21 January 2021

The miracle of clouds

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
High clouds, Camden, Maine, 29 March 2011.

High clouds.

While washing my breakfast dishes this morning, I watched crows poking about under the oaks again. And I wondered—how long does it take them to build a nest? I also saw robins flitting about, along with some smaller birds that I couldn’t easily identify at a distance through a window.

Took the dog out and heard the usual singing house finch. Also a singing cardinal. Didn’t hear the titmouse, though, oddly.

Had a big work project that occupied most of my time today, but I also had a meeting in Camden at 4. (As it happens, a Beech Hill–related meeting.) So dog and I scrambled around doing errands, then I left him to guard the house while I attended the meeting. All this time, I could hardly take my eyes off the sky.

The day was sunny again but not nearly so cool. In fact, I saw several bike riders out (and felt a little envious). Something about the flow of air, and the time of year, and the latitude—some meteorological something filled the sky today with high, wispy, cirrus-looking clouds. They were delicate, they curled, the changed shapes in motion. Among the most amazing miracles we adult humans tend to overlook (underlook?), it seems to me, are clouds.

En route to my meeting, I saw a few mallards flying fast and low over the Megunticook River. The meeting went well. And then I dashed home to grab Jack for a quick hike up the wooded Beech Hill trails.

Right away I heard the faint notes of a nuthatch. Looked up. There were a pair of them up there in the big, ancient maple near the trailhead—white-breasted nuthatches, softly talking to each other. A nesting pair, clearly. I watched them flit about for a while.

A pair of crows flew over. On up a ways, the robins made their appearance. A chickadee called. Then another. One came very close, checking us out. (I worry a bit, though, because Jack appears to know the word “chickadee” and tends to watch them suspiciously.) Then the note of a hairy woodpecker. The call of a fox sparrow. The cry of a flicker.

About half-way up, I heard human voices coming from somewhere in the southwest. Hollering, laughing voices. Was someone running around in one of the blueberry fields? I couldn’t fathom what that was all about and wondered if maybe the wind was carrying sounds at a particularly great distance today. At the top of the trail, dog and I took a brief side trip to check the fields—and right away we both noticed a pair of  (apparently) teenagers playing and shrieking and shouting up around Beech Nut. Sound was definitely blowing around today.

Returning, we saw more robins, another chickadee or two. Not much else. Snow still covers nearly half the wooded trails, but today’s temperature was warm enough (despite the breeze) that I worked up a big sweat under my hooded sweatshirt. I guess maybe that’s why they call them “sweatshirts.”

Driving home, I saw a mourning dove on a utility line.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., I hiked the wooded trails.

1. White-breasted nuthatch
2. American crow
3. Black-capped chickadee
4. Hairy woodpecker (voice)
5. American robin
6. Fox sparrow (voice)
7. Northern flicker (voice)
8. Herring gull (voice)


9. House finch
10. Blue jay
11. Northern cardinal
12. Mallard
13. Mourning dove

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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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