13 November 2008

Dispatches From the Line Mk.V

Gerald R. Ford International Airport and Wildlife Sanctuary

Tuesday night, as I was walking across my ramp after topping off my fuel truck, I heard a strange animal noise.

Animal noises are not all that uncommon around the airport, but this one was different. I had never heard this noise before, so I was curious, and stopped to listen. I still couldn't figure it out, and so I began a mental countdown of animals I have seen at or around the airport.

One would think that there wouldn't be much wildlife around such a loud and busy place, but there is. We have hawks, pigeons, a massive starling colony that is always flying around. Every fall, we get some Canadian Geese on their way south for the winter that will stop and visit us for a few days. There are seagulls that arrive every once in a while, and there used to be two snow owls that we named Pratt and Whitney. We've had ducklings wandering in our hangar, and there are always kildeer nesting in the rocks and grass.

We have skunks and woodchucks digging their burrows all over the place, and I've seen a fox or two wandering around at night. Deer and turkey are fairly common as well, because just to the south of the airport are wooded areas as well as farmland.

This past summer, I had a close encounter with two coyotes who were actually on my ramp, one I nearly hit with my fuel truck before it ran off. A few weeks later, a co-worker and I were out on the ramp and a young coyote started just howling at us from across the way. We climbed on top of our fuel truck to get a better view, and watched him wander around the north side of the field for a good ten minutes before he disappeared from sight.

Add to that all of the frogs, toads, snakes and other creatures we've caught crawling around, and we've got quite a thriving ecosystem here at GRFIA.

But as I tried to figure out the noise I was hearing, I was coming up short. Most of the animals I have listed I have heard before, or they do not make much noise except in times of great distress. I could not place the noise I was hearing.

It sounded almost like a human scream, yet not as loud, and much more raspy. The more I listened, the more confused I became. As I walked inside the hangar, I thought perhaps it was a screech owl.

I went to the Internet and tried to look for audio files of screech owls. I found some, and it turns out that the call of a screech owl is pretty similar to the call of a loon. Not at all what I heard.

It was just then that I overheard on the control tower radio a pilot call in. He was taxiing down a part of the airport near where I was, and reported seeing what he thought was a wildcat running across his path.

I heard that, and I began looking for bobcat noises.

This clip here is nearly what I heard the other night (just click where it says preview).

Not quite lions and tigers and bears oh my, but still pretty cool!


1 comment:

-Tim said...

Wow! Bobcats... wouldn't that be something.

Wild life in the urban zone is always something that facinates ne to no end. It's amazing how we interact.