By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle
I have a real love-hate relationship with the “Dog People” who invade my backyard several times a year.
They are the people of NAVHDA (see today’s feature article), a dedicated group of breeders and owners of fur- and feather-fetching versatile hunting dogs.
I hate that they disturb my peace while they are here. This is my home. I like it quiet.
But I love that my family is able to provide a space for them to gather, train and test their dogs.
In a world that seems to be ever-growing outwards from the cities into the country and invading the once open spaces of land, I’m proud we can offer this NAVHDA chapter a place to call home.
I hate the birds they leave behind. I hate that for days after they leave, my Labrador retriever brings home “gifts” of live chukar to my door. Many of the birds they use in the test are released unharmed into the wild. The dumbest of which (in my opinion) are the chukar, who gather in the grasses around my house and barn, looking for a free meal — instead, they become a free meal.
But I love watching my dog, running through the field at top speed and then, as his nose catches onto the scent of a bird, he makes that beauty of a pivot turn and comes to a dead stop, pointing the way to a bird hidden in the grass. It is in that momentary display of hunting dog talent that my breath is taken away by the beauty of a dog doing what a dog was meant to do.
But when my quick and wily dog makes that leap forward to capture the bird, I remember how much I hate them again. My Buddy retrieves the bird to hand — still alive, maybe just a little stunned at the sudden turn of events. Buddy is hoping I’ll fry it up for supper, I’m guessing. Instead, I send the bird back on his way with my blessing and the hope that he’ll make some coyote or hawk a tasty dinner instead.
It’s the circle of life.
And while it’s not something I particularly enjoy, I do understand its necessity.
That’s why I love that the NAVHDA clubs work so hard to train people and dogs to do “everything humanly possible to find downed game,” as their club vice president Steve Graham said on Sunday.
They educate people in proper and humane training methods. They promote the hunting dog as a family dog. And they enjoy building a dog that doesn’t just bring home the duck, but who takes duck hunting to a nearly artistic level of cooperation, enthusiasm and love.
Silver Creek Osprey
There is an osprey nest on a high tower overlooking Silver Creek where a pair of juvenile osprey are preparing to fledge.
You can see their nest from the parking area of the Texaco gas station, owned by Paul and Susan Lee.
I have been watching the nest over the last couple of months, from start to near finish, every time I stop to fill my gas tank. My camera lens isn’t long enough to get a clear picture of the birds, but if you bring your binoculars you’ll be sure to spot them.
Listen for the sounds of the raucous ruckus the young put up as they see one of their parents fly in with a fish. Osprey start late in the bird nesting season and it takes a full 10 weeks from egg to fledging.
Ospreys are almost exclusively fish eaters, and are known for their unique hunting style.
While standing in the Cowlitz River, I’ve watched osprey hover over the water as they hunt, then make a crashing dive into the water, feet first, to capture their prey.
It’s nothing like the dainty dive of an eagle, grazing the surface of the water with their talons. The osprey makes a big splash, sometimes going all the way under the water, before they reappear, fish in talon.
They carry their fish in an aerodynamic, head first orientation either to the nearest snag for a snack, or off to the nest to feed their young.
Osprey spend the winter in Central and South America.
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer who enjoys watching and photographing the wildlife in her own backyard in Cinebar. Visit her wildlife and outdoor encounters photography blog, The (Almost) Daily Bird, at http://blogs.chronline.com/dailybird. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 269-5017 to share unusual wildlife observations, or to discuss upcoming events and topics you would like to see covered in The Chronicle Outdoors section.