July 2010

It’s 45 degrees F at 5:45 a.m., so it’s actually COLD this morning! How long will this last? It feels good for a change. Heard CHICKADEES but not much else for birdsong out in front of the house. I can hear some sounds in the distance but nothing I can identify. As I was starting up into the field toward Bob’s Pond, I heard a MOURNING DOVE, HERMIT THRUSH, and GOLDFINCH. The MOON is visible this morning — a waning gibbous. There’s MIST rising from the Pond. From the Thinking Bench I heard a BLUE JAY, ROBIN, and SCARLET TANAGER. From the Fallen Hemlock I heard a RED-EYED VIREO. A ways farther on, I paused to lean against my new Leaning Tree just as I started down toward the Stone Crossing. Got to the Stone Crossing at 6:30 a.m. Sitting in this special place, I heard two HERMIT THRUSHES serenading me, then a GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER. When I headed on downhill, I heard a CROW in the distance and an ALDER FLYCATCHER singing from the Saxtons’ Meadow. I think I saw a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK on the road when I was almost home.


It’s 60 degrees at 6:20 a.m. When I paused by my Stone Wall to listen for birds, a DOWNY WOODPECKER peeked overhead. I actually saw it for once. It was in the maple that’s directly across the road from my mailbox. I’m hearing a CATBIRD this morning, and a BLUE JAY, HERMIT THRUSH, ROBIN, and GOLDFINCH. I spotted a few more ripe BLACKBERRIES and ate them. Got to the Eagle Scout’s Bench at 6:35 a.m. It’s cool and breezy this morning even if the temperature is 60 degrees. I can see some hints of blue in the morning sky, but there’s a lot of gray too. It feels like a gray day from where I’m sitting. I wonder if Bob would be willing to clear the small trees at this end of his pond to open up the view from this bench? I think I’ll go looking for more BLACKBERRIES. Got to the Thinking Bench at 6:50 a.m. with a few stops for blackberries. I think I’m hearing a WOOD THRUSH, but I need to hike up into the woods and listen carefully. On my way up to this bench, I decided to retire at least 5 of my white flags that aren’t marking SUNDEWS anymore. As I sit here I think I might be hearing a PEWEE up in the woods behind me. MOVING ON: I definitely heard a PEWEE. Noticed a small RED EFT in the damp leaf litter on the edge of the trail I’m walking on. Heard a MOURNING DOVE in the distance. Am seeing more EFTS, so I guess I can declare this an EFTY morning. I’ve been noticing FALSE MORELS along this trail for about a week. Or maybe they’re FALSE CHANTERELLES? I seem to have quit paying attention to mushrooms. I need to review my field guides…. On my way back down through the overgrown field, I saw a SONG SPARROW that wasn’t singing. Just heard a YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER. The SUN is now shining brightly through the gray clouds. Just saw the white rump patch of a FLICKER. Also spotted a HOUSE WREN.

It’s 54 degrees at 6:30 a.m. I saw a PHOEBE out the kitchen window before I left the house. It was hovering near the generator. Saw a MOURNING DOVE perched on the wire across the road. Lots of BLUE JAYS around this morning. Also a CHICKADEE, a ROBIN, and a ROBIN chasing a BLUE JAY. Heard a GOLDFINCH and saw two WOODPECKERS moving around together in a dead tree. They were bigger than DOWNIES, and I spotted some red on one’s throat, so I’m guess they were IMMATURE YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS. Lots of bird activity this morning. I just heard one song I don’t recognize plus a NUTHATCH. A mist is rising from Bob’s Pond this morning. I flushed one DUCK when I got here, and Bob says all the ducks at his pond are WOOD DUCKS, so I guess I can say with some certainty that I flushed a WOOD DUCK. Just heard a HERMIT THRUSH singing a loud and lovely song. Got to the Eagle Scout’s Bench at 6:50 a.m. I hesitate to sit down here for fear I’ll have another meltdown…. A HAWK just flew over — small to mid-sized, long tail. I need a song or a call to even begin to identify it. Every word I write feels like a hassle. Will my new plan make it easier to post my voluminous notes? Probably not. I’ll continue to write compulsively as I move along on these long, slow, frequently punctuated walks. And I’ll continue to post compulsively for fear I’ll leave something out. Maybe I should just type away and edit as I go, trying at least to make my NATURALIST’S JOURNAL a little more interesting. Am I my own best friend or worst enemy? All I know is that I’m in a serious wrestling match with my HABITS these days…. MOVING ON: Then there are my idiot WHITE FLAGS. Checking them on my way up to the Thinking Bench, I discovered that many of them don’t even mark SUNDEWS anymore, which is why I put them there in the first place. I moved a few around a bit so they’d still be marking the SUNDEW closest to where they were. Maybe I should just collect them all and forget about my effort to figure out how extensive the bed is. They’re there, and that’s all that really matters. Why they’re there and how many of them there are will have to remain a mystery until a student shows up and wants to analyze them for a grade or credit or an indenpendent study or maybe even a thesis? Got to the Thinking Bench at 7:15 a.m. Now I’m feeling like a confused Miss Muffett. The spider was here first, and along I came and almost sat on it. If it were a real spider I would have squashed it, but none of that rhymes…. So here’s a new version of the nursery rhyme that describes me: Little Miss Muffett sat on a tuffett sipping her coffee and thinking./She noticed a spider etched right beside her, wondered and kept on drinking. I think I’m going nuts….

Got to the Fallen Hemlock at 7:30 and sat on it briefly. Heard a RED-EYED VIREO and a GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER. MOSQUITOES are out. I quit. Not even my moods belong to me. They just come upon me, sometimes good, sometimes bad. I have no control. I give up. Time to go home before I work myself into another meltdown. Found a few RIPE BLACKBERRIES and ate on my way home. Maybe they’ll cheer me up?

At 6:30 a.m., it’s only 52 degrees. I spotted a small RABBIT in the extra parking space across the road and a ROBIN perched on the wire to the right of the mailbox. It’s actually chilly this morning for a change. I hear a BLUE JAY fussing somewhere nearby. Walking up the middle path through the field I heard a PHOEBE, NUTHATCH, and HOUSE WREN. Noticed BINDWEED in bloom. Also MEADOWSWEET and GOLDENROD. Heard a WINTER WREN singing from the woods near Bob’s Pond again this morning. I flushed FOUR DUCKS when I got to the pond. Ducks always see me before I see them….

Sitting on the Eagle Scout’s Bench at 6:40 a.m., I heard a GOLDFINCH and realized that I’m having a MAJOR MELTDOWN. I’ve been taking long walks — many of them early in the morning — for over 30 years, and I’ve also been taking notes in my little pocket notebooks. Now that I’m trying to type them all up to create a blog-as-searchable-archive of my many years of observation, I’m feeling overwhelmed. I don’t even feel like taking walks anymore because I’ll just have to type up more of what right now feels like trivia. The WALKS themselves are important because they are my PRACTICE, my HOMEWORK FOR A VISION, and the notebooks are part of it all too. They keep me moving, they keep me writing, they keep me paying attention, they help me remember, and they used to provide me with the raw material to work with when I was writing. ( JUST HEARD AND SAW A PILEATED WOODPECKER. IT FLEW INTO THE TOP OF A TALL TREE AT THE OTHER END OF THE POND.) But as I’m typing up my current entries plus the old ones, I’m losing energy, losing confidence, questioning whether it’s worth it. The notebooks exist. The records — such as they are — are there in my own handwriting. Maybe all I need is an INDEX?

I’m just remembering the year I spent writing a monthly column for a friend who was editing a new outdoor magazine. I worked through all my old notebooks searching for details that would help me create the feeling of the month, the key events that mark that particular time of year. Then I wrote up a little introductory essay and offered dated references — notes from my notebooks — of what I had observed one year or another. To put it all together, I took notes on my notes, creating a rough index to key observations, and by the end of my year of columns had come up with what could be a small book entitled A NATURALIST’S YEAR — or maybe A NATURALIST’S CALENDAR? I’m just remembering that my friend told me that his readers were telling him that they always turned to my column first. Since they were mostly hunters and fishermen, I was pleased to know that they found my observations interesting.

Maybe I should rethink what I’m doing? Maybe this NATURALIST’S JOURNAL blog should be my thoughts and meditations, plus just enough surrounding detail to establish where I was, the mood I was in, etc. Maybe I should also include key sightings — FIRST OF SEASONS and other SEASONAL INDICATORS? Or should all those go into my INDEX, which I can call my NATURALIST’S ARCHIVE?

My huge stack of notebooks are all just raw material. I need to CREATE something — or maybe several things — out of them to make all the typing feel worthwhile. If I just type and type and type them, I’m just a drone, a clerk/typist.

So now I’ve got THREE PROJECTS instead of just this one long endless one: (1) A NATURALIST’S ARCHIVE (an index, an annotated index, a skeletal reference system to help me find things in my pocket notebooks) (2) A NATURALIST’S YEAR — or CALENDAR (the columns I wrote for my friend’s short-lived outdoor magazine) (3) A NATURALIST’S JOURNAL (my moods and moments, my thoughts, and just enough fact and detail to create the time and place, the context).

So now I’m not depressed anymore, but I’m not quite sure where to begin. Heard a CHICKADEE while I was writing. The BLACKBERRIES are turning red and some are already black.

At the Thinking Bench at 7:15 a.m., I just noticed that someone scratched what looks like a big spider where I usually sit. It’s not carved into the wood, just scratched into the dark discoloring that will eventually decompose this whole bench. I wonder who did it and when? Ah, the mysteries happening all around me while I’m thinking about things….

At 5:30 a.m. it’s 64 degrees, but the breeze makes it feel cooler than that. Maybe I can manage to make myself take a walk this morning. First birds I heard were a ROBIN, PHOEBE (two of them), a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, and a HOUSE WREN. From the woods near Bob’s Pond, I heard a WINTER WREN. Sitting on the Eagle Scout’s Bench at the far end of the pond at 5:45 a.m., I feel more like sitting than walking this morning. My right leg is stressed, so I’m moving very slowly, but at least I’m moving. Just heard a GOLDFINCH. Maybe I can focus on finding some new sitting stations to motivate this walk? The view from the Eagle Scout’s Bench isn’t very inspiring, but it’s a good place to listen for birds hanging around Charlie’s feeders and the edgy woods that separate the Birds of Vermont Museum’s property from Charlie’s and Audubon’s. As I started up toward my Thinking Bench, I heard a WOOD THRUSH and a BLUE JAY. Got to the Thinking Bench at 5:55 a.m. Noticed a small RED EFT just as I sat down. Now I’m hearing a HERMIT THRUSH, which makes me question whether I heard a WOOD THRUSH before? Just heard a CHICKADEE. When I started into the woods above the Thinking Bench I found a good new sitting station a short ways up. I’ve named it the Fallen Hemlock. Sitting on it, I heard more than one HERMIT THRUSH but not a WOOD THRUSH. Moving on, I finally heard a WOOD THRUSH, so they’re definitely around too. Also heard a RED-EYED VIREO. I didn’t feel like hiking any higher so I cut over to the logging road and up just as far as the trail to the Stone Crossing. I think there’s more than one WOOD THRUSH in this area. I found a good Leaning Tree near the beginning of the Stone Crossing Trail. It’s a big maple. Got to the Stone Crossing at 6:20 a.m. Heard five species I had already heard and added a BLUE-HEADED VIREO. I’m exhausted. I think I’ve totally worn myself out worrying about Bob and myself and my life and numerous other things. Moving on and heading downhill, I heard a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW and from Saxtons’ Meadow, I heard a SONG SPARROW. My grand total for this morning’s short walk was only 13 species, but I found two new places to pause and listen. Got home at 7:00 a.m.

The temperature is somewhere in the mid-60’s, and it’s breezy this morning. I stopped at the parking lot at the far end of the Gillett Pond on my way to the boat launch just to listen for whatever birds I might hear up at that end. I heard a SWAMP SPARROW and what I think was an ALDER FLYCATCHER, not a PHOEBE, out in the marshy area. Closer in I heard a SONG SPARROW, RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD, HOUSE WREN (I think), and COMMON YELLOWTHROAT. A GRACKLE flew over while I was standing there listening. Along the road near the boat launch, I heard a RED-EYED VIREO and a BLUE JAY, and my friend who lives near Gillett Pond and owns part of the shoreline, saw a CROW while he was wheeling his canoe up the road from his house to the boat launch. None of these birds count toward the total for our annual paddle around Gillett Pond, but they are of interest. When my friend left his house, the temperature was 68 degrees, and the first thing we noticed when we started paddling at 8:02 a.m. was that it was windy on the water. We heard or saw 21 species this year: 1.TUFTED TITMOUSE, 2.BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, 3.RED-EYED VIREO, 4.RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD, 5.JUNCO, 6.CEDAR WAXWINGS, 7.VEERY, 8.HERMIT THRUSH, 9.PEWEE, 10.WINTER WREN, 11.BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, 12.ROBIN, 13.PHOEBE, 14.BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, 15.BLUE-HEADED VIREO, 16.BLUE JAY, 17.KINGFISHER, 18.SONG SPARROW, 19.SWAMP SPARROW, 20.GOLDFINCH, 21.CROW. As always, it was an interesting paddle. Gillett Pond is a special place, and every year I tell myself that I’m going to spend more time there….

At 5:20 a.m., it’s already 63 degrees, and I don’t feel at all like going for a walk. From my Stone Wall, I heard a HOUSE WREN, PHOEBE, and OVENBIRD, and realized that I really, really don’t want to take a walk this morning, but I’m going to MAKE myself take at least a short one. I wandered down the road toward the Museum and added a CHICKADEE, BLUE JAY, and ROBIN to my list. When I got to the Saxtons’ Meadow, I heard a SONG SPARROW, and it started sprinkling, which gave me almost enough of an excuse to quit this walk right then. But I turned around and started back toward my trail system, when all of a sudden it started raining in earnest, which saved me from having to make any more decisions. Home free! I have not taken a good walk since the day before Bob’s second surgery, and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to resume them anytime soon. I’m exhausted and discouraged by the heat and my post-surgical responsibilities. I give up.

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