The light of a haze-veiled sun squeezed its way between my blinds this morning, awakening me with a purpose: to get up Beech Hill right away. By the time dog and I arrived at the Rockville Street parking lot, it was 7 o’clock. The temperature was cool—low- to mid-40s (F)—and already a breeze had kicked up. I wore insulated upperwear.
At first I didn’t hear much—robin, chickadee, goldfinch, the common birds—but singing towhees made an appearance soon enough. Also, there were jays. A number of jays, calling from various points along the trails. Not a rare sound up there, but not all that common, either.
A drumming partridge, the song of a white-throated sparrow. By the time we reached the summit, I’d seen or heard fourteen or fifteen species.
As soon as we headed down the open trail, I heard the voice of a raven and looked up to see the bird harassing a northern harrier, a ghostly male. The raven dwarfed the marsh hawk, but the hawk seemed relatively undaunted. I fired off a series of long-distance photos as they came together once or twice. Before long the hawk soared nonchalantly down the western slope before us, and the raven turned and sailed over toward the trees to the north. You don’t see that every day.
Savannah sparrows flitted around in the shrubbery, calling from the tops of stones or the bushy upper branches. A field sparrow’s clear, bouncy notes came wind-blown from the western slope, and a chippy called from a conifer along Beech Hill Road. Hearing a song sparrow’s trill and chime as we arrived back at the parking lot made this a five-sparrow day.
The phoebe family made an appearance near their nest up under the Beech Nut porch roof. The landscape has suddenly gone a bright, sunlit yellow-green. In a couple days May will be here—and with it’ll come wood-warblers.
The wind had calmed by clear twilight, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen—from the indescribably pure blend of blue in the western sky to the evening star hanging motionless above Benner Hill. And not long ago I heard a woodcock’s peent and eerie, thrilling flight song.
Beech Hill List
At 7 a.m., I walked all trails.
Eastern towhee (voice)
Tufted titmouse (voice)
Blue jay (voice)
Ruffed grouse (booming)
White-throated sparrow (voice)
Mourning dove (voice)
Field sparrow (voice)
Hermit thrush (voice)
Chipping sparrow (voice)
Northern flicker (voice)
Song sparrow (voice)
Downy woodpecker (voice)
Tags: American crow, American goldfinch, American robin, American woodcock, black-capped chickadee, blue jay, chipping sparrow, common raven, downy woodpecker, eastern phoebe, eastern towhee, field sparrow, hermit thrush, herring gull, mourning dove, northern flicker, northern harrier, ruffed grouse, savannah sparrow, song sparrow, tufted titmouse, white-throated sparrow