I was nearly wrong. I declared yesterday that towhees would be singing from now until fall at Beech Hill, thinking the four or five (or more) birds giving forth yesterday would hang around and nest. Well, on today’s morning walk up the hill, I heard no towhee songs at all. In fact, it was a very different hike.
At the trailhead, I heard only goldfinches and chickadees. The sky was clear and blue. The morning sun bathed the greening landscape. A brisk north wind had kicked up. Not sure if yesterday’s activity came from the dramatic swing in the weather or what—but today’s walk began about as uneventfully as yesterday’s was notable. I did finally hear a crow’s voice from up the hill and a herring gull’s from (no doubt) the little cow farm. Then about half-way up, I heard the subtle chip of a warbler.
I notice things like that. After thirty years of listing birds, my brain is attuned to their voices—whether a cardinal singing its incessant string of sweet, loud notes or an osprey’s scream from 200 yards up or the tiny two-note tee-deet of a nesting female hummingbird. Many (if not most) cultured folk don’t notice their native birds at all; they have other distractions involving family or the office or that strange new sound coming from under the hood of the car. The chip made my ears perk up. I had an idea of what it was.
I might’ve been wrong about the towhees, but I was right about this: a yellow-rumped warbler, hunting for insects amid new yellow-green poplar leaves. They come through early, the yellow-rumps, but will eventually be outnumbered by chestnut-sideds and yellowthroats—up Beech Hill, at least. A tilted planet turns, the photoperiod lengthens, yellow-green leaves unfurl, insects return. And with them come wood-warblers.
(It’s another thing I notice: the returns of insects. Oh, I’m sure I’m not the only one who notices the return of black flies and mosquitoes, but to me they mean not annoyance and bug spray but the return of insectivorous birds.)
Finally, at the summit, I heard the call note of a towhee coming from somewhere down the eastern slope. I suppose next year I might notice all the singing first arrivals of this species and realize they’re likely simply moving through, stopping off to check out the habitat—certainly wonderful towhee habitat, that’s for sure.
This late-afternoon, dog and I took a brisk walk along the breakwater. The highlight: a female common merganser diving near a low-tide rock on which were perched three double-crested cormorants. And (I noticed from their gentle peeps) more purple sandpipers moving through.
Beech Hill List
At 9:30 a.m., I walked both trails.
Herring gull (voice)
White-throated sparrow (voice)
Eastern towhee (voice)
Common raven (voice)
Chipping sparrow (voice)
Tufted titmouse (voice)