I was playing golf alone one recent evening, walking from the 16th green to the 17th tee of the Country Club of Hilton Head, a stroll by itself worth the price of admission.
It wound through an enchanted island forest and began with flying fish jumping out of the water of nearby Spring Lake.
As I was crossing the first wooden bridge to the island, a large black bird could be seen sitting motionless at the end of a dead limb on a barkless tree. Haunting! “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore’,” straight out of Edgar Allan Poe.
Walking farther toward the next wooden bridge, birds were calling to each other in chorus, and a nest with fledglings (later identified as anhingas) stretching their new necks could be seen from as close as 15 feet. Up high in a distant tree, another long-necked bird landed in a nest – presumably a great blue heron, since they like to nest in tall trees.
At yet a third wooden bridge, I crossed a small lake surrounded by live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, making the whole forest seem even more haunting. I looked over my shoulder for the raven, “Nevermore,” but instead heard a commotion, some squabbling, like an argument.
My eyes and ears were quickly drawn to the top of an 80-foot tree, where two large ospreys were going at it on their perch high above the surrounding forest. They were screeching and flapping their appendages at full volume and wingspan, and I’d be exaggerating if I said they were more than a foot apart – never mind the mandated 6 feet they were expected to be keeping these days.
This tirade went on for several minutes, quite a spectacle to behold. If they had been screaming eagles, they would have been a match for the 101st Airborne!
I could just imagine the conversation between this monogamous pair: Here it was, 6:30 in the evening. The old man had just flown in late, having stayed at the watering hole too long for the third time this week. The old lady was screaming, “Where have you been, you worthless predator? I told you to bring home some fish. Some fisherman you are! Here I am with these hungry chicks, and you come gliding in, all lit up and happy and empty-handed … AGAIN! Get outta here and don’t come back until you catch some fish.”
Things quieted down when the male, I assume, flew off to do what was demanded by she-who-must-be-obeyed. The remaining bird stood regally over her domicile, but seemed to still be harrumphing a bit in the aftermath of the tense encounter.
At this point I had to move on to complete my appointed rounds. But golf played second fiddle on this special evening, as Mother Nature stole the show.
Tom Dorsel, Ph.D. of Hilton Head Island is a clinical-sport psychologist and author of “GOLF: The Mental Game.” Dorsel.com Photographer Jim Judkis, based in Pittsburgh and Hilton Head Island, can be reached at jimjudkis.com.