OK, so we had a fragment of sun this morning. Never mind that it was freakin’ cold—temps in the 30s, rising slowly as maple sap into the low- to mid-40s. Suddenly, the hemisphere decided to behave as it’s supposed to, never mind the long, green grass in need of mowing weeks ahead of time. There be the cardinal, the song sparrow, the house finch, a mourning dove, a chickadee, a titmouse, a crow.
Turkey vulture, near.
By the time dog and I headed for Beech Hill, the sky had gone pretty much totally overcast. Thankfully, there wasn’t a lot of wind. I had hopes—though I should never have, because they usually don’t pan out. These didn’t. I spotted not a single bird until we neared the summit, when I saw a solitary turkey vulture soaring out in the direction of the bay. But as we began our descent, I heard a familiar note and said to my good dog, “Wait.” A towhee. Unmistakable. First of year. I also heard robins and chickadees and herring gulls and a flicker and a phoebe and a song sparrow and a crow. But the vulture was the only bird I saw at Beech Hill today. The only bird.
As we drove away up Beech Hill Road, we topped a rise and I saw a turkey on the blacktop. But wait, it wasn’t a turkey—it was a turkey vulture. It had been scavanging a… chicken. Or what surely looked like about two-thirds of a coppery colored domestic fowl. It flapped up into an overhanging tree as I drove past. So I turned around in a driveway, pulled up, and snapped a couple photos. Ugly sumbitches, turkey vultures. But they sure do look a lot like turkeys.
Soon after, for the heck of it, we swung by Weskeag Marsh. I’d heard of kingfishers and snowy egrets and all kinds of inspiring migrants. Today? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Well, not completely zip, I guess—one distant great blue heron, a couple mallards, some black ducks, a few teals, some gulls. I saw a little gang of crows flap over. But I heard not a single killdeer.
On the drive back, though, I counted rock pigeons, a couple blue jays, and a kestrel on a power line.
At least I heard that towhee.
Great blue heron
On rolling out of bed I felt a chill. Out the window spanned a mostly blue sky—but with an angular dark blue edge of cloud away to the southeast. This overcast must’ve just blown off, I figured. And now all was sunand brightness. And chill.
The cardinal made an early appearance, as usual. Song sparrow. Phoebe. And then, within an hour or so, a new overcast blew in, and the world went dim again. From the swaying of the still-bare branches, I could tell this weather came with a little wind. But we had Beech Hill to conquer, dog and I, as we do anew each day, so we headed out at late morning. And just as we did, the sky began to spit tiny white balls of sleet, which bounced and whispered and melted on the steps. The temperature was about 48 degrees (F).
Before heading up the hill, we stopped at the bottle-redemption center. Errands, you know. And the place was so near the Weskeag Marsh I figured we should make an appearance—so we did. Right away I spotted a great blue heron out on the pannes. And another. And then a third. Black ducks, mallards, killdeers, green-winged teals. Crows. Gulls. A red-winged blackbird flew over. I was glad we stopped by.
Great blue heron.
Up Beech Hill, of course, there was nothing to stop the wind, which whipped against us insistently. A pair of ravens swooped low over the southern slope, and a kestrel hovered on quick wings at the summit. From the back of Beech Nut, I spotted movement below—a male harrier teetering in the wind down the western expanse, dramatically pale, with black wing tips, but too far away for a good photo. Calling I heard robins, phoebes, a titmouse, a goldfinch.
Within another couple hours, the second overcast had passed away, and the sky extended in a clear blue field for as far as I could see. After a bit of debate, I decided to go ahead and take a bicycle ride out in the blustery late afternoon. I was rewarded not new birds species but with a pleasant ache in my legs and rhythm in my breathing and sense of all being right with the world.
Great blue heron