It was a double-your-pleasure moment.
We were all standing on the deck of the cabin when my wife spotted a bright red bird at the top of a tree 40 yards away. Through the binoculars, I quickly found the bird. Its jet black wings nicely contrasted with its radiant red body.
Upon hearing the description, the property owner was ecstatic. “I’ve been hoping the scarlet tanager would return,” he said with glee.
I got as much kick out of Rice’s reaction as I did seeing the distinctly marked bird. After all, this was a big, middle-aged man, not some youngster seeing this beauty for the first time.
I love it when people love nature. Their company becomes all the more enjoyable.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by our host’s excitement. My wife and I were there as guests to tour his expanse of property high on one of the seven hills of Glenmont in southwestern Holmes County, Ohio.
Our connection with this enthusiastic young man and his partner Liz goes back decades. My wife was Rice’s kindergarten teacher. We’ve known Liz since she was born and her baby boomer parents even longer.
When our children were children, they played together. We were as close as close friends can be. Neva and I felt privileged to explore this restored property that was all about conservation.
The scarlet tanager was only one of the highlights of our visit. Inside the cabin, an old property plat map hung framed on the wall. I’m a sucker for maps, and it called my name.
When I look at a map, one of the first things I do is find the legend. It tells me how to read the map. The descriptions of the property boundary markers caught my attention.
A large solid blue dot represented stone markers, which European settlers used when they claimed the land not long after Ohio became a state in 1803. Different icons identified more conventional boundary markers like standard iron pins.
Out on the large porch of the restored cabin, we spotted more than the scarlet tanager. Barn swallows swooped low over a trio of small ponds, skimming the water’s surface for a drink on the fly. A pair of young eastern bluebirds watched the show from perches on a dead ash tree. Painted turtles sunned themselves on an old snag angled into the water.
Sensing my intrigue, our hosts piled my wife and me into a Cadillac version of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), and off we went to tour the rolling, mostly forested acreage. Of course, I wanted to find those unusual stone markers, too.
Our friends had cleared and maintained paths that wound up, down, and around the hilly landscape. We were in for a real treat.
We crossed a tree line in the ATV and spied a young buck with velvety spiked antlers. We stopped to view an open, rolling field planted explicitly with crops for the wildlife. Conservation is Rice’s practical goal.
As we continued over the undulating trails, our host pointed out trees he specified to be left by loggers who thinned the woods three years earlier. He walked with the loggers to ensure only the designated ones were cut.
High above the cabin, we came upon one of the old stone markers. It was too easy to find. A surveyor had recently spray-painted its top fluorescent red.
I appreciate people who care for the land. When they express their excitement openly at seeing the fruits of their labor, everyone is rewarded, including the wildlife.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2021