You might easily pass it by. Just another tree along a trail in your county park. But, thirty feet above the ground someone naps through the day.
(Photos: clandestinewren photography)

By Jonathan Doherty

It’s continuously astonishing how much goes on around us that we don’t notice, once we do. The pandemic has brought out some of that alertness, as we cherish every moment outdoors, becoming more alert than usual.

And secrets unnoticed appear. Like this Eastern Screech Owl, just eight inches tall, snoozing through the daylight hours in a sycamore tree above a trail along which walkers and runners pass.

And he’s not the only secret along the trail. Nor the only sleepy one.

A few trees down the same path a raccoon takes advantage of another tree cavity.

The owl and raccoon both rest up from their nocturnal lives in a suburban county park attracting well over a half million human visits each year. For the last two months the park has been open for people’s exercise only; picnic tables all stacked away and playgrounds taped off.

In the woods along another section of trail hides a newly returned Ovenbird (below), a migrant warbler who breeds in closed-canopy woodlands throughout the Chesapeake watershed.

These animals are just three of the enormous number of secrets (to most of us humans) that can be found in parks and preserves all around us — urban, suburban and rural. Just off the paths upon which we recreate, they are a reminder of the multiplicity of values of the lands we work to conserve. And they are more valuable to us now than ever.