22 July 2024

Archive for January, 2011

End of January

Monday, January 31st, 2011
Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 January 2011.

Beech Nut.

Morning sunlight blasted across the snowy landscape. A chillier day today, but on the sunny side of my place there might as well have been a spring thaw going on. I stepped out early to shovel the couple inches of recent snow (I’ve been lax, I know) so that the sun could clear away the remnants. Gangs of crows flapped about—I think my neighbor must be feeding ’em out back of his place—and I heard the bright voices of chickadees in the wood up the hill.

Clouds, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 January 2011.


Long icicles hung from all the eaves. Shoveling the sunny front ramp, I heard the squee! of a robin overhead. Looked up, counted seven robins flying in a hurry over the roof. Canadian birds, here for the winter. Kind of made my day. Especially when you think that in just a few short months, our resident robins will have returned to nest.

A long day of work indoors, and then a flurry of quick errands (multiple gulls in town), and finally Jack and I found ourselves racing sundown. We didn’t get to Beech Hill after 4—but sundown is later now than it used to be.

A solitary car in the parking lot, pulled in at a straight angle. People pulling on snowshoes. A dog on a leash. Jack and I got ready to go quickly and nodded hello on our way up. We ascended swiftly. No birds that I could see or hear, but what a lovely sky—orange and blue, bisected by long stripes of high clouds. The sun sat momentarily atop the Rockville Ridge. Beech Nut stood sturdy as stone at the summit

Bracingly cold returning, heading into the breeze. I probably could’ve put on gloves, but I didn’t. My mustache crackled.

The bay, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 January 2011.

The bay.

We met two of the parked car’s occupants snowshoeing up. “What a pretty dog,” said one. “Thanks,” I said—then, to Jack. “She called you a pretty dog.” He just ignored me.

Nearing the road, I heard a solitary note—the call of a brown creeper. That was it on the hill today.

Tonight I stepped out to suck in a last lungful of the single-digit air and realized that this is the last day of January, and so in just a few short months—maybe only three—I’ll be hearing spring peepers from my deck. Time has a way of hurrying along here at the 44th parallel.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 4:15 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Brown creeper (voice)


2. American crow
3. Black-capped chickadee
4. American robin
5. Herring gull
6. Ring-billed gull

Sunset, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 January 2011.


Snow and snow

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 January 2011.

Beech Hill.

The sky this morning—the light of the day—shone with a bright gray sort of light, just shy of yellow. Overcast, but not a thick overcast. Not too cold. I swept the couple inches of snowfall from yesterday out of the dooryard. By midday, the clouds had closed in a bit, though, and more snow had begun to fall. Not like yesterday’s snow—finer flakes, and driven by a bit of a northwest breeze.

Jack on the open trail, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 January 2011.

Jack on the open trail.

I worked on a Sunday. At one point, I got jogged out of my concentration by a cacophony of crows, and so I dashed upstairs for my camera. Another hawk, all right, but this one perched far away in the tip of a conifer out behind the neighbor’s place. Back downstairs for more work.

But eventually I awoke Jack from his bed beside my desk and we jumped into the pickup.

No other cars in the Beech Hill parking lot, but as I was pulling on my showshoes a compact slowed and turned in. Or tried to. After three or four tire-spinning attempts to make it up the drive, the car sped away. I didn’t see it again.

The snow was really starting to come down. No birds at the base of the hill, but about half-way up I heard something, stopped, identified the call of a flicker.

Seemed that several people had hiked the hill today—most in snowshoes—judging by the nicely packed trail. When Jack and I turned and descended, the falling snow seemed to be peaking. I wouldn’t call it a heavy snow, but it wasn’t a light snow.

Once I thought I heard the croak of a raven, but I couldn’t be sure.

Didn’t see or hear any other birds, or cars, or people, or dogs, or other signs of earthly life—although I stopped a number of times to listen. Not even a passing car. All I sensed were the tiny percussive sounds of snowflakes landing, like the sound of faintly crinkling paper.

Flag, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 January 2011.


Tonight, not long ago, I stepped out onto the deck to check the sky and was surprised to see a shadowy winged shape fly up from near the ground to somewhere up in the low limbs of a small tree across the parking lot. It was completely silent. I wondered if I were imagining things—but I’m pretty sure it was an owl. Judging by its behavior, I’m gonna call it a barred.

But don’t quote me on it.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 3:45 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Northern flicker (voice)


2. American crow
3. Red-tailed hawk
4. Herring gull
5. Downy woodpecker
6. Barred owl

Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 January 2011.

Beech Nut.

Sun and snow

Saturday, January 29th, 2011
Sun over Chickawaukie, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 January 2011.

Sun over Chickawaukie.

An overcast morning. Just a few snowflakes flurrying down. Outside, crows called to each other. A titmouse sang its spring love song from somewhere across the road. Also heard the resident house sparrows chirping, and a solitary ring-billed gull flew by.

Took off earlier than usual to run errands and such. While driving through Rockport Village, I happened to spot a good-sized flock of mallards flying fast and low over the harbor. Then, en route to Beech Hill, I saw a blue jay perched in a small roadside tree just as a group of small passerines arrived in the same tree. I couldn’t ID the little birds but wondered if the jay had them riled.

Snowy sun over Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 January 2011.

Snowy sun over Beech Hill.

No one else in the Beech Hill parking lot—which struck me as a little odd, it being midday on a Saturday. Then again, the flurries had by then become a steady light snow. The day was warm enough, however, that I wore only a hooded sweatshirt and didn’t even need gloves. True, snowshoes were still in order.

I heard the notes of a hairy woodpecker in the surrounding trees.

As we came up the trail the snow grew steadier, while high in the southern sky the sun worked to poke through. An odd combination: snowflakes flying this side of a yellow-white disk just hanging up there motionless. The inland hills soon vanished beyond the great cloud of snow.

Then I heard something. We stopped. A low ooo-ah! ooo-ah! One of the curious calls of a common raven coming from down toward South Street. I looked for it but never saw it.

Jack nosing a feather, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 January 2011.

Jack nosing a feather.

At the summit, I heard crows. We circled Beech Nut and started back down. There partially buried in snow on the trail lay a single feather. A black-and-white flight feather. As I’ve noted before, I’m not so adept at identifying the birds that feathers come from—but this one reminded me of the plumage of a road-killed pileated woodpecker I studied on the shoulder of Route 1 while cycling a couple years ago. Jack stuck his nose in while I took a photo.

Looked up: three crows flapping toward us from the south, distantly spaced. About half-way down, I heard the raven’s oo-ah! again and, from the opposite direction, the lonesome cry of a flicker.

Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 January 2011.

Beech Nut.

Near the road I heard the repeated calls of a robin. (Nice.) And the faint beep-beep! of a nuthatch. And the chatterings of a chickadee. Then we met four humans and a (leashed) dog ascending. “Beautiful day,” I said. They all seemed to agree.

In town afterward, I saw intermittent herring gulls and a large flock of pigeons wheeling around the sky near the old Van Baalen’s building. The flock seemed frantic enough that I scanned for a raptor but saw none.

After a couple inches of snowfall, the precipitation stopped—but not before muffling the sound of the traffic on Route 1.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 11:45 a.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Hairy woodpecker
2. Common raven
3. American crow
4. Northern flicker
5. American robin
6. White-breasted nuthatch
7. Black-capped chickadee


8. Tufted titmouse
9. House sparrow
10. Ring-billed gull
11. Mallard
12. Blue jay
13. Herring gull
14. Rock pigeon

The trail, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 January 2011.

The 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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