TEMPLE — Snowmobiles are an intrusion into the natural life of a partridge deep in the woods in the Temple area.
One bird apparently wants people to know that.
As a Maine guide and this writer were riding along a snowmobile trail, enjoying the sun and beauty of freshly fallen snow Thursday, they see trail caution signs bearing another warning.
“Attack partridge ahead,” state two handwritten signs, one posted on each end of a stretch of trail to caution riders.
Out of concern for the safety and protection of the bird, the guide requests that the location is not given and his identity kept anonymous.
The signs must bear witness of what other riders have experienced, he said.
With the wind whistling through the trees Thursday, the chances the bird would appear seemed rather slim. They normally settle down in windy conditions and perch in tall trees, their colorful feathers hiding their existence, he said.
On the ride out, there’s no bird in sight — although I feel something lightly hit the back of my hood. Not seeing or feeling anything more, I guess it must be just a rather large piece of snow falling from branches.
On the ride back, all of a sudden, the bird flies up, landing beside the machine to waddle through the snow. As the engine stops, its gentle cooing can be heard.
It is the cooing that gives its location away to hunters, the guide said. It also doesn’t stay still while cooing.
The bird waddled around within three feet of us, allowing ample photo opportunities.
“It’s out of character,” the guide said. “Usually, they are very elusive.”
The guide’s story is verified as the partridge stays close until other snowmobilers pull up and wait to pass.
This was not the guide’s first experience with the bird. On Sunday, he took his girlfriend for a snowmobile ride along the same trails and chuckled when he saw the first sign, he said.
He continued down the path, maybe at 10 or 15 mph, he said.
“Then I noticed a partridge flying by my head,” he said. “I turned my head to look at him, and it turned its head to look back at me, eye to eye.”
They stopped the machine and the bird landed near them. It walked up to them and around the sled a couple times before laying down in the snow, cooing and watching.
“Every time we tried to move, the bird came with us,” he said. “We stopped three times; each time, we could have reached out and touched it at any time.”
They decided that was enough, made sure the bird was out of the way and pushed the sled on, leaving the bird behind, he said.
Down the path, they found a good place to turn around and started back when they spotted the second sign warning, “attack partridge ahead.”
Then the bird came back, landing beside them.
“The bird did not want to leave,” he said. “It landed on her shoulder twice and then her helmet while we were traveling. She squealed and pushed it from her shoulder.”
The bird didn’t attempt to peck or hurt them.
“I’ve been a guide for a long time,” he said. “I’ve seen deer put hooves on cars and played ‘slap a sleeping moose’ when I was a kid. But I’ve never seen anything like this. Usually what you see of a partridge is its tail feathers disappearing at 60 mph.”
It appears that the bird is territorial, or it may not like the sound of the snowmobile, he said.
“When I look in his eye, his expression seems to say to me that we’re intruding in his home,” the guide said. “He is one of God’s creatures, too.”