April 1980


TRILLIUM is in leaf and bud. FALSE HELLEBORE is coming up by the brook, and there are WATER STRIDERS on the brook. Down by the wet spot coming up from the river, I saw a SONG SPARROW. It flushed up just the way last year’s song sparrow did and chipped at me from a branch not too far away. I wonder if it has a nest near where last year’s nest was? BLUETS in bloom. FERNS beginning to poke up their FIDDLEHEADS, MARSH MARIGOLD in flower. I heard a new frog singing: brreeeep, brreeeep. Saw WHIRLIGIG BEETLES whirling around on the beaver pond. Pretty sure I heard a DUCK flapping its wings — like they do when they preen. Walked through a whiff of SKUNK (or maybe FOX?) SCENT in the pine woods near the upper bank of the beaver pond. SPRING BEAUTIES and HEPATICA are in bloom near the upper blind.

I noticed BLUETS on my way to Essex Junction. Also noticed ANTS crawling around in my kitchen.

What do city people want to know about PIGEONS? What can I say that will make me sound like an editorialist? How does an editorialist sound? It’s a mystery to me.

*****

STILL APRIL 26: FIELD TRIP WITH ELLISONS

At BLODGETT’S BEACH we saw TREE SWALLOWS, COMMON MERGANSERS, ROBINS, HERRING GULLS, BUFFLEHEADS, a SONG SPARROW, a CARDINAL, and a GREAT-BLACK-BACKED GULL. In the MARSH IN BACK OF GENERAL ELECTRIC (which is near Blodgett’s Beach), we saw CARDINALS, MALLARDS, and RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS. The Ellisons say this is a great spot for SPARROWS in the fall. In May there will be KILLDEER, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS, SWAMP SPARROWS, AND CAROLINA WRENS.

On the farm road in the INTERVALE, the group saw a YELLLOWLEGS but I missed it. We also saw MALLARDS, COMMON MERGANSERS, a group of SAVANNAH SPARROWS on the ground, a line of GEESE flying over, a CARDINAL, SONG SPARROWS, RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS, KINGFISHER HOLES in the riverbank, HERRING GULLS, a PURPLE FINCH, BARN SWALLOWS, GOLDFINCHES, CHICKADEES, a FLICKER, a VESPER SPARROW, a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, JUNCOS, ROBINS, a RUSTY BLACKBIRD in the swampy old oxbow area, which Walter says is good migratory habitat, a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, 2 RED-TAILED HAWKS (one soaring, one perched in a tree), BANK SWALLOWS, a PURPLE MARTIN, a GREAT BLUE HERON, a HORNED LARK (SKYLARKING is a bird singing while it’s flying around up in the sky). Walter heard an UPLAND SANDPIPER, but we never saw it.

At the DUMP, Walter heard a LEOPARD FROG. We saw 5 CATTLE EGRETS hanging around the WDOT tower, MALLARDS, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, TWO PARALLEL LINES OF GEESE (a V with two tag-along lines), a PINTAIL, a SWAMP SPARROW, a COWBIRD, a RED-TAILED HAWK perched in a tree, LONG-BILLED MARSH WRENS, and a GALLINULE. In May, SORA and VIRGINIA RAILS will be here.

On the road above the dump, we heard a MOCKINGBIRD singing a variety of songs. Walter identified the songs of a CHICKADEE, CARDINAL, UPLAND SANDPIPER, BLUE JAY, KILLDEER, ROBIN, STARLING, NUTHATCH, and something Walter called a song of its own.

*****

STILL APRIL 26: I wrote some notes to myself, which I entitled “Homework for the NEW YORK TIMES”:

Go to library and read Hoagland’s stuff
Call Hamilton Davis
Think about PIGEONS editorially.

Then I wrote the beginnings of a draft:

Pigeons have been living among us for a long time. Shortly after human beings began to see the advantage of living in cities, pigeons saw the advantage too. There they found a concentration of food and protection from predators.

Pigeons remind us of how adaptable some life forms are. In a world where snail darters and Furbish’s louseworts are threatened with extinction, pigeon populations continue to explode. Pigeons are doing well while other species are suffering because they have adapted to living comfortably among burgeoning populations of human beings….

A WEEVIL flew out of a can of yellow-eyed beans today. I’m beginning to think I’ll never be rid of them.

I saw ANT HILLS and COLTSFOOT down by the Sand Beach. Coltsfoot looks like a yellow aster — the center flowers are tubular, and the ray flowers are more like fringe. When they first come up, they have tight reddish purple buds. The stem is covered with greenish purple scales. Each flower grows singly, but they’re grouped close together suggesting that they have a common root. I can hear both ROBINS and PEEPERS singing close by.

Bob took me to the Burlington dump this morning to see what we could see. At first all we saw were gulls. Beyond the dump there’s a wide flat plain bounded on one side by the Beltline. In the distance Bob pointed out the steeples of one of the Catholic churches in Winooski. (Burlington is behind us; Winooski and Colchester are in front of us.) Bob pointed out “The Cobble,” which is in Colchester (or Milton?). He also pointed out the Thibaults’ and Sennesacs’ silos. There are three 300-foot tall red and white radio towers beyond Colchester high school, and the patch of evergreens growing on a hill are on the McCrea Farm. We can see the new houses just above the Ethan Allen Farm, and the Ethan Allen barn is just visible through the trees. Saw a COMMON (formerly Wilson’s) SNIPE in flight, making occasional sounds. Beyod the dump we could see a cattail field with with channels of water running through it. Bob says in spring the whole area is usually flooded and looks more like a lake than a field. He says when it’s flooded it’s full of ducks and geese. Right now it’s as low as it usually is in summer. There’s RED OSIER growing along the railroad tracks. The tracks are a spur from the main line of the Canadian Railroad (the one that goes through Essex Junction) to the Rutland Railroad (that now ends in Burlington and goes south toward Troy, NY). When Burlington built the Beltline, they drew fill from Pine Island in Colchester, and the bank where they dug it is still visible across the Intervale. Behind us we can see how the original bank here sloped down to the Intervale. Then they built the railroad, then the dump road, then the dump. Then they scooped fill from where we’re standing to cover the dump. Down in the Intervale itself, sandy soil has been deposited year after year by the river.

On Intervale Avenue Bob saw the FIRST FLICKER OF THE YEAR. We drove a ways and then hiked down a farm road not far from the dump. When we came to the river we saw signs that said: “Danger. Do not Anchor or Dredge. Gas Pipeline Crossing. Vermont Gas Systems.” Saw a FLICKER looking for a nest hole in a dead elm along the bank of the river. Walked to a point across the river from Tom Fitzgerald’s barn. Saw MOURNING CLOAKS out in the fields. Wildlife of the Intervale: DUCKS and GEESE in spring (they stay quite late), COMMON SNIPE, RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS, RING-BILLED GULLS, FLICKERS, KINGFISHERS, SORA AND VIRGINIA RAILS, GREAT HORNED OWLS, CROWS, MOURNING DOVES, RACCOONS, MUSKRATS, BEAVERS, (OTTER and MINK possible), and MOURNING CLOAKS. Pine Island was once covered by a pine forest. Bob says there’s still quite a pine woods on the Douglas Farm.

I saw TWO BEAVERS on the original pond. Saw PHOEBES (I think) around the upper blind.

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