24 June 2024

Our wild world

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
Hillside mist, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 October 2010.

Hillside mist.

Woke up. Got out of bed. Slapped my CMLT hat upon my head. Grabbed my dog, camera, and binocs, and headed for Beech Hill.

Warmish—at least mid-50s (F), I’d guess—and still and damp. Sunlight streamed through the yellow-green of the trees on the hill out back first thing. And on the drive up, the roadsides were hopping with birds, including sparrows, juncos, robins, and a bright male cardinal. Then I noticed wisps of fog in the little inland valleys.

Song sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 October 2010.

Song sparrow.

No vehicles in the parking lot. The cry of a jay, the gentle notes of a nuthatch, the squee and tut-tut of a robin. Many robins, in fact—some hanging out in the trees, some cruising overhead in small flocks. Yellow-rumps still, white-throated and song sparrows. Coming up the first rise, I spotted a northern harrier—it’d spotted me first—floating up and around the hill.

Streaks and scraps of fog clung to the sides of the hills around us, Jack and me.

At the summit, ‘rumps and sparrows flitted about the boughs of the spruces. I saw what looked like a kestrel flash by to the north, but I couldn’t be sure.

Many, many robins today—unquestionably the most abundant bird. Chittering groups of juncos. Returning, I heard the voices of chickadee and kinglet and a hairy woodpecker.

Later, while riding my bicycle through the warm air, I saw a mourning dove and a sharp-shinned hawk within a few hundred yards of each other.

Tonight, a little spattering of rain is falling. But the big bird news comes from my young birder friend, Luke, who got a wonderful photo (all his photos are wonderful) of a Maine first: a yellow-billed loon, swimming off Portland.

I learned today, while listening to a Radio Lab podcast, that I’m not nuts—that animals do have very specific language, referring to very specific dangers and wants and urgencies. I knew crows did; I’ve heard and attempted to decipher the subtleties in their calls. Sure enough, in our wild world, the natural sounds that usually blend into humans’ peripheries actually mean important things.

Dark-eyed junco, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 October 2010.

Dark-eyed junco.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 8 a.m., I hiked the open trail

1. Blue jay
2. American robin
3. White-throated sparrow
4. American goldfinch
5. Yellow-rumped warbler
6. White-breasted nuthatch
7. American crow
8. Song sparrow
9. Northern harrier
10. Northern flicker
11. Dark-eyed junco
12. Hairy woodpecker
13. Black-capped chickadee
14. Golden-crowned kinglet


15. Herring gull
16. Northern cardinal
17. Mourning dove
18. Sharp-shinned hawk

The bay, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 October 2010.

The bay.

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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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