Sunday, June 24, 2012

So last night we got in to my grandparents’ place about seven, and sat out on the porch with them chatting about this and that until about a quarter of nine, when the roofers went home. Once the roofers were out, we started a fire in the firepit, and cooked hotdogs and chatted some more about the wildlife they’d seen lately- apparently a fisher has moved in to the neighborhood, and it growled at them when my grandmother was outside the day before- until about ten-ish, when they decided to go to bed. It was fairly dark by that time, and the Doc and I stayed by the fire for a while longer to let the sky get as dark as possible until we brought out the telescope- they’re in the middle of a hundred acres, itself in the midst of Allegheny National Forest county, so it gets very nicely dark indeed at night. We listened to the night sounds; there was an owl or two, a possum or raccoon stomping about in the leaves, and some distant coyote yips. After a bit another possum or raccoon wandered towards the first; there was a loud discussion and one of them lit out through the woods only to run right into a group of sleeping deer, to judge from the sudden explosion of six or seven alarm coughs. It was hilarious. Right when we were about to get up to grab the ‘scope I noticed a lighter patch in the dim gray swath of lawn between us and the woods. We had a borrowed maglight, and I shone it over onto the light spot and it turned out to be the local feral cat, Miss Kitty. She looked affronted and left, and I turned the flashlight across the other side of the treeline and low and behold a big gray fox was standing there. He looked at us interestedly for a bit, then wandered off. Another one followed him, a little smaller- probably a mated pair, which was neat because I’ve never seen two foxes at the same time before. We got the ‘scope out and put it on the roof of our car, which we’d parked some distance from the house. The Doc went back inside and turned off the porch lights and the mudroom lights, and so it was all properly dark and ready for us to stargaze. He came back out and we both took turns pointing it at a random bit of sky and being amazed at the thousands of stars that were suddenly visible; it’s made to bring in all the light possible so you can see deep-field objects, and it has the awesome side effect of showing you a good proportion of the stars you can’t see with the naked eye. It was awesome. About half an hour into viewing, we were absorbed with our viewings and thus were highly startled when something growled from about ten feet behind us. We both whirled to face it and started shouting abuse (strangely G-rated abuse, as we both apparently instinctively didn’t want my grandparents to hear us swearing) and waving our arms and stomping and whatnot, and the Doc scrambled for the Maglight, which was in his pocket. We were raising such a ruckus I was surprised my grandparents didn’t come crashing out on the porch with a shotgun or two, but by the time we got the light on and aimed whatever it was (in retrospect, probably that grumpy fisher) had bugged out. I reflected that I had been idly thinking of borrowing a .22 earlier, but there’s nothing in this state that bothers humans unless injured or ill, and being snarled at in the dark while we were minding our own business wasn’t something I’d ever considered. We’re still not sure why this fisher doesn’t keep to himself like a proper fisher would, but if he keeps being this irascible he’s going to get a butt full of buckshot. Pseudo-crisis averted, we went back to stargazing and managed another half hour until we got too tired and had to head for bed. We did do the occasional Maglight sweeps for wildlife, and we did see the foxes again, which was pretty awesome. My grandfather is talking about getting a new trail camera, as his old one finally biffed it, and the new ones have infared flash which means we’d get more and better pictures.


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