March 1980


After supper I heard a POLISTES buzzing around the light above the stove — a deeper, richer buzzing than the nervous sound the CLUSTER FLY makes. I caught it in two glasses and put it outdoors. While I was outside I heard the FIRST WOODCOCK PEENT OF THE SEASON. I went down to the barn to tell Bob, and on the way back, I heard the whistle of its wings. Their whistle is much higher pitched and less wavering than the GOLDENEYE’S.

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Bob put 5 bird houses up around the yard and garden and back in the clearing where I have the hammock. He says we might get swallows, bluebirds, and wrens.

My sinuses seem to act up during sugaring. They are bothering me right now — on a warm, sunny, clear spring day. Made a second visit to the ETHAN ALLEN HOMESTEAD to check for SKUNK CABBAGE. The pointed tips of their leaves were poking up out of the leaf litter in the swamp.  I noticed some bright green at the base — very well camouflaged. There’s still some ice in the swampy water. I picked one set of leaves, including the green toward the base. The leaves were tightly wrapped like endive. In the center I found a hard little structure that looked like a pin cushion. It was streaked green spotted with purple. SKUNK CABBAGE smells horrible — like a wet dog that’s been into something. I spotted a big fat one, purple on the outside, completely submerged. Little gnats(?) were active around a sawed-off stump.

TWO ROBINS feeding in the melted spot above the septic tank. I noticed them from my study window. They’re the first I’ve seen this year although Lucius and Bob had both seen them earlier. Saw a CARDINAL on the Richmond Hill yesterday afternoon. It was perched in a bush beside the road. I went to SHELBURNE FARMS today.

REDWINGS definitely singing down at the marsh. Lucius says they’ve been here for several days. ROBINS too.

PURPLE FINCHES at the milk jug feeder. JUNCO around the yard and in the lilacs. RED OSIER is the color of the lipstick I used to think was attractive when I was a teeny bopper back in the 1950s — brazen red.

We went to the SOUTH HERO RAILROAD FILL today. To get there we turned left on South Street in South Hero and right on Martin Road (dirt). We saw a HUGE FLOCK OF CANVASBACKS in the open water between the Colchester and South Hero railroad fills. A few GOLDENEYES too. They whistle with their wings when they take off, a high-pitched, wavering whistle. We watched a group of them going through their mating antics — male twists his head back and grasps his tail. We also saw 1 MERGANSER (flying), 3 BUFFLEHEADS, and a pair of BALDPATES. Bob says the split-rail fences on the Champlain Islands are made of WHITE CEDAR.

A CHIPMUNK came out from under the box in front of my house this morning and looked for seeds among the shells that have fallen out of the bird feeder. Went to ETHAN ALLEN HOMESTEAD to check for SKUNK CABBAGE. None yet. Possible subjects for Shelburne Farms: Ecotones, Seasons, Wetlands.

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