On My Knees, Preying

The past week was unusually hot. I like summer, but 38°C/100°F is a little too warm for me. So I’ve been getting up at 6:00 AM to pick veggies and water the garden. It’s gorgeous outside at that time: The sun is just coming up, the air is cool and fresh, and the only sounds are the birds and the trickle of the creek.

Coincidentally, there was a recent news article about how the bear population is exploding on Vancouver Island. Bears are now regularly seen in residential areas where there’s no record of a bear being spotted in the past 40 years. So big hungry critters were in the back of my mind when I hauled myself out of bed a few days ago and opened all the windows.

I was sitting at the breakfast table when a blood-curdling cry froze me to my chair. It was close. Somewhere in our yard.

After a moment of breathless immobility, I relaxed. The ravens were flapping around as usual. They have a huge range of vocalizations, so I figured one of them must have gotten creative. I carried on with my breakfast.

But only for another minute or two, until the terrible cry came again, even louder. The ravens fled. And my primitive lizard-brain screamed, “COUGAR!”

A couple of years ago, a big cougar came right up on our neighbours’ deck; so we definitely have cougars in the area. I scurried over to the internet and looked up ‘cougar vocalizations’. Sure enough, cougars make a lot of different noises; and some of them sounded just like what I’d heard.

No way was I going to kneel out in the garden like prey when there was a big predator around. But where was it? I hurried from window to window, peering out. Nothing. Then I went through our attached garage to look north.

As I eased the door open and cautiously stuck my head out, a Great Blue Heron took off from our pond with an irritable squawk.

Yep, it turns out that cougar cries and close-range heron squawks sound remarkably similar.

So I did my garden duties after all, and my week turned out fine. I hope yours does, too — may all your scary cougars turn out to be harmless herons!

Book 17 update: The draft is FINISHED, woohoo! The title will be Live And Let Spy. I’m editing madly, and I hope to hand it off to my first beta reader next week. Stay tuned for cover art and a release date, coming soon!

28 thoughts on “On My Knees, Preying

    • Thank you! If I go the rest of my life without witnessing anything scarier than a heron, I’ll consider myself ridiculously lucky.
      The black bears were alarming when we first got here, and I still respect the hell out of them; but I don’t worry too much about them anymore. Although I still wouldn’t like to encounter one in my garden. 😉


  1. Before I get into the Cougar/Heron scare….I have to say congratulations on the completion of the draft for Live and Let Spy!!! Awesome!! Can’t wait!!! On the scare….brave woman and so glad you actually saw the Heron so you knew what the noise actually was. On the weather…..last week was brutal and then we did get rain (drizzle) at the end of the week. The hottest day last week down here was Wednesday and thus the true reason we went to Whidbey Island (from my blog) on that day!! Whidbey faces Victoria and thus the Puget Sound as it comes in from the Pacific. The western side of the island was getting very cool breezes (enough we could have used jackets) while the eastern side is what faces the mainland where we live and was a little cooler than we were, but still warm. Today is heating up again…..but nothing compared to Southern California!! Great Post!! Thanks for sharing….have a great week!!


    • Thanks, Kirt! We’re still toasty here at 32°C / 90°F, but at least it’s not as hot as last week. Your trip to Whidbey sounds like a perfect ‘cooling-off’ trip. And the dahlia photos on your blog are absolutely spectacular!

      I was really glad I’d discovered the heron, too — it’s much nice to know about a heron than to suspect a cougar! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Back in 83 I was on a trip to my aunts place inland from port MacNeil. On the bus ride up the driver was rather chatty and was answering questions from passengers. Someone asked if there were any bears on Vancouver Island, to which he replied ‘no’, and right on queue a bear ran across the highway!
    On a side note, we have a garter snake in the yard, hiding in the raspberry patch! Guess who screams like a girl upon seeing the snake? Yeah both of us:0


    • Hahaha!!! The problem with snakes is that they’re so sudden. I think snakes are cool. I enjoy watching them, and I’ve handled them without fear — even had a friend’s boa constrictor cuddle up around my shoulders. But… when they suddenly slither out of a place where I wasn’t expecting them? Yep, cue the yelp-and-twitch! 🙂


  3. Exciting about the finished draft. Congratulations and happy editing! I love the title of your post. 🙂 And, what can I say about mind tricks? That’s how (irrational) fear works. We let ourselves get carried away sometimes, but it makes for a good story.


  4. Herons aren’t harmless if you are feeding them some fish. Those beaks are sharp! Back in my rehab days I wore safety glasses around those things. A cougar, however, is a different story. I just steer clear.


    • Yeah, I’m torn between wanting to see a cougar because they’re such amazing animals, and hoping I never see a cougar in the wild. I think, all in all, I’d rather watch cougars on wildlife shows and forgo the ‘in-person’ experience. Now that you mention it, I’m wary of herons, too. They’re really BIG, and that beak looks as though it could impale a person. But at least they don’t actively hunt people. 😉


  5. Wow, Diane, you don’t even have to venture out of your property for some excitement! Good luck with your resident wildlife/ neighbors.
    Tjanks for the update as I am so looking forward to the next book!!


    • Thanks for the encouragement, Tori — I needed a bit today. I actually enjoy editing, but this book has been going on for so… LONG!

      And yes, our property has been the source of a little too much excitement at times. I’ve never actually seen a cougar, but we usually see several bears every summer. Not the kind of excitement I want… 😉


    • I wouldn’t have been surprised if the ravens had fooled me — it’s amazing how many sounds they can make. I wasn’t expecting a heron, though! They’re such cool birds; but usually they stay along the beach. I guess this one figures s/he’s got her/his own private beach right here. 🙂


  6. Yay! Fantastic that your book is almost ready to publish. A lot of work, but the end is in sight!

    Your cougar-heron seems a lot like a night visitor I have in my neighborhood. Sometimes, in the evening, I’ll hear what sounds like a trumpeting elephant. The honking sound will come from a tree or maybe from the bushes in the nearby field. It’s loud while it lasts, but it only lasts for a short few seconds.
    I’m pretty sure elephants don’t hide in trees in Southern California (but ya never know).

    Strangely enough, no one else in my family has been around to hear the calls, and they (my family, not the calls) are now beginning to side-eye me whenever I mention hearing the sounds.

    I haven’t figured out what the calls are – owls partying, raccoons sipping on fermented fruit, peacocks having nightmares? And I keep thinking, do I want to go out, in the dark, to find out? Or is that a “too stupid to live” move?


    • Oh, I hate those kinds of decisions! Anytime something like that happens to me, I hear an imaginary audience yelling, “NO! You IDIOT! Don’t go out there!” Of course, I go anyway; because I’d rather run face-first into trouble than have it sneak up on me.

      Just last week I got in my car and drove across our yard at night because I thought I’d seen somebody flashing a light over there. What could possibly go wrong when I’m safe in my car? (Audience: “NO! You IDIOT!”)

      It turned out that a cat had activated the motion-sensor lights on the house, and one light was reflected off a vehicle we’d parked over there. The reflection was only visible from one spot in the house, and I happened to pass through that spot. It looked as though the light turned on in the yard, and then flicked off as soon as I moved. But hey, at least I slept soundly after my investigation. 😉

      I’m laughing at your possibilities for the trumpeting! You’re right, in SoCal, anything could happen. I like the idea of a stealthy flying elephant, but then again, my mind is a bit twisted…


    • LOL! I’ve got “Live and Let Die” stuck in my brain, too. Sorry about the earworm, but at least it’s a good song. It would have been MUCH worse if I’d mentioned- *slams the brakes on that thought before even thinking the song title*

      Whew, crisis averted!


  7. OK, a large predator cat was not what I had in mind when you yelled “Cougar!!” 🤣 (Then I pictured some weird local custom where single middle-aged women are running rampant through the fields and neighborhoods, in search of well-muscled 20-somethings…) Anyway…

    I only remember one odd noise, when I lived on the other side of town, where the neighbors across the street backed up to a protected wetlands area. I kept hearing this weird metallic sound all day long, presumably coming from outside the house, but what did I know? At dusk, while looking up at the second story of the house, I saw a frog perched on the edge of the gutter. I’m guessing he had spent the day in the downspout, croaking…and have no idea how he eventually got down again.


    • Your gutter frog is hilarious! I love frogs, and we’ve been seeing a few more of them since we dug the pond. But if the heron decides to hang around, our frogs will get gobbled up in short order. Sigh.

      I’m laughing at your ‘cougar’ comment, too — I really wanted to make a ‘cougar’ joke, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit it in. Thanks for filling the gap — opportunities like that should never be wasted! 🤣


      • I used to see cougars more when I was younger…and that was by way of the Lincoln-Mercury commercials that had a cougar sitting on top of the sign. “At the sign of the cat!” (There are a few of those old ads on the YouTubes. I still remember the “growl” from those ads.) At the Detroit Auto Show, Ford had a smaller Lincoln-Mercury sign and someone would bring out a real cougar (the feline variety) to sit on top of it.

        As my mother used to say, I was going to the auto show to look at the new models. And some cars. 😁


        • Hahaha! Your mother was a perceptive woman. Those were the days of ‘booth babes’, weren’t they? I haven’t been to a car show in years, but I suspect booth babes aren’t a ‘thing’ anymore. Or maybe now there are gender-diverse booth babes…?


  8. Here’s to harmless herons, Diane. 😃 Sorry to hear you’re getting the heat now. It’s getting warmer again here, but nothing like it was the other week.


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