The morning was kind of chilly, kind of sunny. Maybe something of a hazy sun. A slight breeze. Crows out there, of course, and the resident house finches. House sparrows, too, hanging around the little food court next door. Robins. Chickadees. There seemed to be a bit of nervousness in the air—or maybe that was just my own recognition of the forecasts of impending rain and/or snow.
I spent the day duck-taped to my desk, pretty much. In fact, I didn’t get out of the place until nearly 5. Finally took a quick trip to town. Gulls about, and, at the post office, I heard my first eastern phoebe of the year—at least it sounded exactly like a phoebe, but subsequent calls told me the phoebe sounds actually came from the throat of a European starling. (Impressive!) Then dog and I, both of us craving exercise, headed up to Beech Hill.
We hit the wooded trail again. Three cars in the parking lot (one of them with a guy sitting in it). We headed into the woods. Clouds had moved over by then, but the air remained relatively calm. Heard crows right away. Then gulls from over at the cow farm. Then chickadees. The snowy track is slowly leaving the trail, I noticed, leaving behind a mostly brown landscape marked with tiny, secret leaves of green. About half-way up, I heard—then saw—fox sparrows. (Interesting that this is the first year I’ve seen them up there.) And the voice of a hairy woodpecker. And a blue jay.
Near the summit, the setting sun glowed brightly behind a veil of clouds. Over the bay, clouds seemed to be hanging back, waiting for the call to charge.
It was a pretty quick trip. Descending the lower wooded trail, we paused to listen occasionally, as usual, but heard nothing outlandish. More robins and crows. I noticed buds on the tangled berry branches alongside the trail. And wood chips at the bases of the woodpecker snags. And new lichen on the trunks of trees. After a string of dry days, the runoff mud had hardened a bit, although a good swath of it remained through the big oak grove.
No hawk today. No nuthatch or creeper or kinglet. Just the fresh, wet air. Air that held a vague promise of—something.
Back home, from the deck, I heard the chips cardinal in the conifers at the edge of the yard. And then, in gloaming, the peent! of a woodcock from across the road.
No one can seem to agree on whether we’ll be getting a foot of snow tomorrow or merely a big rain. I’m sort of expecting at least a little snow.
Beech Hill List
Beginning at 5:15 p.m., I hiked the wooded trails.
1. American crow (voice)
2. Herring gull (voice)
3. American robin
4. Black-capped chickadee
5. Fox sparrow
6. Hairy woodpecker
7. Blue jay (voice)
8. House finch
9. House sparrow
10. European starling
11. Mourning dove
12. Northern cardinal
13. American woodcock