May 2010


Left home at 5:05 a.m. It was 45 degrees out. From my stone wall I heard a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, PHOEBE, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, HOUSE WREN, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, BLUE JAY, ROBIN, CHICKADEE, and YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER. As I started down the road I heard a NUTHATCH, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, and OVENBIRD. Got to Blood’s at 5:20 a.m. and heard a WINTER WREN and RED-EYED VIREO. Near the Brook Trail crossing I heard a VEERY, HERMIT THRUSH, and maybe a CARDINAL. At the Big Bend I heard a SCARLET TANAGER. Got to the Nature Center at 5:37 a.m. and heard a BLUE-HEADED VIREO (I think), REDSTART, and GOLDFINCH. En route to the Lookout I heard a BROWN CREEPER, a CROW in the distance, and a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER. Got to the Lookout at 6:00 a.m. It’s warmer out this morning than it has been, and I’ve had a few bugs to contend with. Given the choice, I think I’d prefer slightly colder weather — but just cold enough to prevent the bugs, not the stone, bone-chilling cold I’ve felt some recent mornings. Sun’s just coming up. I can see it through the trees at the top of Mayo Mountain. As I was leaving the Lookout, two big black birds flew in. They were making funny sounds, and at first I thought they were ravens, but then I heard them caw like CROWS as they flew off. As I wandered along the steep-bank section of the Hires Trail, I heard a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, HERMIT THRUSH, BROWN CREEPER, OVENBIRD, and RED-EYED VIREO. I think I saw a little skirmish — or maybe a mating? — between two HERMIT THRUSHES. Just heard a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER near the Spear Trail intersection. I also heard a SCARLET TANAGER in this area, plus a GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER and a WINTER WREN. Got to Lichen Rock at 6:35 a.m. Heard a BLACK-THROATED GREEN, OVENBIRDS, a SCARLET TANAGER, WINTER WREN, and CHICKADEE. As I started downhill, I decided to poke around a bit looking for Bob’s old bench. No luck. I don’t think I’ll ever find its remains, but I’d still like to for old time’s sake. I think I just heard a JUNCO. Back to the road in time to wave to Ed as he drove down the hill on his way to school. Sun’s warm on my back again this morning. Lots of birds singing from both sides of the road. Waved to the school bus as it went down the hill. I saw a ROBIN at the end of Blood’s old driveway and wondered if it was the dead robin’s mate? Home at 7:15 a.m. Saw what I think was a CHIPPING SPARROW poking around at the end of my driveway.

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I didn’t take a walk yesterday morning because I went into Burlington to have breakfast with a friend. This morning it was 38 degrees again when I left the house at 5:10 a.m. Standing by my stone wall I could hear a PHOEBE, HOUSE WREN, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, TUFTED TITMOUSE, CHICKADEE, GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, and ROBIN. As I started down the road, I added a CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, WOOD THRUSH, WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, OVENBIRD, BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, DOWNY WOODPECKER, plus a BLUE JAY and a CROW in the distance. At Blood’s I heard a BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, BARRED OWL, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, WINTER WREN and BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. Near the Brook Trail crossing I heard a SCARLET TANAGER singing in the distance and a YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER. When I got to the Big Bend I could hear a SCARLET TANAGER singing from the woods near the White Pine meadow. There was a WOOD THRUSH singing in this area too, and a HERMIT THRUSH. Got to the Nature Center’s driveway at 5:45 and heard a small flock of agitated GOLDFINCHES making a fuss. Also heard more than one RED-EYED VIREO and a BROWN CREEPER. Reached the Lookout at 6:00 a.m., just as the sun was about to appear above Mayo Mountain. I just heard a trill that sounds like a JUNCO. The Lookout has always been a place where I can invite clarifying thoughts, but this morning the best I can muster is questions. I have no idea what these early morning walks — or my whole life, for that matter — are all about. I’m not sure it matters. I’m out here wandering and wondering, which should be enough. I’m moving through time — I just don’t know why or where I’m going. Left the Lookout at 6:15 and finally saw the triller perched at the top of a dead birch. It is indeed a JUNCO. Clarity and confirmation feels good amidst all my uncertainties. This section of the Hires Trail with the steep banks above and below it cuts through some great bird habitat: JUNCO, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, HERMIT THRUSH, OVENBIRD, SCARLET TANAGER, and BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. As I was wandering along I spotted a HERMIT THRUSH and watched him sing his song. It seemed as if he was singing straight from his heart — his whole chest moved when he sang. Are all these singers celebrating Christine Hires for providing them with these woods? Could it be that they’re also serenading me while they’re at it? How can I feel sad amidst all this song? My darkness is certainly stubborn and persistent. All of a sudden I felt like crying, but I didn’t. I leaned against a tree instead and rested for a while. Got to Lichen Rock at 6:45 a.m. Sun’s up well above the horizon and scattering its light on the part of the rock I just walked across. I can see several long strands of spider’s web glistening in the scattered light. The loudest bird song here this morning is a SCARLET TANAGER, with another one singing in the distance. I’m also hearing a BLACK-THROATED GREEN, A HERMIT THRUSH, and a GOLDFINCH. A bird just landed on the ground off to my left — a HERMIT THRUSH I think. Another one flew in and both disappeared into the woods before I could get my binoculars on them. Heard a WINTER WREN and then caught a glimpse of a bird on the ground again. I wonder if a pair of HERMIT THRUSHES is nesting on Lichen Rock? Got back to the road at 7:05 a.m. The SUN is actually warming my back this morning as I start toward home. Spotted a DEAD ROBIN on the side of the road right across from Blood’s old driveway. 7:15 a.m.: Just heard a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER singing from the Audubon woods, also a BLACK-THROATED BLUE. Home at 7:15 a.m.

I’m starting out at 5:15 a.m. this morning. It’s about 38 degrees. From my stone wall I could hear a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, TUFTED TITMOUSE, CHICKADEE, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, CATBIRD, ROBIN, PHOEBE, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, and NUTHATCH. When I turned to start down the road, I noticed some dusty red in the sky over where the sun is going to rise. As I walked down the road, I heard and saw 2 GEESE flying over. Also heard a CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, OVENBIRD, DOWNY WOODPECKER (drumming), and BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER. At Blood’s I heard a SCARLET TANAGER and WINTER WREN from a distance — maybe from the far side of the brook? Near the Brook Trail I heard a SOLITARY (BLUE-HEADED)VIREO. Near the Big Bend I heard a RED-EYED VIREO, HERMIT THRUSH, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, and BLUE JAY. I noticed that the red sky has now (5:40 a.m.) turned toward pearly white. Got to the Nature Center driveway at 5:45 a.m. and heard a WOOD THRUSH, GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, BROWN CREEPER, and GOLDFINCH. Got to the Lookout at 6:00 a.m. Sun’s just coming up, sky is blue, and clouds are now white. Heard a YELLOWRUMP.

THOUGHTS AND INSIGHTS: It would be really hard to map the territories of all the birds I’m hearing because they’re moving around, there are more than one of most species, and some seem to sing for a while and then go silent. I guess I’m beginning to understand the usefulness of POINT COUNTS. I guess also that the only way to confirm that a bird is nesting in a certain place — not just singing on its way through or around the edges of its territory — is to find the nest itself. Maybe that’s what I had in mind when I suggested that the Field Naturalist’s Master’s Project be a NEST QUEST: a season-long search for nests with lots of field notes, marked trees, shrubs, patches of ground, etc. plus quantification of the attributes of each of the confirmed nesting site. Oh well….

Sun’s up. Time to move on. 6:15 Hires Trail: I’m still hearing what I think might be a BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER near the intersection of the Spear Trail. I think I just heard a WILD TURKEY gobble in the distance and definitely heard a BLACK-THROATED GREEN along this trail. Got to Lichen Rock at 6:35 a.m. Sun is well up, but only a little bit of its light is filtering through the trees — just enough to make me glad I’m here. A SOLITARY (BLUE-HEADED) VIREO is serenading me this morning. If I were doing point counts, I’d definitely do one here. It’s a obvious landscape feature — a huge vegetated rock that’s elevated enough to give me a clear 360 degree view- and soundshed. I can definitely hear a SCARLET TANAGER from here and a HERMIT THRUSH and some mornings a WINTER WREN, which in my opinion qualifies Lichen Rock as a very special place. (I almost said “sacred,” but that word has been much used and abused by airheads….) As I was starting downhill at 6:55 a.m., I heard more GEESE flying over, headed the other way, I think. Got back to the road by 7:00 a.m., just in time to wave to the school bus as it headed down the hill. I also got to say good morning to Eli and Casie as they ran by like two healthy young deer. Home at 7:15 a.m. Heard a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW when I stopped to get the newspaper out of its delivery box.

LATER: At 1:10 p.m. I spotted a TIGER SWALLOWTAIL (first of season) at the Huntington end of  Dugway Road.

LATER STILL: Bob says he has a PAIR OF BLUE-WINGED TEAL hanging around his pond. They feed on the corn he scatters at the far end for the neighborhood ducks.

It’s 5:00 a.m. and 32 degrees out. I’m standing at my stone wall listening to the birds: a PHOEBE, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, HOUSE WREN, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, CHICKADEE, and ROBIN. When I started down the road I added an OVENBIRD, VEERY, and YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER. Halfway to Blood’s I heard the LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH and a BLACK-THROATED BLUE. From Blood’s clearing I heard a CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. Halfway to the Brook Trail I picked up a BLACK-THROATED GREEN and a BLUE JAY in the distance. At the Brook Trail crossing I heard a WINTER WREN, HERMIT THRUSH and RED-EYED VIREO. Got to the Nature Center’s driveway at 5:30 a.m. and heard a GOLDFINCH and a SOLITARY (BLUE-HEADED) VIREO (I think). On my way up to the Lookout I heard a MOURNING DOVE and a YELLOW-RUMP. Got to the Lookout at 5:50 a.m. It’s too cold to sit here. Not much wind, just COLD! Got to Lichen Rock at 6:10 a.m. It’s cold here too, but a HERMIT THRUSH is singing, and I heard a WINTER WREN on my way over here. When I was almost back to the road, I heard a REDSTART — first of season. Got to the road at 6:20 a.m. and heard a TUFTED TITMOUSE. I saw a GRAY SQUIRREL run across the road near the Brook Trail crossing. Also heard a SCARLET TANAGER in this area and a BROWN CREEPER a little farther up the road. Home at 6:40 a.m.

It’s 1:15 p.m., sunny, and 58 degrees. This will be a different kind of walk at a different time of day on some different trails. Walking up through the field across from my house, I heard a HOUSE WREN, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, CHICKADEE, and BLUE JAY. Near Bob’s pond I heard a BROWN CREEPER. From the Thinking Bench, I heard a NASHVILLE WARBLER (I think). I’ve decided to explore the Spear Trail to see what kind of shape it’s in and whether I can get through these days. In the woods, I heard an OVENBIRD, WINTER WREN, and HERMIT THRUSH. On the highest part of the old Den Trees Trail, I heard a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK singing a lovely solo. It moved around above my head and sang from several directions — just for me, it seemed. The HUGE OLD OAK, which was a great favorite of mine, got thrown in one of the big winds that has blown through these woods recently. My first thought was that this marks the end of an era. The main trunk is tipped at a precarious angle, but it’s not on the ground. I wonder if any limbs have survived? In the old days, as dead as the trunk looked, there were always a few branches producing new green oak leaves. I pushed through the mess to look closely at as much of the tree as I could see. The huge trunk has actually split three ways, and I don’t see any green leaves anywhere, so I guess the whole tree is really dead at this point. But I can see moss and ferns already growing on what’s left of it, so it’s still “alive” in a different way. End of one era and beginning of another? It’s 2:15 p.m., and the wind has come up. It’s welcome because it’s blowing the black flies away. I’ve always loved the sound of wind in the trees — especially a big wind in big trees. I’m glad I hiked all the way up here to enjoy this moment.

When I got down to the Hires Trail, I decided to backtrack over to the Lookout. Heard a BROWN CREEPER on my way. Got to the Lookout at 2:20 p.m. It feels a little strange to be here in the middle of the afternoon, but Camels Hump is bold and beautiful against the cloudless blue sky. No birds singing here at this time of day. The only sound I hear is the wind in the trees, which is almost as pleasing as bird song. Almost. En route from the Lookout to Lichen Rock, I heard a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. At Lichen Rock I was beset by bugs, so I headed downhill without standing around. Heard a BLACK-THROATED BLUE on my way to the road. Walking up the road, I heard a RED-EYED VIREO and CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. Home at 3:00 p.m.

Leaving at 5:00 a.m. It’s 50 degrees out. From my stone wall I can hear a PHOEBE, ROBIN, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, HOUSE WREN, CHICKADEE, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, and BLUE JAY. Near Blood’s I hear a trill that sounds like a CHIPPING SPARROW (but I’m not sure), and a LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, OVENBIRD, WINTER WREN, and NUTHATCH. Near the Big Bend I hear a BLACK-THROATED GREEN, HERMIT THRUSH, and BLACK-THROATED BLUE. Got to the Nature Center parking lot at 5:35 and heard a BROWN CREEPER, BLUE-HEADED VIREO, and CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. Got to the Lookout at 5:50 a.m. It’s a gray day, and I’m feeling a bit gray. Even the HERMIT THRUSH that’s singing here isn’t cheering me up. I find myself wondering why I can’t focus on and prioritize my own life, my own work, my own interests? Why do I spend so much time being mad at the Museum and the people who are running it these days? There’s nothing I can do about anything that’s going on there, and I need to just let it all be. Can I MAKE myself focus on my own life? We’ll see. Maybe I should begin by spending some time TODAY posting my notes on my morning walks to my NATURALIST’S JOURNAL….

At 6:03 a.m., all of a sudden it’s raining! The wind is coming up and the temperature is dropping. Time to move on. En route to Lichen Rock I heard a HERMIT THRUSH singing a loud song close to the trail. Is he singing for me? I’ll pretend he is and try to feel more cheerful. There’s a BLACKBURNIAN singing along this trail too. How can I stay depressed amidst such beautiful songs? Just picked up the chick-boing of a SCARLET TANAGER in the distance, so now I’ve got three of my favorite birds rooting for me….

Got to Lichen Rock at 6:20. It’s stopped raining, but it’s still cold and gray. No sun to stand in this morning. No winter wren. Just this huge, strong, moss-covered rock, which at least gives me a solid foundation to stand on. The woods are messy here — lots of wind-thrown and down trees — but none of it bothers me. I can still remember the historic turning-point moment over 30 years ago when I suddenly saw the messy, chaotic beaver-pond-in-the-making as beautiful just as it was — and let go of my silly human desire to clean it up and make it a tidy, orderly, manicured pond. From that moment on, the natural world — just as it is — has been my comfort zone. Will I ever be able to let go of my frustrating and exhausting desire to make the human world a better place? If I could manage to let everything be, maybe I could make more space for myself, my deeper self, which doesn’t get much time and attention these days. I’m still at Lichen Rock at 6:30 a.m. The SCARLET TANAGER just sang me a supportive song. How can I care about anything except birds at this time of year? Back to the road at 6:45 a.m. Heard a PARULA WARBLER singing near the entrance to the lower Brook Trail. Also heard a DOWNY WOODPECKER (I think) working on a roadside tree. Home at 7:00 a.m.

Left for my walk at 5:10 a.m. It was 44 degrees out. Right outside my house I heard a TUFTED TITMOUSE, PHOEBE, HOUSE WREN, CHICKADEE, BLUE JAY, CATBIRD, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, ROBIN, VEERY, trill that sounds like a JUNCO, OVENBIRD, and NUTHATCH. At Blood’s I heard a WINTER WREN, BARRED OWL, and LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH. At the Big Bend I heard a BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, HERMIT THRUSH, YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, and BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER. Got to the Nature Center parking lot at 5:45 a.m. and heard a trill that sounded more like a CHIPPING SPARROW than a junco. Also heard a WOOD THRUSH, RED-EYED VIREO, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER. Got to the Lookout at 6:00 a.m. Heard a MOURNING DOVE on my way up and a HERMIT THRUSH while I was sitting on the bench. It was singing from off to my left. There’s mist in the valley this morning, the sky is gray, and Camels Hump is behind clouds. The woods are dripping even though it’s not raining. Heard what a think was the trill of a JUNCO. I wish my ears were better at telling JUNCOS and CHIPPING SPARROWS apart. On my way to Lichen Rock I heard a BLUE-HEADED VIREO and think I heard a SCARLET TANAGER — first of season. At Lichen Rock a WINTER WREN sang me a beautiful song just as I arrived at 6:30 a.m. Back to road at 6:45 and home at 6:55 a.m.

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