20 May 2024

Archive for December, 2010

Year’s end

Friday, December 31st, 2010
Wintry slope, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 December 2010.

Wintry slope.

Last day of the calendar year. The day dawned overcast—but warm. And before long, when the clouds moved away and the sun shone brightly down, the air temperature rose to 40 degrees (F), at least. I half-thought about riding my bike, except the soggy shoulders dissuaded me.

Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 December 2010.

Beech Nut.

We ran some morning errands, dog and I, and saw plenty of crows and herring gulls. Also pigeons. Many people out—in cars, jogging, walking. I even saw a bicycle rider.

By mid-afternoon, we’d waited long enough and set out for Beech Hill. As we arrived, I caught sight of a single chickadee flitting from tree to tree. A couple cars in the (still unplowed) parking lot. After yesterday’s exertion, and despite the suddenly slushy trail, I opted for snowshoes. It made the going easier.

Some clouds had moved back over. Barely a puff of breeze.I needed only a hooded sweatshirt—quite a change from Monday’s blizzard to Friday’s thaw.

To the south, a wide layer of clouds approached. Toward the bay, a hazier layer. To the north, a lumpy blanket; to the west, just a few wispy cirrus. We ran into a couple groups of humans but neither saw nor heard any more birds.

Our descent proved even easier. I kept to the snowy places. Much of the snowfall had melted, in fact, leaving great swaths of muddy track, but the higher drifts remained. At one point in the trail, standing high on a two-foot drift, I got a rare good view of distant Beech Nut’s western side.

Not the fantastic sunset of the past two days, but nice enough. Tonight there appears to be some cloud cover—but not quite enough to veil the brighter stars.

Tomorrow, a new calendar year. But I’ve been keeping watch on the sun since solstice.

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

1. Black-capped chickadee


2. American crow
3. Herring gull
4. Rock pigeon

Cloud layer, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 December 2010.

Cloud layer.

Young hawk

Thursday, December 30th, 2010
Red-tailed hawk (juvenile), Powerhouse Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 December 2010.

Red-tailed hawk (juvenile).

Aside from crows and herring gulls, the most visible big birds around here at this time of year seem to be hawks. In particularly, red-tails. At least in my experience.

Old snowfall, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 December 2010.

Old snowfall.

A sunny morning today. Felt a little warmer—in fact, a minor thaw seemed likely. Crows flapped around the place here at Clam Cove. Chickadees flitted about in the hardwoods out back. And when I took Jack out, I heard the chip of a cardinal coming from some trees across the road.

I had a big programming job. Took me nearly three hours. Dog napped away the morning and early afternoon—so our Beech Hill hike got us both moving. I decided to ditch the snowshoes and hazard a hike with regular boots. Before long, I rather regretted it: it was sort of hard going. (The sight of other snowshoe tracks didn’t help.) But it turned out three other groups of humans were hiking the hill without special footwear—including a friendly mother-and-son whom we met and chatted with at the summit—so I shouldn’t complain. And Jack’s bare paws worked fine.

Only one bird on the hill today: a crow, whose voice I heard while standing near Beech Nut. Only a slight west wind. Temperatures slightly above freezing, I’d guess. A pleasant hike, with an interesting sky full of light-limned clouds and crazy vapor trails.

Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 December 2010.

Beech Nut.

Returning home, I spotted a big bird flying up onto a roadside utility line as we came down the hill overlooking the cove. A buteo. I turned around in the parking lot and headed back up to snap some photos. The bird posed cooperatively just across Route 1 from the Dad’s Seafood truck. A young red-tail. After a while it took wing and headed up Powerhouse Hill, stirring up a few resident crows.

Doing errands later in town, I saw only herring gulls. But then the sun set, and the southwest sky caught fire—a lovely wide orange glow. This time of year has some of the best sunsets here on the 44th parallel.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 2:30 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. American crow


2. Black-capped chickadee
3. Northern cardinal
4. Herring gull
5. Red-tailed hawk

Winter landscape, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 December 2010.

Winter landscape.

Robin, etc.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
Shadow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 December 2010.


It’s a calm, cool night. Sirius is rising, chasing Orion and twinkling brightly, alternating blue and red. Snow from the big storm still covers nearly everything.

Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 December 2010.

Beech Nut.

This morning dawned sunny—but with high, interesting clouds. I had desk work, and Jack had some napping to do. Crows flapped back and forth across Route 1, and I heard the resident house sparrow family chirping from somewhere nearby.

It took us until kind of late in the day to venture out. Beech Hill called.

No cars in yet-unplowed parking lot, but a couple vehicles were parked up by the gate. Jack seemed recovered enough for a hike over relatively hard snow. Right away we saw that several people—many people, old and young (mostly young)—were gathered about half-way up the slope, some with plastic sleds, the younger ones. A few had ventured off trail, but I didn’t say anything. There was a little Jack Russell terrier there, too, in a woman’s arms. Jack didn’t even see the little dog.

We continued up. Not too cold, not too windy. Bright sunlight casting long blue shadows against the hard, wind-sculpted snow.

Jack on the trail, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 December 2010.

Jack on the trail.

I thought I might see a hawk for the third straight day, but probably not with all those people up there. Instead, I snowshoed up to Beech Nut with Jack tugging gamely at the leash. A few smooth-edged clouds hung over the bay.

Returning, we found the big sled-toting family had gone. A small group was hiking up. As we approached the wooded section near the road, I thought I heard something and so we stopped to listen. The distant call of a chickadee—and something else. The note of a robin come from high in the trees. There, the bird flew. I watched it light again in a treetop beyond the parking lot. Then I heard the voice of a brown creeper.

Setting sun, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 December 2010.

Setting sun.

Back at the parking lot, as the bronze-colored sun got close to setting behind the trunks of trees, I hard a kinglet’s call.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 3 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Black-capped chickadee (voice)
2. American robin
3. Brown creper (voice)
4. Golden-crowned kinglet (voice)


5. American crow
6. House sparrow
7. Herring gull
8. Ring-billed gull

Oak, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 December 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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