FIRST CANOE OUTING
Grandma was happy and excited at the thought of taking the canoe out, even if the shore was still soggy and muddy. As the canoe slipped through the water, beavers were slapping their tails and making loud noises to warn Grandpa and Grandma not to get too close to their homes, called beaver lodges.
A leafless white birch tree stood in the water and had dots of black on its branches. The closer Grandma got to the tree, she could see black cormorant birds sitting on the branches. These large birds are about 3 feet tall. When the canoe was directly under the tree, only one cormorant remained. It appeared as curious as Grandma was and flew away to join the others. As they canoed around a small island, they saw a collection of many cormorant nests high in the trees. Their nests are a loosely woven mess of sticks and other items from the shore.
A SPECIAL DAY!
The day started out a bit cool for the middle of May. Grandma began this day the same as the others. She brought a steaming cup of coffee out on the deck, wrapped herself in a warm fleece blanket and, with the sky just starting to turn a light pink, sat quietly and watched for the sun to rise. Soon, it peeked above the trees and splashed a fiery red glow over the water. Birds and geese erupted in a joyous chorus. Grandma was anxious to check on a moose cow she had seen on one of her recent walks. The cow had been alone for several weeks and her belly was bulging – a sign there soon would be new life. Maybe today Grandma would get a glimpse of a new baby moose!
May 16th was a very special day. Only moments before, the moose calf was warm and curled up very tight within his mother’s tummy so it was difficult for him to move. It was very dark. Then, in an instant, he was cold and lying on a bed of dried grass. He blinked, his blurry eyes slowly focused on his mother lying next to him. He was getting his first bath. Her tongue washed over his little body and with each lick, his cinnamon colored hair dried and he started to warm up. He could move his legs and his head and he felt free. He felt a strange sensation in his tummy as it growled for food – he was hungry! His little nose nudged Mother’s flank until he found the warm rich milk and drank eagerly.
Soon, his eyelids became heavy and he fell asleep. When he awoke, another little calf lay beside him. He had a sister! They both now were drinking from Mother as she lay beside them and continued to lick them all over.
Within an hour, he tried to get up and move about. His long legs, while strong enough, did not seem to move in the right direction and he wobbled unsteadily. He weighed about 30 pounds. It took a few hours, but once he stood for awhile, he could see more of his surroundings. Grandma noticed his main concern was to find Mother. When he did, he began to drink milk vigorously and she greeted him with soft comforting licks. He started to become aware of the sounds of the forest, songs of the robins and goldfinches, and the call of the magpie. The wind rustled dried leaves that were still clinging to the branches of the oak trees.
The little moose calves would learn much about the world very soon, but for now, they were content to eat and sleep and eat and sleep and just be close to Mother.
The next day, Mother took her young calves on a little hike. They struggled to keep up but soon found it fun to run and jump and play!
After the short trip, they drank more milk, and with their tummies full, laid back down, falling asleep in the warm sun. Grandma dozed off also propped against a large oak tree. When she awoke, the sky had turned dark except for tiny lights twinkling high above the tree tops. Mother was close by the calves and came as soon as they started bleating, noisily calling out to her.
As Grandma walked back to the cabin, she pondered the beauty and wonders of the newborn calves and tried to think of suitable names for them. She named the little boy calf, Stanley, a tough and rugged name like the brand of tools. She named the little girl calf, Starr, a name shared by girls in Grandma’s family.
THE WORLD AROUND THEM
Stanley was in awe of the colors and sounds around him. The sky was a vibrant blue seen through green tree tops on white trunks of Spruce and Poplar. New sprouts of grass were light green.
Stanley watched the white pelicans walk on the shore and swim gracefully on the little turquoise pond next to his bed of grass. The sunlight danced off the leaves and he saw sunbeams streaking down through the woods. Birds were flitting from tree to tree as squirrels played tag on their branches. Flocks of geese made their way overhead, honking as they passed by. Trees were creaking as large branches rubbed against each other. Turkeys and pheasants called to one another.
Stanley noticed there were many sights and sounds in the woods at night too. As night began to fall, he saw fading streaks of light illuminating spider webs he hadn’t been able to see before. The birds quieted, and the crickets started their chirping. He heard an occasional owl hoot. Suddenly, he heard branches gently breaking behind him. He turned his head and saw a doe, walking tentatively through the trees toward him. She stopped to browse on grass and acorns on the ground from last fall. Stanley could hear the crunch of the acorns. Soon, more deer were coming into the clearing, stopping, browsing, and looking around. A distant chorus of coyotes filled the woods; they seemed to be celebrating the rise of a full moon. Stanley knew he was safe with Mother and watched her closely; if she started to move away, he would follow.
The next morning, Stanley experienced the woods filling with light from the darkness. First, although he smelled leaves right in front of him, they were not visible, but then, slowly, the leaves took shape and then fully came into view. The dew made the spider webs stand out with little beads of water balancing on the thin threads.
Owl hoots were replaced with song birds and slowly the big world came into view again. Pale colors of blue and pink reached across the sky, and then even more colors appeared. When the time was just right, a red glow seemed to spread over the horizon. Next came the ball of fire that rose higher and higher. Stanley was lying by a lake this morning and as the sun’s glow rose over the trees, its reflection splashed on the water. The geese, ducks and birds all broke into an excited chorus to welcome the new day! Stanley didn’t know it, but Grandma was enjoying the same sunrise from her deck.
Later in the day, another moose cow was curious to see the twins and got too close to Stanley and Starr, so Mother chased it away. Mother was very protective of her young calves during those first few weeks as a calf will follow any large object mistaking it for its mom. Stanley was happy that he and Starr could stay close and safe with Mother.
Grandma was careful not to get too close to Mother and her new calves. She would watch them with binoculars from the top of a hillside and loved seeing them explore the world around them. She would visit them every few days during her walks in the woods.
GENERAL MOOSE FACTS
- The name moose is an Algonguin term meaning ‘twig eater’. The Cree, Ojibwa called the animal a ‘muswa’ which became ‘moose’ to the white man.
- The moose is classified as an ‘even toed ungulate’ due to their unique foot structure.
- Only their 3rd and 4th digits are weight bearing and are fused into a single structure.
- The odds of a calf surviving, from a first time mother, are only 15% – 20%. The odds get better each year as the mother is more experienced protecting her young.
“If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson from “Small Miracles” calendar.