19 June 2024

Archive for November, 2010

A comforting sky

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
Beech Hill, Rockport, 30 November 2010.

Beech Hill.

This day began and ended overcast. Betweentimes, the sun poked through. And it was warm—and by “warm,” I mean maybe mid- to upper-40s (F)—with little wind, so I figured I’d embark on maybe my last long bike ride of the year.

American crow, Beech Hill, Rockport, 30 November 2010.

American crow.

Which I did about midday. Was nice. While cycling, I saw herring and ring-billed gulls and heard a starling. And upon returning from cycling, Jack and I hiked Beech Hill.

A group of people had just pulled in, and we hung behind them for a bit (while listening to the lovely, low voice of a pileated woodpecker no doubt calling to an intimate relative). Their little dog was a barker, so we passed in a hurry and walked fast up the hill. Crows were calling from the upper fields, several distant and a few nearby. They all took wing on our approach. One had something in its bill.

Still not a lot of wind. Rippling clouds spread away to the east above the water. Somewhere across the naked landscape I heard the sharp note of a flicker.

Monhegan, Beech Hill, Rockport, 30 November 2010.


Returning, I admired the comforting sky, the brilliant redness of some trailside berries, the purplish look of the leafless limbs of a poplar grove down the southern slope. Only as we were about to get back in the truck did I hear a distant chickadee-dee-dee!

Tomorrow, they say we’ll get some rain. Today I appreciate the clouds.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 2:15 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Pileated woodpecker (voice)
2. American crow
3. Northern flicker (voice)
4. Black-capped chickadee (voice)


5. Herring gull
6. Ring-billed gull
7. European starling

Berries, Beech Hill, Rockport, 30 November 2010.

Berries, Beech Hill, Rockport, 30 November 2010.

Vapor trails

Monday, November 29th, 2010
Birch, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 November 2010.


There were no clouds in the sky today—at least none that I laid eyes on. The only white, wispy shapes I could see overhead were vapor trails from high-flying jetliners. It’s truly eye-opening, just how many planes fly over these parts in a day.

Vapor trail, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 November 2010.

Vapor trail.

Was kind of a semi-frustrating Monday-after-a-holiday-weekend, work-wise: phones ringing, urgent email messages. Even a fax, by God. But I managed to extricate myself at high noon to take my dog on a hike.

A single vehicle greeted us in the Beech Hill Road parking lot. Quietly murmuring chickadees greeted us from the trees. The footing of the trail lay hard from last night’s freeze but had gone slick with mud in spots. We met a solitary hiker descending; the sun flooded brightly down. Crows cawed from the periphery, and at least a half-dozen vapor trails bisected the empty blue.

Not a lot of wind. In fact, when viewed from the summit, the bay spread calm and clean and variegated with pale, slick swaths on its surface. I decided to descend to the edge of the wood on the sunny eastern trail. First heard then saw a pair of flickers—the same pair from yesterday?—bouncing along above and in front of us. Then noticed that there were three. Chickadees were pecking about quietly here also, calling only enough to keep tabs on the others.

The bay, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 November 2010.

The bay.

At the edge of the wooded section, I spotted a hairy woodpecker—a female, like yesterday’s, but much higher on the hill—and watched it knock bark around for a while. In the southern sky, more vapor trails appeared. Seems most planes, at this time of day, at least, were headed in that direction.

We returned to the summit and continued over without pause as another hiking party ascended.

About halfway down, I turned back to the east and saw what at first appeared to be an aircraft—but then immediately turned into a hovering hawk. An adult redtail. We reversed direction for a bit just to check, but it’d apparently flown.

At the bottom of the hill I looked up it again at the same moment a solitary raven was flying down. A silent bird on some kind of mission. We all have our missions, I guess.

Elsewhere, gull and dove and pigeon. I also heard house sparrow and jay.

Tonight is equally cloudless, it seems, judging by Jupiter, Orion, and Sirius.

Raven, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 November 2010.


Beech Hill List
Beginning at 12 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Black-capped chickadee
2. American crow (voice)
3. Northern flicker
4. Hairy woodpecker
5. Red-tailed hawk
6. Common raven


7. House sparrow
8. Blue jay
9. Herring gull
10. Mourning dove
11. Rock pigeon

Birch bark, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 November 2010.

Birch bark.

In the woods

Sunday, November 28th, 2010
Hairy woodpecker (female), Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 November 2010.

Hairy woodpecker (female).

This was a crisp, clear one. Dog and I dilly-dallied a bit but made it to the hill by late in the morning. It being a Sunday—a non-hunting day—I figured we’d start at the wooded trail for a change.

Trunks, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 November 2010.


The wooded landscape, being mostly bare now, seemed especially bright and naked. We heard chickadees and crows right away. The little stand of poplar at the curve by the stone where yellow-rumped warblers nest in spring looked stark and yellow-gray. As I stood taking photos of the many small trunks there, a big bird—some kind of owl, I feel sure (barred?)—suddenly took wing and flew low and silently through the trees. I followed it with my eyes to a barely visible distant perch but couldn’t get a clear enough look through binoculars to tell for sure what species.

It sure felt good to be in the woods, though, hiking up a hill in November, working up a sweat in near freezing temperatures. More chickadees. A distant blue jay. And along the last open stretch before the summit, a pair of flickers flapping and dipping away, a pair of white rumps flashing.

Beech Nut had icicles hanging from its eastern roof-edge. The hill, the sea, the world seemed bright and spare and lovely.

Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 November 2010.

Beech Nut.

Coming over and down, we met a few other walking parties, as well as a solo hiker. Dogs were present, all leashed. No hawks, no sparrows, no other birds of note. Just an expansive blue sky and a bit of wind and an invigorating chill.

More chickadees here and there. We turned around and ascended again. Not so much as an interesting cloud—just the whole world seemed interesting today.

Descending through the woods again, we took the lower trail, as usual. The big dead spruce still blocked the path, but I have no doubt it’ll be cleared away soon. (Walking around it is easy enough.) The muddy stretches weren’t so bad, now that ice encroaches. Then about half-way down, I heard a sound like a falsetto human cry. We stopped. I heard it again. A raven. I scanned the distant sky through the bare trunks of the hardwoods and caught sight of the big black bird itself, flying and calling, headed southeast. I love the multifarious calls of the common raven.

Minutes later, I heard the sibilant voice of a creeper, although I never did see the bird.

Red squirrel (and old barbed wire), Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 November 2010.

Red squirrel (and old barbed wire).

And soon after that, I heard the squeal of a woodpecker—and a female hairy lit on a tree trunk not many meters away. It poked cooperatively around in the bark, grabbing grubs, as I snapped off several photos.

By the time we got back to the parking lot, it was full. Two or three new groups of people were embarking on their own hikes with their own dogs. A couple old men sat inexplicably in pickups, one with its engine running. I knocked the mud off my hiking sneaks and we headed on back home.

Otherwise, not much to report—except for herring gulls, rock pigeons, and a wondrously clear sky tonight.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 11:15 a.m., I hiked all trails.

1. Black-capped chickadee
2. American crow (voice)
3. Owl (sp.)
4. Blue jay (voice)
5. Northern flicker
6. Common raven
7. Brown creeper (voice)
8. Hairy woodpecker


8. Herring gull
9. Rock pigeon

Birch, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 November 2010.


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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