26 May 2022

Standing still

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
Jack on the trail, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 August 2011.

Jack on the trail.

I’ve mentioned this before, but some of my best birding happens when I just stop and stand still.

Today was another lovely one—mostly sunny, slight northwesterly wind, warmish. I spent a fruitful morning at my desk, then my bandwidth conked out for some reason. It’s frustrating when you count on it as much as I suppose I must, but it did get me thinking that perhaps I shouldn’t be counting on it so much. I took it as a sign that it was time for a bike ride.

Chestnut-sided warbler, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 August 2011.

Chestnut-sided warbler.

Another nice ride. Not many birds to speak of—roadside crows, gulls in the blue, a cardinal in Rockport Village—but fragrant air, full lungs, deep breathing, sweat. I love riding my bike.

On my return, the bandwidth was still out, and I had a message reporting a server crash. Which I would’ve noticed a lot earlier, had I bandwidth. And which I could’ve fixed remotely, had I bandwidth. Instead, I high-tailed it to the datacenter and fixed things there. Then I drove home, grabbed Jack, and we headed for Beech Hill.

No one else there when we arrived. Heard chickadees, crows, and a goldfinch. A thin layer of wondrous clouds had moved over, though the sun still glowed brightly and blue still showed through. Just as we started up the steep slope, I heard a peep! and we stopped. In some tall brush to the left of us, sparrows were darting about. White-throats, keeping well hidden. As we stood there, I heard a raven from somewhere in the northwest (where I believe they keep a nest). Suddenly, a towhee flitted between two bushes and disappeared—I saw its white-edged tailfeathers. And just then a little bird appeared, a female chestnut-sided warbler, eyeing us. Tried for some photos, but the bird didn’t stay. As I was looking for where the chestnut-sided got off to, another warbler, a male yellowthroat, poked its head out. And I heard the call of a waxwing.

Crows and harrier, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 August 2011.

Crows and harrier

Within just a minute or two, I’d added six birds to my list. They were being secretive, sneaky, furtive—or calling from a distance. All it took was a moment of standing still and paying attention.

Nearing the summit, I heard a wood-pewee singing from down the southern slope. First one of those in a while. And at the berry patch (about a dozen each of black- and blueberries), I heard the note of a hairy woodpecker. New total: eleven species.

But since I eschew prime numbers when it comes to my bird lists (crazy, I know), I felt a need to ID one more species. No new birds until we got close to the parking lot. I had a feeling, and so we stopped. Stood still. Sure enough, I heard the mew! of a catbird. Granted, I had a feeling I might hear one down there in the thicket of small trees, where I know they’ve nested. But still.

So if you’re birding and having little luck, just find a nice spot and stand there. Chances are, if you pay close enough attention, you’ll discover something cool.

Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 August 2011.

Beech Nut.

Tonight, the air has a fragrant smell, with a hint of salt air. I could breathe air like this for the rest of my life without complaining.

Addendum: As I processed my photos for this entry, I realized that the image I thought would show three crows in flight actually shows two crows and a northern harrier. Guess that explains why they (there were about a half-dozen crows in all) seemed to be kind of ganging up on that one bird. (And it also leaves me with the lucky prime number thirteen.)

Beech Hill List

Beginning at 6 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Black-capped chickadee (voice)
2. American crow
3. American goldfinch
4. White-throated sparrow
5. Common raven (voice)
6. Eastern towhee
7. Cedar waxwing
8. Chestnut-sided warbler
9. Common yellowthroat
10. Northern harrier
11. Eastern wood-pewee (voice)
12. Hairy woodpecker (voice)
13. Gray catbird


14. Herring gull
15. Northern cardinal

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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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