November 1978

Today I’m watching CHICKADEES at the feeder. They dart in and out, wary, active. I notice the roundness of head and body, black eye hidden in the black cap, long narrow tail, thin, short legs, small feet. They flit and dart, chase each other away, hold a seed with one foot and crack into it with short sharp beak. First real SNOW of the winter last night. Everything clean and white and fresh. It looks and feels good now, but I’m already dreading winter.


It’s a beautiful crystalline day. Heavy frost all over everything. Brilliant clear sunshine. Bob reported 2 degrees F when he got up at 6:00 a.m. Put on my long underwear for the first time this year. A RED SQUIRREL has discovered the milk jug feeder. It climbed up a nearby shrub and is  now sitting inside the jug eating seeds as fast as it can. CHICKADEES are flying around, but they can’t manage to chase it out. Red squirrel has a white eye ring, large dark eyes, catlike whiskers, round face, short round ears, white underside, tan sides blending into reddish on the back. Tail is smaller and thinner than the gray squirrel’s. While it was sitting in the feeder, it picked up sunflower seeds in its front paws and fed itself as if it were eating with its hands.

Woke up to find a powdering of SNOW on the roof and lawn. Midmorning first SNOW FLURRY of the season. Noticed first flock of EVENING GROSBEAKS at the sunflower seed feeder a few days ago.

I decided to watch a BLUE JAY at the feeder today. CHICKADEES are in and out one at a time and take one seed at a time. One BLUE JAY took 14 seeds, another took 15 seeds, another took 3, another took 13, another took 15, and another took 15. BLUE JAYS seem to pick seeds over and select the ones they want. Seem to approach cautiously, look around a lot before they start collecting. Gray chest, whitish down toward belly; underside of tail white; black ring around neck, up behind “ears” and around in back of crest; black bill, black line in front of each eye and over top of bill; black ring around neck doesn’t quite meet black marks going up around ears. Black at the base of the underside of the tail. Body blue with black and white wings. Blue and black tail feathers with white at tips. Black legs. A BLUE JAY drove off an EVENING GROSBEAK. Black line pulling back from eye. Only one EVENING GROSBEAK making visits to the feeder right now.

Today Bob and I went over to the La Platte River where it flows into Shelburne Bay. We canoed upriver from the boat access. Saw a GREATER YELLOWLEGS. Bob said it was late for yellowlegs. Heard loud CRICKETS singing from the trees. Heard a PILEATED WOODPECKER near some huge white pines along the bank. Saw a TREE SPARROW. At first Bob thought it was a VESPER SPARROW, but he didn’t see white tail feathers. Saw three ducks in the distance. Saw a GREAT HORNED OWL. We went ashore and walked along the bank for a while. We saw an old beaver lodge built right into the bank. There were big enough holes in it that if we had been feeling more adventurous we could have crawled up into it. Saw a second bank lodge on our way back, not far from the mouth of the river. Saw a MUSKRAT LODGE out in Shelburne Bay not far from where the La Platte River enters the Bay. It got really cold after the sun went down.

I finally decided to go ahead and lie down on a bed of haircap moss. It was soft and supportive. When I turned over on my stomach I could smell the pine needles that were mixed in with the moss. I wanted to stay right there for a long time. It was cool and restful on a warm fall day. I find myself wondering if my obsession with information will ever again yield to poetry? Flushed two RUFFED GROUSE in the second meadow on my way back home.

I hear a CRICKET up in the trees behind the barn. Scared up a GREAT BLUE HERON when I was walking by the lowest beaver pond, way down by the river’s floodplain. Heard a few GRASSHOPPERS singing in the wildflower meadow behind Walter Heath’s house. I noticed SPIDER WEBS connecting the trees above the beaver lodge. They were  glistening in the sun.