24 June 2024

Archive for October, 2010

Larks

Monday, October 25th, 2010
Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 October 2010.

Beech Nut.

We didn’t manage to hit the hill, Jack and I, until mid-afternoon. But the day was mild and damp and overcast and luscious. I met a fellow birder at the parking lot who reported having seen a pair of harriers and (possibly) a kestrel. I had high hopes of hawks.

But we saw no hawks. We saw a dense, yellow-orange landscape. Ochres and bronzes of oaks on hillsides, reds of brush and barren.

Horned larks in flight, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 October 2010.

Horned larks in flight.

Yellow-rumps, still. A couple of flickers calling from disparate points on the hill. At the summit, I spotted a single flicker loping through the air toward where the second one had been calling. Heard jays, heard crows, but saw neither. Heard a jay. Heard a distant herring gull from somewhere out toward the bay.

Oddly, no sparrows.

Then, on our return, suddenly, a flock of maybe two dozen small birds appeared out of nowhere, fluttering down from the north, peeping in flight. We stopped. The flock of small birds headed straight toward us down the slope, losing altitude. I stood transfixed as they passed directly overhead, so near that I got a glimpse of dark marks on the face of one of them that swooped no more than two feet above my hat. Turned to see the whole flock collapse into the grass a hundred feet away. Then they vanished.

I hadn’t recognized their flight song. I didn’t know these birds. Were they pipits? Some kind of larkspur or something? I peered at where they landed, but just then Jack began scratching earth and that spooked the flock and they took wing again and together veered off toward the southwest and then around to the west and then up and overhead again, and then they landed again in the same field. But again I couldn’t catch a glimpse of any of ’em. No ID. I moved a slight bit—and at my movement they rose again and, peeping, fluttered off again, around again, over again, and yet again landed in the very same patch of grass.

Fall landscape, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 October 2010.

Fall landscape.

This time I saw movement and snapped some photos. Only later could I identify them as horned larks. Wow. I never see larks. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen larks—certainly I’ve never seen them on Beech Hill.

That sort of made my day.

Otherwise, I heard chickadees and robins and golden-crowned kinglets. Crows. Nothing else to be heard. And no hawks to be seen. Only the great, open, fall-colored lanscape, with a mist covering the tops of the inland hills.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, I saw a sparrow cross the road in a flutter—a very young bird. I decided it must be a white-throated sparrow.

Finally, a sparrow.

Today I learned what horned larks look and sound like in flight, and how they behave in the grass, crouching low, blending in, pecking nervously about, ready at the slightest sign of danger to take flight again together, in a dense flock, where they rightfully belong.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 2:45 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Yellow-rumped warbler
2. Northern flicker
3. American robin
4. American crow
5. Blue jay
6. Herring gull
7. Horned lark
8. Black-capped chickadee
9. Golden-crowned kinglet
10. White-throated sparrow

Elsewhere

11. Dark-eyed junco

Camouflaged horned lark, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 October 2010.

Camouflaged horned lark.

A poem

Sunday, October 24th, 2010
Golden-crowned kinglet, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 October 2010.

Golden-crowned kinglet.

Birds of Beech Hill, October

Golden-crowned kinglet, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 October 2010.

Golden-crowned kinglet.

It’s not so cold,
not so cold as yesterday here.
The air is still, that’s why.
And sun splashes into my eyes,
for a moment blinding me
when Jack and I turn to climb the hill
but also warming my eastern side.
As Jack stops to pee
I hear jays and chickadees
but I’ve learned not to say out loud
the word “chickadee”
or he will bark.

Hairy woodpecker, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 October 2010.

Hairy woodpecker.

I hear the chips of yellow-rumps.
I hear the voice of a robin.
I hear the cawing of crows,
many crows, a cacaphony.
They’re holding a convention
on the summit of the hill.
I first catch sight of their black backs
reflecting the sunlight just over the crest,
but when they see Jack and me approaching
they lift up as pulled by kite strings
the cawing, cawing crows
and so I bring up my camera
to take a few group photos as
from somewhere behind me
I hear the croak of a raven.
But we don’t turn away
Jack and I
from the rising cacaphony of crows.

White-throated sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 October 2010.

White-throated sparrow.

At the summit I look briefly
at the scenic bay that takes the breaths away
from the summer people at other seasons
and the leaf-peepers of his time of year,
but only briefly
because I’m more interested
in the cawing crows now far below.
As we return and round the open trail,
a single crow flaps left of us
and lands in the gold-and-russet barren
of the southern slope.
It doesn’t fly away when we stop
as crows tend to do
but stands  watching,
perhaps waiting for us to walk away
so it can forage there
in the gone-by blueberry field
but likely for some other reason
completely foreign to Jack and me.

Black-capped chickadee, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 October 2010.

Black-capped chickadee.

Nearing the bottom of the trail
I’m surprised by a golden-crowned kinglet
flitting about in a pint-sized spruce
not a dozen feet away.
I raise my camera
but then it’s gone,
so as Jack waits patiently
I turn my camera toward a junco
pecking around by the road.
We’re standing quietly, I suppose,
is why the kinglet returns
to an even nearer spruce branch
and presents its comely eye-stripe
and shows off its golden crown
so I can take its picture.

Today, after some minor experimentation, I confirmed my suspicion that groups of crows do, in fact, tend to take flight when a human in view suddenly stops moving.

Four crows, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 October 2010.

Four crows, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 October 2010.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 8:30 a.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Blue jay (voice)
2. Black-capped chickadee
3. Hairy woodpecker
4. Pileated woodpecker (voice)
5. Yellow-rumped warbler
6. American robin (voice)
7. Northern flicker (voice)
8. American crow
9. Common raven (voice)
10. White-throated sparrow
11. Song sparrow
12. American goldfinch (voice)
13. Golden-crowned kinglet
14. Dark-eyed junco

Elsewhere

15. Herring gull
16. Ring-billed gull

Five crows, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 October 2010.

Five crows.

The wind

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
Yellow-rumped warbler, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 23 October 2010.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

I took advantage of a slumbering dog to stay in bed later than any recent morning I can remember. Puttered around a bit before heading for the hill.

On the way, scores of small brown birds flitted from the roadside in front of us, as if making way for our passage. Yellow-rumped warblers and sparrows and juncos, I would imagine. There were perhaps a hundred in all, and I marveled at their ability to flush and zip safely away from the fast approaching vehicle. Although I half-expected it, none met the grille. The only explanation I can think of is some evolutionary adaptation—that they’ve become wise to the danger of cars.

Eastern slope, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 23 October 2010.

Eastern slope.

The Beech Hill Road parking lot was empty. I wasn’t surprised, considering the temperature (somewhere in the upper 30s (F), I’d guess) and the wind (gusting to 20 or 30 miles an hour, would be my estimate). At least I dressed warmly enough. And brought gloves.

Not a cloud in the sky. As soon as we emerged from the pickup, I heard a couple chickadees and a jay. Before we’d gone a hundred yards, I heard the voice of a robin and the chips of the seemingly ever-present ‘rumps. Coming up into the open slope, the wind whipped loudly, numbing my ears in more ways than one. I put my hood up. A song sparrow fluttered away into the brush.

Rounding the first wide curve, I spotted a lone sparrow dashing up the trail ahead of us. This seemed like savannah sparrow behavior, to me. I finally got a good look and confirmed the ID.

Somewhere in the great noise of the cold wind, I heard the scrap of the caw of a crow. Otherwise, only a song sparrow, a white-throat, and a yellow-rump at the summit—all lurking in tangles of brush, out of the wind. The only bird I saw in flight was a single ‘rump, flapping its little wings like crazy, bouncing off to the south.

Back at the parking lot, a collection of juncos tittered and flittered in the stunningly colorful trees.

Some time later—out back of my place and much to my surprise—I heard the loud clucks of a wild turkey.

Today I learned that crows aren’t the only birds around here to have adapted to having an understanding of the limits of the danger of vehicular traffic along the roadways.

Autumn oak down the open trail, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 23 October 2010.

Autumn oak down the open trail.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 9:30 a.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Black-capped chickadee (voice)
2. Blue jay (voice)
3. American robin (voice)
4. Yell0w-rumped warbler
5. White-throated sparrow
6. Song sparrow
7. Savannah sparrow
8. American crow (voice)
9. Dark-eyed junco

Elsewhere

10. Tufted titmouse
11. Wild turkey

Distant Monhegan, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 23 October 2010.

Distant Monhegan.

 
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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