Except during a blizzard, when all wild creatures keep to their dens, Kookooskoos hunts practically every night of the year and all night long when greedy owlets must be fed. Naturally you would expect that his hunting call would be sounded constantly after dark, yet days may go by without its being heard. Occasionally, but very rarely, the call is heard on a dark day, which means, I think, that Kookooskoos knows where game is hidden and is trying to scare it into a betraying motion.
During the summer and early fall he often keeps watch by day over a clearing where young partridges come at regular hours to feed or to dust themselves, and at such times he is as silent as the hawk that has an eye on the same toothsome game. Likewise, when Kookooskoos finds a brood of wild ducks he often watches from a hidden perch until they come within striking distance; and here again he is as stealthy as any other hunter, knowing that to alarm the game is to miss his chance.
DINING WITH THE BEAVERS
The close of an August day found me on a stranded log below a salmon pool on the Tobique, waiting for a beaver family that for a week past had been coming regularly to dine on the bark of poplar boughs which I cut fresh for them every morning. The skies were aglow, and the river muted its cheery voice the better to hear a thrush sing evensong.
Into this heavenly quiet rushed a flock of half-grown sheldrakes, as noisy and restless as kingfishers. At one moment they glided smoothly upstream, breasting the stiff current as easily as water sprites; at the next they darted hither and yon as if witch-ridden, crinkling the river's face into foamy wakes, shattering the silence with a croaking of unmelodious voices. Leading the riotous procession was a mother bird, her brown head with its slender beak turning like a weather vane in shifty winds as she kept tabs on her uneasy brood.
Just as these oncoming sheldrakes were opposite me, giving no heed to what they thought a harmless bump on a log, a broad-winged shadow fell upon them, and away they scurried under a smother of upflung spray. The shadow was cast by Kookooskoos, who had all the while been watching the brood from a poplar over my head. At his second try, after clumsily missing the first, he picked up a young bird, killed it by a single grip and carried it limp to the other shore. There on the gravel he tore his game to pieces and swallowed it in wolfish gulps, head, feet, wings and all, leaving only a few loose feathers to tell the night wind of his silent hunting. This time, Kookooskoos had not called at all.