Author

Nancy Pfeiffer

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A northern saw-whet perches outside the nest at the author’s home in Palmer. Photo by Fredrik Norrsell. At one time people thought northern saw-whet owls were rare. They’re not. They are just tiny—only seven and a half inches tall—and nocturnal, so few people see them. However, in early March, you can often hear the rapid whet-whet-whet of a male saw-whet establishing his territory and trying to attract a mate. These loud, repetitive calls sometimes continue all night. Last spring, my husband, photographer Fredrik Norrsell, and I had the pleasure of having a family of northern saw-whet owls grow up in our backyard. Over the course of sleepless nights from April through June, we watched and photographed these little owls raising their family. On April 1, we were enjoying the sun on the porch when Fredrik noticed a sleepy head sticking out of our nesting box. A female saw-whet owl had…

One woman’s stand-off with a persistent grizzly I am drifting off to sleep in my tent in the Ray Mountains, a little-known mountain range north of Fairbanks and south of the Brooks Range. My 12-year-old Australian sheepdog, Blumli, sleeps at my feet. The arctic sun, still above the horizon, casts a soft evening glow on the surrounding peaks. The wilderness is pleasant and peaceful. After a long day’s walk, I drift into sweet slumber, knowing the next 10 days will feed my soul in a way that only wild country can. I don’t know what awakens me, a slight motion from Blumli, or that internal messenger that says, “Wake up, there is a bear 15 feet from your head.” I am not excessively worried. I’ve seen hundreds of bears, and never had anything you would call a bear encounter. Bears, except possibly polar bears, don’t habitually hunt humans. Our troubles…