It’s in the mid-50s today, and I’m getting started at 6:40 a.m. We’ve “sprung forward,” which means it’s only 5:40 a.m. by my body’s time, but I’m fully awake and ready to go out to see what I can see. The sky is still dark, and I see numerous STARS instead of a lone VENUS. I got to the Park Beach at 7:00 a.m., feeling a bit disoriented in the darkness. The only activity here is two dog walkers, one of whose dogs is barking at me. No birds.

Got to the Cedar Cove Rocks at 7:05 a.m. It would be too dark to write in my notebook if it weren’t for the Island Room lights. The sky has gotten a little brighter, and I can’t see the stars anymore, but VENUS is still up there: solitary, clear, and bright just as it always is. The eastern horizon is the rich dark red of pre-CIVIL TWILIGHT. Actually, I like this time of morning, but I’m sure I’ll be tired later since I’m making do with only about six hours of sleep last night. No bird activity at all as of 7:15 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

At 7:20 a.m. I’m at the Cedar Cove Townhouses. Civil Twilight is due to begin at 7:21 a.m., and the bird activity is just starting too. A single CORMORANT just flew by, and now I can see a flock of BLACK SKIMMERS. I might have just heard a LOON? All of a sudden I’m hearing a lot of bird sound. VENUS is still visible in the clear blue sky above the now dusty pink horizon. I’ve about decided I should keeping working away at posting these daily notes because they record the days of my life, or maybe just the parts of my days I want to remember….

Got to the Cedar Key Marina at 7:35 a.m. and saw a GREAT EGRET standing on the edge of the water over by what used to be called the Raw Bar and is now BRYAN’S BIG DECK. I heard a KINGFISHER just as I got here, but I didn’t see it. The water is dead calm inside the Marina. By 7:40 I was down at the far end standing on the Dock Street Bridge. I saw the KINGFISHER perched on the #3 Green Channel Marker. The water is calm near the bridge too, but it’s rippled out farther into the Gulf. From the Marina side of the bridge, I can now see TWO GREAT EGRETS, one down by the boat launch, the other closer to me. The one at this end has a SNOWY EGRET and THREE (!!!) TRICOLORED HERONS hanging around with it.

It’s 8:05 a.m. and time to head home, but it’s been a magnificent morning, and I’m glad I was up early enough to enjoy it.


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 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.

At 5:20 a.m., it’s 48 degrees out. From my Stone Wall, I heard a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, ROBIN, HOUSE WREN, and COMMON YELLOWTHROAT. I also noticed that the MOON was still visible, even closer to half than yesterday. When I walked down the road the short distance to my side boundary pin, I saw a long, slender cloud floating directly above Camel’s Hump and heard a BLUE JAY. On my way up to Bob’s Pond, I heard a GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, SONG SPARROW, and VEERY (I think — I heard just its veer note). At the pond I heard a HERMIT THRUSH. Also heard a woodpecker feeding on a tree near the pond and finally SAW A DOWNY. Heard a RED-EYED VIREO, OVENBIRD, WINTER WREN, and PHOEBE above the pond. From the Thinking Bench, I heard a CHICKADEE and TUFTED TITMOUSE. In the woods on my way up to the back boundary, I heard a SCARLET TANAGER, BLUE-HEADED VIREO, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, and BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER. Got to my Sitting Root at 6:02 a.m. It feels quiet here this morning. It’s a lovely morning, but the sound seems somewhat subdued. My brain feels subdued too, or maybe it’s my whole body that’s tired…. Heard a PEWEE and YELLOW-BELLED SAPSUCKER. Moving on, I heard a BROWN CREEPER. Got to my Leaning Rock at 6:20 a.m. It’s peaceful here this morning — only an occasional gentle breeze blowing through. OVENBIRDS own the airwaves with an occasional PEWEE tuning from the distance — and a woodpecker tapping on a tree. Heard a BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER. MOSQUITOES are active this morning. Time to move on. Along the logging road, I heard a LEAST FLYCATCHER, WOOD THRUSH, REDSTART, and JUNCO. At the corner where the logging road rounds a bend and starts downhill, I heard lots of song. The sun is shining through the leaves right here. Is that why the birds are singing? Or is it the convergence of habitats here — my woods, Cote’s woods, and Saxtons’ clearcut? Maybe both? As I head downhill, I’m still hearing a Wood Thrush — a second one? At the Stone Crossing at 6:45, I heard a Red-eyed Vireo, Robin, Chickadee, Hermit Thrush, Winter Wren, Blue-headed Vireo, Ovenbird, woodpecker drumming, MOURNING DOVE in the distance, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. The water here is only faintly audible this morning. As I headed downhill I heard YOUNG RAVENS in the distance (I think), a RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD, the metallic chink of a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, a GOLDFINCH, and GRACKLES. Altogether I heard or saw 34 species this morning.

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.

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.

Leaving on my walk at 5:40 a.m. It’s 32 degrees out this morning. Across from the house I heard a TUFTED TITMOUSE, PHOEBE, CHICKADEE, and ROBIN. As I wandered down the road I added an OVENBIRD, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER,  WINTER WREN (across from Blood’s), BLACK-THROATED GREEN, NASHVILLE WARBLER (I think), BLACK-THROATED BLUE, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, GEESE (honking overhead), RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (from a distance). Got to the Nature Center at 6:05 a.m. and heard a GOLDFINCH and BROWN CREEPER. Got to the Lookout at 6:20 a.m. I feel slow and heavy this morning — as if I’m dragging myself on this walk. My ears aren’t sure of what they’re hearing. It’s cold out, I’m cold, and I’m not having as much fun as I usually do on my early morning walks. Camels Hump is bold and clear, and the sun is above the ridgeline. Will my spirits rise before I get home? The high-pitched singer along the steep bank section of the Hires Trail is sounding more like a BLACKBURNIAN than a BLACK-AND-WHITE this morning. The mystery triller is sounding more like a CHIPPING SPARROW than a JUNCO. A BLUE JAY just flew over, and I think I just heard a GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER — first of season. More GEESE flew over. I tried hard to see the triller but couldn’t. Heard a RED-EYED VIREO Got to Lichen Rock at 6:55 a.m. The WINTER WREN sang only part of its song for me — loud but incomplete. It just sang again, and I think it got through its whole song this time. When I turned in my 360 degree circle, I could hear water. Almost home at 7:15 a.m. Heard the WOOD THRUSH from the road near my house. It was in the Audubon woods across the road from my side boundary.

LATER: I went on a NATURE CONSERVANCY Science and Stewardship Committee Field Trip to the Monkton part of the new Raven Ridge Preserve that extends clear up to Ed Everts’ and Raven Davis’ property in Charlotte. We parked near the ToDo Institute’s driveway. It’s a Buddhist Retreat, and they have given TNC a right-of way up the lower end of their driveway. Saw SWALLOWS flying over the cattail marsh across from where we parked, but I couldn’t tell what kind.  Also GEESE. I heard a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT and YELLOW WARBLER, and when we started into the woods a CHICKADEE, OVENBIRD,  GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, and GRAY TREE FROG.  Putting the Raven Ridge Preserve together was a $1.2 million project involving 362.1 acres in three towns. Now I’m hearing a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK and BLUE JAY. We saw WHITE TRILLIUM in bloom and a big BUTTERNUT TREE growing on the edge of the old apple orchard. Heard a WOOD THRUSH, RAVEN, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, and HERMIT THRUSH. Warren King heard a SCARLET TANAGER.

LATER STILL: Science and Stewardship Meeting at Hinesburg Town Hall

Bill Keeton, who teaches Forestry and Forest Ecology at UVM was a guest speaker. He and his students found BIG BURR OAKS on the northern part of the Raven Ridge property, but they aren’t regenerating themselves and HEMLOCKS are moving in.

Later discussion: Federal Funds came to protect BAT HABITAT, including  SHAGBARK HICKORY. Dogs are not allowed on TNC preserves.