5 February 2023

Archive for March, 2010

Mud Season

Sunday, March 28th, 2010
Cedar waxwings, Glen Cove, Rockport, Maine, 28 March 2010.

Cedar waxwings.

About 4 a.m., the dog alerted me to a commotion in the bathroom. I flipped on the light and—after hesitating for a couple seconds—drew open the shower curtain. Cat and mouse in bathtub. The mouse that steals my soap, and the cat that’s never bothered to interfere before now. I grabbed the cat and hauled her out, the dog chased her down the hall, and the mouse escaped to steal my soap again.

Dawn broke  over a chilly brown landscape, with temperatures yet hovering near freezing. The cardinal started singing early—he’s master of this particular corner of the earth—and so did the titmouse up the hill, amid the usual cawing of crows.

Icicles, Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 March 2010.

Icicles.

When I took the dog out first thing, I grabbed my camera. Got a single shot of the cardinal, watched a number of robins—paired males and females—hop about the yard next door—and suddenly heard the sibilant notes of waxwings. Sure enough, a half dozen or so flitted down into the leafless understory up the hill. Cedar waxwings. As I snapped a series of photos of the waxwing gang, the robins hopped around the semi-icy next-door lawn, and across the road a house finch serenaded the neighborhood.

At mid-morning, dog and I headed up Beech Hill. Films of ice yet encrusted the edges of runoff puddles—remnants of the recent snowmelt and general sogginess of things. A sign of the season. Despite the dry look of the trail, my shoes slipped a number of times, leaving great muddy skid marks. Foot- and paw prints of others riddled the trail. At this latitude, spring doesn’t bust out right away, as it does down south. There’s a period of potential energy, of buds expanding, of small powers building, of subtle pressing, puffing, stretching, rising. A period of waiting for the late-April, early-May explosion. We’re in that period now. We call it Mud Season.

You could see the tight little buds on the plants of the hill. A morning sun shone, but the wind was brisk and cold. Icicles hung from the eaves of Beech Nut. Descending, I could help but notice a flock of clouds moving in from the west.

On the trip home, sparrows flitted about the roadsides as they’ve been doing for about the past week or so. The rest of the day: mostly cloudy with a 100 percent chance of crows.

Today’s List

Northern cardinal
American crow
Tufted titmouse
American robin
House finch
Song sparrow
Black-capped chickadee
Cedar waxwing
Herring gull
Ring-billed gull

American crow, Glen Cove, Rockport, Maine, 28 March 2010.

American crow.

The wooded trail

Saturday, March 27th, 2010
Song sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 March 2010.

Song sparrow.

Temperatures in the 20s (F) when first I looked. Mighty sunny, though.

Soon the thermometer showed 30-something degrees. A bit of wind, but not a lot of clouds. Calling birds included cardinal, titmouse, chickadee, crow. Dog and I took off for Beech Hill about midday—this time deciding to climb the wooded trail. (I’d been avoiding this for a week or so, based entirely on the number of ticks we got last time.)

Buds, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 March 2010.

Buds.

The trail was sodden, muddy, slippery. I should’ve anticipated this, what with yesterday’s melted snow. Ice hung in the low, wet spots—creating natural art, as it usually does. We met no one else on the trail. Heard little gangs of chickadees on the lower trail and, toward the top, the voices of sparrows.

In particular, song sparrows. Three were poking around in the tangles on either side of the upper trail. Only one was singing, and this one seemed braver—even exposing himself on the trail itself not far ahead of a human and dog. It was nice to get a half-way decent photo of a small passerine for a change. And to discover, soon after, that because of the ascending sun, my frigid fingers had seemingly thawed.

In afternoon, a pair of mallards flew over. In evening, I saw starlings and robins near the roads I drove. And after dark, as the moon rose, I found myself passing along the southern edge of Beech Hill. I looked at the big dark loaf of hill to the left of me, and I thought of bobcats and snowshoe hares and barred owls, and coons and skunks and sleeping song sparrows—even a mountain lion, perhaps.

(Nature at nighttime is all ears and imagination.)

Migration note: broad-winged hawks have reportedly just crossed the Rio Grande en masse and are headed up our way.

Today’s List

Northern cardinal
Tufted titmouse
American crow
Black-capped chickadee
House finch
Song sparrow
Downy woodpecker
American goldfinch
Herring gull
Ring-billed gull
Mallard
European starling
American robin

Oak leaf, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 March 2010.

Oak leaf.

A dusting

Friday, March 26th, 2010
Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 March 2010.

Beech Nut.

In a brief moment of wakefulness overnight, I heard what sounded like rain. I awoke this morning to snow. Not a lot of snow, to be sure—very little snow. A dusting. But enough to turn the world white for a while and remind me what happens sometimes on the 44th parallel at this time of year.

The dusting didn’t bother the resident cardinal, who kept up his singing from the tip of the big overhanging oak. Or the house finch across the road. Or, of course, the crow. Chickadees flitted among the leafless tangles, and the plain, sweet love song of a titmouse came from somewhere up the hill. From the fitfulness of the anemometer, I took the suggestion to bring my winter coat to Beech Hill.

Rockland Breakwater Light, Rockland, Maine, 26 March 2010.

Rockland Breakwater Light.

I probably needn’t have, as the clouds were by then burning away—my face was all that burned in the chill wind up there. Saw only a crow and a herring gull, but the views were new and strange. Aimed my telephoto lens toward the reflective bay in the direction of the morning sun and noticed the breakwater light down at the harbor.

Returning, I marveled again at all the roadside sparrows. I even stopped the truck once, rolled down the dog’s window, and tried for some photos. The birds were too fleet for that, but most magical were their little partial trills and chimes—each with its own peculiar song sparrow score.

By mid-afternoon, the snow had vanished from all but the shadiest northern areas. The wind continued from that direction—or perhaps more northwesterly—for pretty much all day.

And tonight we had a nice-sized waxing moon.

Today’s List

Northern cardinal
House finch
American crow
Black-capped chickadee
Herring gull
Song sparrow
Rock pigeon
Ring-billed gull
White-breasted nuthatch

Beech Hill trail, Rockport, Maine, 26 March 2010.

Beech Hill trail.

 
Bird Report is a (sometimes intermittent) record of the birds I encounter while hiking, see while driving, or spy outside my window. —Brian Willson



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