By Scott Linden
Relaxing at the edge of a sparkling trout stream, I caught movement on the far bank. The undulating form quickly became an otter, in search of a meal, adventure, fun? How simple it was to sense its fleeting presence – gone in an instant – reminded me that often all you need to do to savor our wild world is to hold still.
Who doesn’t love a glimpse into the wild world provided by birds, mammals and even reptiles? Okay, maybe not snakes and lizards, but the cuddly and cute ones are worth watching, right?
America’s favorite outdoor activity is wildlife watching, and RVers are ideally equipped to get up close to bees and bunnies, frogs and other fauna. It’s in our DNA, searching for what used to be food and now is an intimate peek into the world outside our motorcoach. Kids and grandkids are entranced by animals – so are we – and searching for a glimpse of them in their natural environment is a pretty good excuse to get active and out of the rig.
I’ve made a living in the outdoors and mainly by accident figured out a few ways to add to my own enjoyment of the denizens of woods and fields, prairies and meadows. If you’re so inclined, here are some suggestions:
Professional wildlife photographers know the value of a “blind,” a man-made hiding spot from which to shoot magazine-cover images. RVers can simply pour another cup of coffee and gaze out a window. Often, a thin layer of glass is all it takes to assure wildlife that we are no threat.
Movement screams “predator” to many critters. Breathe deep, remain motionless and the woods come alive. First to arrive will be small birds. Always on the go, constantly in search of food, they will soon be animating your view once you’re settled. Bluebirds and goldfinches are like flying gems, enlivening our skies and brightening our days outdoors. Bigger jays and robins will soon get the hint and become active as well, adding squawks, trills and tweets – a symphony of wild music. It’s not just birds, though. I’ve had coyotes and deer come to drink as I stood stock-still in a river, raccoons and chukars walk past as I dozed on a sunny ridge.
The bigger the animal, the stealthier we should be
Deer are prey to everything from coyotes to cougars, so are constantly on the lookout for threats. Wild eyes, ears, and noses are constantly sussing out clues that could mean life-or-death. If you’re mindful of that, you might score a glance at them. Get downwind if you’ve spotted a deer, remain quiet and motionless. Often, a deer’s first line of defense is stillness. Watch for horizontal lines in a vertical landscape of tree trunks. Search out a bit of antler, a dark eye, a twitching tail on an otherwise frozen body. Acquire a thousand-mile stare and search the distance before you bumble noisily into a meadow. A bit of motion might betray a coyote watching you, or a porcupine waddling toward his tree.
Being close to nature is one of the many blessings of RV travel. Getting to know our fascinating wild neighbors brings us closer to their world.
(Scott Linden hosts and produces the RV Travel podcast and a television series on bird dogs. He also authors books and magazine articles and produces instructional videos about fly fishing, bird hunting, dogs, the outdoors and RVing.)