Questions


Leaving the house at 5:10 a.m., and it’s already 60 degrees out. From my Stone Wall I can hear a WOOD THRUSH singing down by the Museum. It’s across the road from Bob’s shop. I’m also hearing a CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, ROBIN, GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, CHICKADEE, OVENBIRD, BLUE JAY, YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, and VEERY. Not a bad way to start the day. There’s a beautiful white mashed-potato cloud overhead with a gray cloud floating in front of it. Who knows what kind of day it’s going to be? Walking up Charlie’s side of the field, again I hear no HOUSE WRENS, not even any scolding, as I walk by where they were nesting. Spoke too soon — I got scolded a short distance up and across from where they were. CATBIRD hanging around in Charlie’s yard. The MOON — a pale white disk slightly past full — just appeared through a break in the gray clouds drifting overhead. At 5:30 a.m., right when I got to Bob’s Pond, a HAWK let out a single high-pitched note and flew from Charlie’s trees to a tall dead one at the far end of the pond. I saw it with my binoculars but couldn’t identify it by sight. Will I ever learn my hawks? Thank goodness it called again, so I could identify it as a BROAD-WINGED HAWK. Also heard a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW near the pond. At the THINKING BENCH, I heard the high-pitched downward whinny of a DOWNY WOODPECKER and saw a strange looking FLICKER — a young one maybe? Also heard a BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER and a JUNCO. The birds are really songful and active this morning. Is it the temperature (warm)? the hour (between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m.)? where they are in their nesting cycles? or just the kind of day it is?

At exactly 5:45 a.m. I stepped over the wall into the woods with the intention of walking up to my back corner at a brisk, non-stop pace to see if I could make it in 10 minutes. I did, but I’m hot, sweating, huffing, and puffing. I have to ask myself what I win and what I lose when I push for speed. I think maybe the wandering and wondering is more important than aerobic exercise on these morning walks…. I did manage to hear and remember five species of birds, however: TUFTED TITMOUSE, SCARLET TANAGER, BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, PEWEE, and RED-EYED VIREO.

Sitting on my Sitting Root to rest, recover, and think a bit: I find myself wondering if ancient human beings, way back when they first went bipedal, ever just wandered and wondered? Did they feel like naming places and creatures and sounds? Or was it all just survival — finding food, watching for predators and enemies, looking for safe places to sleep? I’d like to think that maybe what I’m doing on these walks of mine is some vestige of primitive impulses to “map” territories, to know where things are, to name landscape features to remember not just their locations but everything else that goes with them? And knowing the bird songs adds another layer of information. Their presence one place and not another indicates things about where they are. So maybe my morning walks aren’t just an idle indulgence? Maybe they are both my continuing education and my reaching backward to my evolutionary roots? Darwin, where are you when I need you? Home in my library waiting for me to read more of him when I’m ready…. He’s pretty advanced, though, and I’m still feeling like a primitive nomad, wandering and wondering to save what’s left of my over-civilized soul.

Moving on, I noticed quite a  few WILD LEEKS flowering up here along Cote’s Boundary. I’ve been noticing them for a while but never thought to write this information down. If I were living off the land, it would be important for me to be aware that they’re here and flowering mid-summer, so I’d know they are alive and well and can be counted on as food next spring. It’s now 6:30 a.m., and I’m leaning on my Leaning Rock, which is cool against my back. Just heard a LEAST FLYCATCHER, REDSTART, and BLUE-HEADED VIREO — and also a loud, deep, rolling drum that I’m pretty sure was a PILEATED WOODPECKER. It was just too big a sound to have come from one of the smaller woodpeckers. ROOTS AND ROCKS: They are important to my walks — places to pause, sit, lean, and let my mind wander while my body is resting. STUMPS too, and LOGS.

Moving on, reluctantly. A small bird just flew up from the WILD NETTLES and LEEKS growing in the logging road — an OVENBIRD? I just heard a WOOD THRUSH way up here too, so maybe there are two of them? Or maybe just one moving around a lot? Heard a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK on my way downhill. STONE CROSSING at 6:52 a.m. The water is audible this morning. I’m hearing a lot of partial bird songs here today — phrases rather than whole songs. I wonder if young males start trying to sing their songs as soon as they leave their nests?

Moving on again. Just heard a WINTER WREN singing his whole elaborate song, MOURNING DOVE (in the distance), GOLDFINCH and SONG SPARROW from Saxtons’ Meadow, and RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD from the wet area across the road. Saw a silent YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER in a tree across from the Museum. I haven’t been seeing any TREE SWALLOWS the past few mornings. I wonder if they’ve left already? GRACKLES in my side yard near the old well. Also a RABBIT, an adult EASTERN COTTONTAIL.  I often see young ones too, so it’s got a family in the area. Bob says he saw TREE SWALLOWS feeding young in their box day before yesterday, so if they’re gone, they just barely left. Saw or heard 32 species of birds this morning — a nice way to start the day.

It’s 26 degrees at 5:20 a.m. From my stone wall, I heard a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, CARDINAL, CHICKADEE, HOUSE WREN, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, PHOEBE, EVENING GROSBEAK, and BLUE JAY. Along the road I heard a trill that I think was a JUNCO, an OVENBIRD, HERMIT THRUSH, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, WINTER WREN, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER (I think), BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, and MOURNING DOVE. Got to the Nature Center at 5:45 a.m. Heard a GOLDFINCH and ROBIN. Frost on the Nature Center’s side lawn again this morning. Heard a NUTHATCH and a song that sounded like a SONG SPARROW. Now I’ve got myself wondering if the song I’ve been calling a NASHVILLE WARBLER is actually a SONG SPARROW? I’m losing my confidence. I wonder what’s going on? Got to the Lookout at 6:00 a.m. I can hear a HERMIT THRUSH from here. Also a BROWN CREEPER. Camel’s Hump is bold and clear this morning. Not a cloud in the sky. Sun is just about to appear above Mayo Mountain. Got to Lichen Rock at 6:20 a.m. Yesterday, during the Nature Conservancy’s field trip, I learned about how long it takes for vegetation to grow on rocks, and I’ve decided I need to be more respectful of the mosses, etc. that are growing on Lichen Rock. So this morning I’m standing in the leaf litter on the back side of the rock. I do want to stand on this huge old rock and feel its solid earth-presence beneath me, but I don’t want to interfere with the natural processes that it supports. Or maybe I should declare myself a natural process, which I am for the most part at this hour of the morning, and include myself among the organisms that grow oh so slowly here. I wonder if there’s any bare rock I could stand on? I found two outcropping of exposed rock, but I had to walk across quite a bit of vegetation to get to them. Both were near the upturned root pancakes of trees (hemlocks?) that had blown over. I think maybe I  should stick to the leaf litter? That way maybe my passing can contribute to the soil formation that will eventually support more vegetation? On my way down to the road at 6:45 a.m. I can hear BLUE JAYS or maybe CROWS (?) mobbing something. I think I hear a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. Also a SOLITARY (BLUE-HEADED) VIREO. Home at 7:00 a.m.