colorful language. It’s best to give him a wide berth even if it’s not the morning after the 4th of July, which along with Christmas is one of only two holidays in the logger’s calendar.

In the glory days of logging, the camps would shut down on the 4th so loggers could go to town for the “big blow.”  That’s where they blew all the money they earned since Christmas. Some of the 4th of July festivities were a real riot. Like when the Forks loggers threw the bikers’ choppers off the Calawah river bridge. Now days the 4th has become a fun-for-the-whole family artsy-craftsy snoozer where everybody shows up for work the next day.    

Which in no way explained the cat-skinner’s next move. He launched from the tracks of his machine to land jumping in circles, screaming while trying to rip his clothes off. An allergic reaction to bad moonshine I presumed, but no. Just a little deer mouse, disturbed from its nest beneath the seat of the cat, ran up the catskinner’s pant leg by mistake.

People worry about being attacked by cougars and bears when it’s the mice and bugs that will get you in the end.  Actually, the most terrifying encounter I’ve ever had with an enraged animal, was the time I was jumped by a mother grouse. Grouse are called “fool hens’ by people that don’t know any better.

Grouse are really a lot more vicious than most people give them credit for. Like the one that attacked me last week. Even now it’s hard to talk about.  I’d been walking along minding my own business, bird watching with my chainsaw, when out of nowhere I heard a menacing clucking sound. There she was, a big mama grouse with blood in her eye and all her feathers fluffed the wrong way. 

Even if I could have gotten my saw started there would have been no time to use it before she launched an attack. She flew by my head so close I almost had to duck. She landed in a heap with one wing hanging limp. It was the old broken wing act used by mother birds everywhere to decoy predators away from their brood. Which might work really well on some dumb animal but it takes more than that to fake me out.

Still I wanted to see how close I could get. I was after all bird watching and a grouse is a bird. But every time I tried to get closer, she would flutter way wounded just a little further. After a while I thought she might have really hurt herself. Before I knew it, I was so far back in the brush I couldn’t hear the cat working. It was quitting time when I finally found my way back to the landing. I was so happy to see the catskinner again I didn’t care that he ate my lunch. It was good to be alive.