28 February 2024

Archive for March, 2012

The Moment

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
Highbush blueberry, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 March 2012.

Highbush blueberry.

Every day, I experience The Moment. I don’t always realize it at the time, and I don’t always remember it afterward. But it’s there.

One memorable moment came at midday today, when the mixture of breeze-blown drizzle and oversized snowflakes turned to sleet. A rush of bouncing sleet pellets kicked up an audible ruckus on the walkway and clattered against the windows. I stopped what I was doing to admire the pelting, bounding ice drops out there—their the individual trajectories, their collective urgency, their crazy resemblance to popping corn. I watched the traffic on Route 1 slow, watched the sleet in the headlights. I also thought how so many of my neighbors would describe the sleet as “hail.” I grew up in Texas, where the smallest gauge of hail is “pea-sized”—a larger size than this. I recalled the old ’63 Dodge 800 I used to drive, formerly my grandparents’ car, whose heavy-gauge steel body was peppered with deep dents, result of a true Amarillo hailstorm. The hail from that storm had to be baseball-sized, at least.

The summit trail, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 March 2012.

The summit trail.

The hail—I mean sleet—soon vanished. Abruptly. And I resumed my desk work.

Worked clear through until closing time, when I bundled up for a chilly, drippy Beech Hill hike with dog. As we have been lately, Jack and were alone on the hill. Alone except for crows. And then, near the little brook, some tiny, flitting, peeping birds—three or four of them, all calling to each other faintly, keeping tabs—high in the bare branches of a grove of young hardwoods. We stopped to admire what I quickly recognized as golden-crowned kinglets. Would’ve loved to get a photo, but the light was too low. The kinglets moved on in one direction, and we moved on in another.

I thought about how, at this time last year, I was watching for fox sparrows. A good-sized flock of them stopped off in these woods on their way north. They stayed for a couple-three weeks. Haven’t seen one yet this year.

About half-way up, I noticed that a familiar highbush blueberry was blooming and thought about how, in a few weeks, hummingbirds will be drinking from their bell-shaped flowers.

We reached the summit to the chattering of chickadees. No phoebe in the rain and blow. No sparrow. A foggy view of the hills; a hazy view of the bay. We turned right around and headed back down into the trees. Around a curve or two, I heard more faint peeping and we stopped. Brown creepers, I could tell from their voices. It took about a half-minute for me to spot one circling up a tree trunk. Too dark for photos, but a nice moment: just a man, a dog, and a couple creepers.

No turkeys today that we could find. No mallards at the “vernal pool.” But coming back across the little brook, I heard the kinglets again. The same little collection of ’em, I imagine. They hadn’t moved far.

We stopped on the boardwalk and I watched the kinglets. Two of them, quite near. Kinglets move and flit and flit and move—they hardly ever sit still. The tiny birds were pecking about in the buds of young maples. They flitted just above me, flitted back and forth above the trail, little dark silhouettes against the gray sky. I tried for photos, but photos weren’t really the point. The kinglets were the point. Jack stood patiently, watching me; I stood transfixed, watching kinglets, lost in the moment.

The Moment.

Arriving back at the parking lot I was astonished to hear a loud, yodeling scream from somewhere in the mist across the road. A hawk clearly. An osprey. An osprey? Really? So early? But I know the voice of an osprey. This one was flying low, at treetop level. It had some kind of problem, a need to communicate. It was screaming and crying. Somewhere I also heard crows. The voice of the osprey faded away to the north. A memorable moment, for sure.

But not The Moment. I lost myself today in the company of golden-crowned kinglets.

Beech Hill List

Beginning at 5:15 p.m., I hiked the wooded trails.

1. American crow (voice)
2. Golden-crowned kinglet
3. Black-capped chickadee (voice)
4. Brown creeper
5. Herring gull (voice)
6. Osprey (voice)*


7. Northern cardinal
8. Tufted titmouse
9. House finch
10. American goldfinch
11. American robin

*First-of-year bird

Turkeys crossing

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
Mallards, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 March 2012.

Mallards at the “vernal pool.”

Sunny, coldish, windy. Eventually, I hiked Beech Hill.

Phoebe by the bay, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 March 2012.

Phoebe by the bay.

But first, while at my desk, I caught sight of some movement out of the corner of my eye and looked out to see some good-sized turkeys working on crossing busy Route 1. Cars were zipping by—but somehow they slipped through, raced across my parking lot, and hurried single-file up the hill, spooking a robin.

Titmice, crows, a pair of house finches chasing each other across the blue.

High winds and cool temperatures (didn’t make it to 40 degrees (F)) when Jack and I started our hike late in the day. Surprisingly, within a few minutes, I already had two species: goldfinch and herring gull. By the time we reached the summit, I had four (crow and song sparrow). We met no one else on the hill today—unsurprisingly, considering the atmospheric conditions—but we did meet the phoebe that’s laid claim to Beech Nut. And the bright afternoon sun took the edge off a bit.

Back down the wooded slope, we looked for turkeys but saw none. Did hear chickadees.

But returning home on South Street, two big ol’ turkeys jumped out in front of us and I had to jam on the brakes. Then I saw where they were headed—about a dozen other birds were strutting and displaying on the grass of a secluded yard. It looked like a turkey sex party or something.

The wooded trail, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 March 2012.

The wooded trail, Beech Hill.

Stars and planets and moon out tonight. The winds calmed some. No woodcocks that I could hear, though.

I hear there’s a chance of snow tomorrow.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 4:45 p.m., I hiked the wooded trails.

1. American goldfinch (voice)
2. Herring gull
3. American crow (voice)
4. Song sparrow (voice)
5. Eastern phoebe
6. Black-capped chickadee (voice)


7. Tufted titmouse
8. House finch
9. Northern cardinal
10. American robin
11. Wild turkey

More like it

Monday, March 26th, 2012
The Bay, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 March 2012.

The bay.

Eleven o’clock at night. Blowing like crazy. Must be, oh, 20-something degrees (F). I remember not that many nights ago when it was about forty degrees warmer at about this time. This is more like it, for March.

Fungus, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 March 2012.


Cold day. Overcast early, with a few snow flurries. Titmice, jays, house sparrows, crows.

Monday. Worked a lot. Got out late for a hike with Jack. By then the sun had made an appearance, but the still-bare branches of the hardwoods were clacking and clattering and squeaking against each other. Somehow, above the noise and rush, I heard crows. Then a few chickadees flitted past. From the summit, I saw a cloud of herring gulls rise out toward the water. At the ticks must’ve hunkered down some, because afterward I didn’t find any on dog or me for a change.

Tonight, with the clearing, I got a look at the new moon hanging there to the left of bright Venus. No woodcocks to be heard this blustery evening.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 4:30 p.m., I hiked the wooded trails.

1. American crow (voice)
2. Black-capped chickadee
3. Herring gull


4. Tufted titmouse
5. Blue jay
6. House finch
7. Rock pigeon
8. Northern cardinal

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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