Sunday, March 26, 2006

Saturday, March 25: I like... birds.

If anyone has been doubting my commitment to trying new things while at Grimsö, then know this: I spent over 3 hours in the forest last night, where the temperature was -7 degrees, so that I could hear some owls. I suppose it was my first serious twitching experience.

Johan came by at dusk and we had walked only a few hundred metres from my house before we heard a pygmy owl. We also glimpsed it flying overhead and heard a second one before Johanna arrived in their car and we went for a drive around the Grimsö research area. For the next hour and a half we stopped regularly along the single lane icy road, hearing two more species: the tawny owl and the 'pearl owl' (a literal translation of the Swedish name, Johan didn't know the English name and I certainly don't either). I also heard a snowmobile, a highway, a stream, and a lot of owl imitations from Johan. The nights are so silent here that any new sound seems noteworthy: I felt I was being deafened late one night, after I had been here about a week, by a low-frequency almost-inaudible rumbling from a car a hundred metres away. I'm not looking forward to getting re-acquainted with the possums, crows, and late-night drunken backpackers that inhabit my West End street.

We missed out on hearing the long-haired owl, and on seeing any moose, but Johan seemed satisfied with hearing 3 of the 4 possible owl species in the area. The next task was to build a fire in the snow for supper. Actually my next task was to try to pull on a pair of Johanna's ski pants over my jeans while J & J sorted out the fire. By the time I was fully dressed, they had dug out a section of the snow, set up a fire, and put a mat down on the snow-ledge to sit on. Very cosy! Even more so when Johanna pulled out a thermos of hot chocolate and some sandwiches. Grimsö resident Petter, his wife and two of his children joined us for about an hour, bringing biscuits and more hot chocolate. By 10pm the fire was dying down and my feet were going a bit numb. We headed home.


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