28 February 2024

Standing still

Saturday, July 30th, 2011
Chestnut-sided warbler, Beech Hill, Maine, 30 July 2011.

Chestnut-sided warbler.

What a beautiful summer Saturday. And what a heap of errands I got done. First breakfast. Then I worked on a font for a couple hours. Then I took a quick bike ride to the post offices. Then I collected two-three months worth of returnable bottles and took ’em to the redemption center. (Got twenty bucks, even.) Then I hit the grocery store. Then Jack accompanied me to the town transfer station, where I unloaded a passel of recyclables. Soon after, we hiked all the Beech Hill trails. And then I mowed the lawn.

Black-capped chickadee, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 July 2011.

Black-capped chickadee.

Not a lot of bird activity to report (in fact, I haven’t heard a singing house finch in several days)—until we hiked the hill.

High blue sky. Lumbering cumulus. Red-eyed vireos calling to each other as we came through the sugar bush. Waxwings overhead, chickadees in the wood, crow in the distance. The usual towhees, goldfinches, yellowthroats. Not until we got about half-way up the hill did things get interesting.

I heard a clear, rapid chip, indicative of a young bird begging for food. Not as rapid as the chestnut-sided warbler juveniles’ voices I’ve come to know only this year, but insistent enough—and near enough—to cause me to stop and peer into the thick trailside tangles. Within a minute or two, the bird appeared: a young redstart. And near it, an adult female scrambling to fill its gaping maw. (I haven’t heard redstarts in a while up there—nor ovenbirds, for even longer—no doubt because of just such a preoccupation with fledglings.) As we stood there, as I attempted a photo through the foliage, a sharp chip! came suddenly from the other side of the trail behind me. I couldn’t help turn to look. A chestnut-sided warbler had popped up to check out the interlopers. It hopped down to a twig not four feet away, in fact—far to near to focus.

Eventually, the chestnut-sided backed off enough to snap a photo or two. Also eventually, a cedar waxwing appeared low in the greenery near the redstarts with a blueberry in its beak. Then a chickadee flitted up to where the warbler had been—in fact, they sat on the same branch for a moment—and beyond it I caught heard, then saw, a little flurry of chippy activity that turned out to be a vireo feeding a couple youngsters of its own. Five species in about three minutes within no more than thirty feet of each other. Score.

Dragonfly, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 July 2011.


Which got me thinking about a pretty basic birding trick: go to a place that looks birdy, then just stop and wait, listen and look, and the birds will come to you. That’s how I’ve taken at least ninety percent of my best bird photos—by just stopping and standing still.

At the summit, I decided to descend the open trail for a change. As a result, I heard the songs of field sparrows, savannah sparrows, and a black-throated green warbler down by Beech Hill Road. Returning, I heard—then saw—three tree swallows fly over. And seconds later, I spotted a hummingbird zipping uphill toward Beech Nut.

Heard no hermit thrush or veery down the lower wooded trail. No pewee, no alder flycatcher. In fact, I heard only vireos down there.

And what a beautiful summer Saturday night. I hear Sunday will be beautiful, too.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 4:15 p.m., I hiked all trails.

Sailing, view from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 July 2011.


1. Red-eyed vireo
2. Cedar waxwing
3. Black-capped chickadee
4. American crow (voice)
5. Eastern towhee (voice)
6. American goldfinch (voice)
7. Common yellowthroat
8. American redstart
9. Gray catbird (voice)
10. Chestnut-sided warbler
11. Song sparrow
12. Eastern phoebe
13. Field sparrow (voice)
14. Savannah sparrow (voice)
15. American robin (voice)
16. Black-throated green warbler (voice)
17. Tree swallow
18. Ruby-throated hummingbird


19. Northern cardinal
20. House sparrow
21. Rock pigeon
22. 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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