24 June 2024

Archive for October, 2011

Blaze, bronze, and ochre

Friday, October 28th, 2011
Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 October 2011.

Beech Nut.

It rained a little overnight, I’m pretty sure, but I’m not positive. I do know that the sun shone blazingly on the bronze landscape—blazingly and misleadingly, considering the nippy temperature. And everyone’s talking about the big, wet snowfall that supposed to arrive tomorrow night. Six or eight inches, so they say. We shall see.

Oak, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 October 2011.


Got busy, got a lot done. Made a quick trip to town at the end of it all, but still early enough to enjoy the last angular sun rays that washed the ochre slopes of Beech Hill. A jovial little gang of chickadees greeted us at the parking lot. Then, at the gate, we ran into Joe, the keeper of the gate. He was planting a no-hunting sign (no hunting on the open trails) and reminded us that the season starts tomorrow (Maine residents only). I’ve already got dog’s blaze orange jacket ready to go. Jack’s jacket.

Joe and I saw three small passerines fly over. Looked like they might’ve been yellow-rumps. Or maybe finches. I couldn’t say.

On up the trail, where the oaks on the fringes wore burnt orange clothing that matched the ruddy fields. I did hear the chips of a yellow-rump then and saw the bird flutter above us before it descended into some undergrowth down the southern hillside.

A mass of coots still floated out in Chickawaukie Lake, I noticed. And it occurred to me that perhaps the pair of “small ducks” I saw headed that way a couple evenings ago might actually have belonged to that species. Their wings whistled a bit, I recall—not sure coots’ do that. I have a lot to learn yet.

A brisk wind combed the grasses at the summit and chilled my fingers. No pileated woodpecker today. Just a jay screaming somewhere down the hill.

Maple leaf, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 October 2011.

Maple leaf.

Tonight the stars are fairly crackling in the inky sky. Filled the humidifier. Got the heat on low. And I’m feeling ready for whatever Nature has in store.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 4:45 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Black-capped chickadee
2. Yellow-rumped warbler
3. American crow
4. American coot
5. Blue jay


6. Herring gull

Pileated, revisited

Thursday, October 27th, 2011
Blueberries, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 October 2011.


Today was one of those days where you get to working early and work straight through lunch. At least that’s what happened to me. I kind of forgot what day it was, even. Looked up at the gray sky out the window—the sky was an even, medium, unblemished gray, from horizon to horizon—and realized it was well into afternoon.

American coots (in Chickawaukie Lake), from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 October 2011.

American coots in Chickawaukie Lake.

Took a quick trip with dog to town to pick up the mail. On the way, a wild turkey flew suddenly across Route 1 in front of us, and a we flushed a mourning dove from the roadside. Then I drove us away from the shore to our favorite little bald inland hill. En route, I spotted a family of mallards in a little farm pond. Crows about. And gulls.

Only a solitary hiker on the hill this cold day—and it did feel truly cold, this day, for the first time in a while—just returning to his pickup. Chickadees at the parking lot, and I heard the voice of a brown creeper. Heard the caw of a crow. As we climbed the steep slope, I heard a song sparrow’s note coming from somewhere in thicket. And again I scanned Chickie for coots (and again saw a raft of ’em down there).

Coming around the upper curve, I spotted a crow-sized bird flying above the eastern hillside, between us and the bay. Again, it flew not like a crow but like a woodpecker. Another pileated. Two days straight. I felt somehow blessed.

The calls of a jay and a yellow-rump made it eight species this trip—never mind the hint of winter in the air.

Birch, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 October 2011.


A hint that lingers tonight. An overcast night. Temperatures somewhere in the thirties.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 5 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Black-capped chickadee (voice)
2. Brown creeper (voice).
3. American crow (voice)
4. Song sparrow (voice)
5. American coot
6. Pileated woodpecker
7. Blue jay (voice)
8. Yellow-rumped warbler (voice)


9. Herring gull
10. Wild turkey
11. Mourning dove
12. Mallard

Season of sunsets

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
Sunset, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 October 2011.


For how many millennia have we stood transfixed at the vision of a spectacular sunset? What indescribable thoughts of awe and wonder have swirled around the brains of humans—even protohumans—as the light of the setting sun set fire to clouds hovering above the western horizon? How did the solitary Neanderthal, looking up from the entrance to his cave, explain this fleeting display? Was the sun god dancing with the cloud goddesses? Was some celestial battle going on? For most of our history, the sunset simply happened, inexplicable, theoretical and dreamy, fireworks as the autumn daylight died. Now science is here to explain it all away.

Snow bunting, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 October 2011.

Snow bunting.

No matter. Inevitably I see mountains and caverns and cities and worlds in these embers in the evening sky. Even in today’s sunset, lovely but relatively undramatic, I imagined things. Each sunset is swift yet momentous. Like birth, or death. A beginning. An end.

After an oddly busy day filled with hopscotch errands, dog and I were glad to get out in the calm and the chill. The light in the sky had already begun to dim when we pulled into the Beech Hill parking lot. A mostly clear sky lined here and there with interesting clouds. We had the trail to ourselves today—although the red squirrel showed up again to give us another scolding.

I expected few birds but encountered many, beginning with a gaggle of happy chickadees. Then came the voices of a small flock of goldfinches up along the road—hadn’t heard them in a while. Yellow-rumps at the wood-edge. A hairy woodpecker knocking on a hardwood trunk. Three robins flying over, south-bound.

I heard crows and jays off in the invisible distance. We stopped so I could scan the lake for coots. (Still there.) And then a little bird appeared on the trail ahead of us, poking around then darting away. It didn’t look like a sparrow exactly, so I whipped out my binoculars—and right away saw it was a snow bunting. It had the telltale markings. Likely a first-winter bird.

Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 October 2011.

Beech Nut.

Perhaps fittingly, tomorrow’s forecast calls for snow.

We circled the hut and I took some sunset photos. This seems a season of sunsets—at least lately here at the 44th parallel. The color rises, the color subsides, and the twilight that follows is sweet and brief.

As by magic, mist began to sweep through the valleys between the western hills. As we neared the road again, I happened to spot a crow-sized bird angling across the colorful sky in our direction. It wasn’t flapping like a crow but rather propelled itself with quick, intermittent wingbeats. I knew what it was before I focused my binocs: a pileated woodpecker headed off to roost.

Like an evening kiss at the end of a fruitful day.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 5 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Black-capped chickadee
2. American goldfinch
3. Yellow-rumped warbler
4. Hairy woodpecker
5. American robin
6. Blue jay (voice)
7. American crow (voice)
8. American coot
9. Snow bunting
10. Pileated woodpecker


11. Herring gull
12. Rock pigeon
13. Song sparrow
14. Northern cardinal

Mist, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 October 2011.


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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