Fort Liard #1 – CAWAlsky’s Story

CAWAlsky - by Rick Ludkin

CAWAlsky – by Rick Ludkin

CAWAlsky flew into the dense shrubbery and heaved a sigh of relief. It had been a long flight, a tough flight, more headwinds than he’d ever experienced before…..but maybe that had something to do with warming temperatures he’d noticed of late. After some deep reflection, he reckoned that each of his five years had grown slightly worse…but maybe that was just age catching up with him. Still, it was good to be home. Colombia had never felt so good. Especially this patch of scrub that he had won in his second Winter after an intense skirmish with another young bird bound and determined to be the owner – and no wonder: lots of food, protection from the elements, and few predators. A place to call home, and home it had been ever since for CAWAlsky.

He was tired but not so tired that he missed, out of the corner of his eye, the furtive movement of a young buck skulking in the bush over his left wing. Despite his fatigue he was about to launch into an attack (“you’ve got to show these young ‘uns right from the start who’s in charge…”) but just as he was about to start the youngster fired off a question: “What’s with the bling on your right leg?” And then from his right, “Yeah, never seen anything like that before…what gives?” CAWAlsky knew that he was the “big man on campus” so to speak, and he should have thrashed these youngsters just to show ‘em, make it clear that this patch was taken, but then there was the bling, and that was a story worth telling.

The one on the left he thought he recognized; part of a migrating flock perhaps…
“Where were you boys hatched?”
“Liard country, big river up…”
“Hold it right there, sonny. I know where the Liard is; spent five Summers there; born and raised I was. No prettier country in the North. Thought you looked familiar. How did you boys find the flight?”
The two relaxed and approached, somewhat in awe of the great CAWAlasky, but anxious to hear his story.
“Bumpy”, said the other one. “Just missed that big storm going through Mexico. It was touch and go for awhile but we hunkered down tight and let it blow through. Talk about rain! But we made it. Now what about the bling?”
CAWAlsky held up his right leg for the youngsters to admire. There, encircling it, was a shiny ring of metal with something etched on it. “Got it the Summer of ’14. Yep, it was quite a day.”
The two young birds sat back in the shrubs, all ears, and waited….and waited.
Now CAWAlsky didn’t often get to talk to an audience but he knew how to play the game. So he hopped back and forth, seeming to look for a comfortable perch. First this branch, then that one until he found the one that was just right. And then he had to grab a caterpillar to sustain him (it had been a long flight after all!). But when it looked like the two young ones couldn’t take any more he launched into it:
“It was a day like any other up there. Crisp, clear morning; smell of poplar and spruce; the chorus at dawn with all your colleagues to warm you up and let the others know who you are and where you are. Same old stuff.”
Although they’d never taken part in a dawn chorus, the two youngsters had certainly heard it and knew that when their time came they would join in with gusto.
“I heard this crashing in the underbrush but didn’t think much of it. Bear maybe? Moose? Buffalo? Nope, it was a Sasquatch, but not your ordinary Sasquatch all covered in brown fuzzy stuff. This was a pale-skinned animal with funny coverings and big orange feet. He was huffing and puffing, having a hell of a go of it. So much easier just to fly over the scrub. These poor Sasquatch suckers have to break their way through it. Make a heck of a racket.
“Anyway”, he grabbed a hapless beetle before continuing. “Anyway, I didn’t think anymore of it and just continued to sing. You gotta make sure your neighbours know you’re about so they don’t take liberties. What I noticed, but didn’t pay much attention to, was that the Sasquatch seemed to be listening to my singing. Shortly thereafter he put down the big bag he was carrying (I’m assuming it was a “he”…they all look alike, don’t they?) and started scrambling around in the undergrowth. Again, I should have paid more attention but I didn’t. Then he put down this square rock and moved away to sit under a tree…hiding sort of, thinking I couldn’t see him. Ha!
“But suddenly I hear this guy singing at the top of his lungs…IN MY TERRITORY! Can you believe it!? Me, CAWAlsky, taken on by some riffraff! Well I was having none of that and I took off to find the sucker that would disrespect me so.”
The two youngsters just shook their heads. They just couldn’t imagine anyone having the cajones (or lack of judgement) to interlope on the Great CAWAlsky.
“So did you get him?” asked number one.
“Well that was the damndest thing,” said CAWAlsky. “He was singing loud (boy, was he loud) and clear – funny dialect though – but I couldn’t locate him. But what was the weirdest thing was that the stone that the Sasquatch put down seemed to be doing the singing.”
“C,mon, rocks don’t sing,” said number two.
“I know that, Sonny”, he said with disdain. “But it appeared that this rock was singing. Weird. So I dropped down to take a look and as I was flying by, whammo, I was stopped in mid-air by this mesh of spider webs only it wasn’t sticky. My forward momentum was stopped flat and I tumbled down into a bag of this web. Couldn’t hardly see it. Boy was I mad!”
The young birds looked at each other and then back at CAWAlsky and asked, “How did you get out?”
“Well now it gets interesting.” The two youngsters hopped a little closer, all wide-eyed.
“As soon as I tumbled into the web, the Sasquatch jumps up and runs over to where I am. I figured it was all over for CAWAlsky but I gave it one more effort: as a final resort, just as he reached for me, I projectile-crapped at him.”
“I guess that showed him!”
“Nope, didn’t even phase him. Just picked it (and it was a good one) off his upper coverings and wiped it on his lower coverings. Then he reached down and grabbed me. Talk about strong! He completely immobilized me with his funny grip. The next time you boys are up on the Liard take a good look at a Sasquatch. Instead of wings they have these two long skinny appendages and at the end of each one is a cluster of thin grabbers that seem to be quite dexterous – they move in all directions. They’d be very handy if you didn’t have to fly…… But that’s beside the point.”
The youngsters bravely promised they would take a look the very next chance they got but CAWAlsky sensed that they weren’t going to get even close to a Sasquatch after this.
“So how did you escape?”
“I didn’t, really.”
“Huh? You’re here ain’t ya?”
“Well, that’s simply fortuitous. Sasquatch takes me and sits down. He’s big, huge even, he’s got me firmly, but he’s not actually hurting me. Now I was fully expecting he would pop me in his mouth and that would be it but, no, he just looks me over and I got the feeling (don’t ask me how) he was pretty happy about my being there. After awhile he turns me upside down and, presto, I’ve got this bling on my leg.”
“It’s very nice. Can we see?” And the two young warblers inched forward until they could see the ring clearly, fitting loosely on his leg.
“Interesting etching,” says number one. “Do you think they’re runes? Magic?”
“I have no idea.”
“Does it bother you?”
“That’s the strange thing….not in the least. It’s so light I hardly notice it. But, and pay attention to this boys, the ladies REALLY seem to like it.”
The two looked at each other and you could tell they were wondering how they could get some bling.
“Whereabouts exactly did you run into this Sasquatch?”
CAWAlsky told them. “But you know, they seemed to be all over the Liard area this Summer. I’m not the only one. CAWAlchuk for sure was carrying some when I met up with him near the Gulf. And CAWArski had one too when we met up in Costa Rica. Seems you just have to find the right Sasquatch.”
“OK…we’ll keep an eye out next Summer for sure. But how did you escape?”
“The Sasquatch wasn’t content with just putting on the bling. He stretched out my wing and put it on a long flat silver thing. Then he took a couple of pointers and checked my bill – lengthwise and across – and used them on my leg. After that he stuck the gray flat thing between my tail feathers right up to the ass!”
The youngsters laughed out loud at this….and so, finally, did CAWAlsky
“Finally, he stuck me in a bag and hung me upside down. That was scary. But a few seconds later he took me out again. Stuck a big shiny black thing in my face. I heard some clicking. Then spread my wing…more clicking. And then……he just let me go. I was free!”
The youngsters could hardly believe it….but here he was, living proof.
“Yep, I figured I was a goner for sure but for some reason he just let me go. After that he fiddled around with the web, stuck it in a bag and pulled two thin branches out of the ground that the web hung on and put those in a tube. Picked up the singing rock and was on his way. I’ve thought about it a lot since then but still can’t make rhyme nor reason of it all.”
He sat there shaking his head.
“But here’s something interesting, an observation if you will. From a distance I followed the Sasquatch and watched as he sat on a log. He was waiting for another Sasquatch that I could hear crashing through the bush. Now here’s the strange part. He didn’t eat me. But like any other creature I’m sure he was hungry – aren’t we always hungry?”
The youngsters chipped assent.
“All around him while he waited were those little winged meatballs that we call “mozzies”. You know, fine dining that comes to you?”
He could tell by their look that they were quite happily familiar with the delicious little morsels that were one of the main reasons for their travelling all the way to the Liard.
“He could have eaten his fill, they were all over him, but all he did was use his appendages to swat at them, crush them against his leg, grab them out of mid-air. But never did I see him actually eat one. Never!”
The two were incredulous…”Never?”
“Nope. And after he left with Sasquatch Two I checked and there were over a hundred mozzie carcasses lying all around where he sat. What a waste! Sasquatches….I just can’t figure ‘em out.”
And on that they all agreed.

Great Gray Owl, sitting on a post by the roadside but flew up into a tree when we stopped. - by Rhiannon Leshyk

Great Gray Owl, sitting on a post by the roadside but flew up into a tree when we stopped. – by Rhiannon Leshyk

Fort Liard country -by Rhiannon Leshyk

Fort Liard country -by Rhiannon Leshyk

Colorful protection from mosquitos. - by Rhiannon Leshyk

Colorful protection from mosquitos. – by Rhiannon Leshyk

banding with Sam Hache scribing. -by Rhiannon Leshyk

banding with Sam Hache scribing. -by Rhiannon Leshyk

Tennessee Warbler nest with 5 eggs. - by Rhiannon Leshyk

Tennessee Warbler nest with 5 eggs. – by Rhiannon Leshyk

me pointing at the TEWA nest. I found a second one that was exactly the same: in a grassy tussock at the base of a small shrub in a wet area. -by Rhiannon Leshyk

me pointing at the TEWA nest. I found a second one that was exactly the same: in a grassy tussock at the base of a small shrub in a wet area. -by Rhiannon Leshyk

Western Toad  - by Rhiannon Leshyk

Western Toad – by Rhiannon Leshyk

American Robins are very common here. - by Rhiannon Leshyk

American Robins are very common here. – by Rhiannon Leshyk

Spruce Grouse - by Rhiannon Leshyk

Spruce Grouse – by Rhiannon Leshyk

Wood Frog - by Rhiannon Leshyk

Wood Frog – by Rhiannon Leshyk

Mountains at dawn     -Rick Ludkin

Mountains at dawn -Rick Ludkin

Wood Buffalo along a very lonely highway.    - Rick Ludkin

Wood Buffalo along a very lonely highway. – Rick Ludkin

Beaver Dam in the early morning light.    - Rick Ludkin

Beaver Dam in the early morning light. – Rick Ludkin

Canada Warblers, the reason I am here.  - Rick Ludkin

CAWA, the reason I am here. – Rick Ludkin

1 thought on “Fort Liard #1 – CAWAlsky’s Story

  1. Excellent!!! I loved it! If it weren’t for CAWAlsky’s epithets, I’d repost for the Fern Hillians. They’d love it! Great pictures, too.

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