Nature Notes: Woman in the dunes


One of the most beautiful and famous Japanese films, entitled "Woman in the Dunes," is a hauntingly beautiful epic of lonely travelers and fleeting ghost-like images set at night in huge towering sand dunes.

Here on our Discovery Coast, near Klipsan, living out in the (now) road-free dune grasses, we have our own "Woman in the Dunes," a beautiful pheasant hen who, along with her mate, has successfully raised healthy broods of young pheasants out in the dune grasses for the last five years.

Despite imminent danger from people who for two years running have insisted on denuding their property of vegetation at precisely the middle of the upland bird nesting season, the pheasants have completely outsmarted the little tractor mower people and moved their nesting territories to nearby land belonging to Washington State Parks, and are thereby protected. The score, mower 0, pheasants 1.

It's very sad the same cannot be said for the Gambel's quail families, as their nests with eggs and chicks were destroyed last year by tractors, and the surviving adults have moved southward and no longer are residents. How much nicer it was to have quail running about the dunes rather than little tractor people. In the quail's case, mower was much less.

With the recent closing of dozens of illegal trails that people have used to drive illegally to the beach, life for the wild animals who call the dunes and the deep grasses home may finally get a bit better.

Of course, for a while there will be the usual whining and howling from those harboring a perceived entitlement to dune driving. But in the end, it will be all of us who will win. We will have safer, more secluded dunes with more deer and elk and bears and rabbits and marsh hawks and mice and songbirds and insects. The whole ecosystem will be stronger and more able to resist the continuing crush of development of what rightfully belongs to wildlife.

The wide open dunes and security of the dune grass cover for food, nesting and roosting is as valuable to wildlife as your job, home and family are to you. What small person would demand passage across the homeland of innocent wildlife. Would you let these same people drive through your living room, kitchen or bedroom? No?

So it seems the county and state have hit upon a real winner this time, and we give them a big tip of the hat! Good going guys!

Craig Sparks is director of NAWA, a filmmaker, freelance writer and wildlife rehabilitator.

• Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call the Wildlife Center at 665-3595 or send an e-mail to:

• High quality photo reprints from Nature Notes can be found online at

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