5 February 2023

Noticing things

Sunday, April 25th, 2010
Yellow-rumped warbler, Beech Hill, Rocpkport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

I was nearly wrong. I declared yesterday that towhees would be singing from now until fall at Beech Hill, thinking the four or five (or more) birds giving forth yesterday would hang around and nest. Well, on today’s morning walk up the hill, I heard no towhee songs at all. In fact, it was a very different hike.

Eastern phoebe, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Eastern phoebe.

At the trailhead, I heard only goldfinches and chickadees. The sky was clear and blue. The morning sun bathed the greening landscape. A brisk north wind had kicked up. Not sure if yesterday’s activity came from the dramatic swing in the weather or what—but today’s walk began about as uneventfully as yesterday’s was notable. I did finally hear a crow’s voice from up the hill and a herring gull’s from (no doubt) the little cow farm. Then about half-way up, I heard the subtle chip of a warbler.

I notice things like that. After thirty years of listing birds, my brain is attuned to their voices—whether a cardinal singing its incessant string of sweet, loud notes or an osprey’s scream from 200 yards up or the tiny two-note tee-deet of a nesting female hummingbird. Many (if not most) cultured folk don’t notice their native birds at all; they have other distractions involving family or the office or that strange new sound coming from under the hood of the car. The chip made my ears perk up. I had an idea of what it was.

Savannah sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Savannah sparrow.

I might’ve been wrong about the towhees, but I was right about this: a yellow-rumped warbler, hunting for insects amid new yellow-green poplar leaves. They come through early, the yellow-rumps, but will eventually be outnumbered by chestnut-sideds and yellowthroats—up Beech Hill, at least. A tilted planet turns, the photoperiod lengthens, yellow-green leaves unfurl, insects return. And with them come wood-warblers.

(It’s another thing I notice: the returns of insects. Oh, I’m sure I’m not the only one who notices the return of black flies and mosquitoes, but to me they mean not annoyance and bug spray but the return of insectivorous birds.)

Common eider, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Common eider.

Finally, at the summit, I heard the call note of a towhee coming from somewhere down the eastern slope. I suppose next year I might notice all the singing first arrivals of this species and realize they’re likely simply moving through, stopping off to check out the habitat—certainly wonderful towhee habitat, that’s for sure.

This late-afternoon, dog and I took a brisk walk along the breakwater. The highlight: a female common merganser diving near a low-tide rock on which were perched three double-crested cormorants. And (I noticed from their gentle peeps) more purple sandpipers moving through.

Beech Hill List
At 9:30 a.m., I walked both trails.

American goldfinch
Black-capped chickadee
American crow
Herring gull (voice)
Mourning dove
White-throated sparrow (voice)
Yellow-rumped warbler
Tree swallow
Eastern phoebe
Savannah sparrow
Eastern towhee (voice)
Common raven (voice)
Chipping sparrow (voice)
Tufted titmouse (voice)

Purple sandpipers, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Purple sandpipers at the Rockland Breakwater.


House finch
Song sparrow
Northern cardinal
House sparrow
Common grackle
Double-crested cormorant
Common merganser
Common eider
Common loon
Purple sandpiper

Looking northwest from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Looking northwest from Beech Hill.

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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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