Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 18: Into the woods

With temperatures in the 70s, a hike was in order. And apparently it was in order for everyone else in town, too, because my first choice for a hike--Bald Mountain--was over-booked, with cars spilling out of the parking lot and up the street. So I headed to one of the Ragged Mountain trailheads and happily found myself alone there. Well, with no human company, anyway, unless you count the guys training their bird dogs in a nearby field down the road.

I brought binoculars because with weird warm weather like this, I didn't know what new spring arrival I might come across. I was hoping for a phoebe or perhaps a fox sparrow. Instead, the first bird I saw was a Bohemian waxwing--a boreal breeder that often strays southward during the winter months. A small flock of seven birds hung out in the treetops near the parking area. As with the snowy owl I saw on Friday, they've been observed by many birders this winter. I just hadn't managed to come across any until today. I'm really pushing the envelope with my winter bird sightings this year. It made me feel that I was diverted to the other trail for this good reason alone: to appreciate the beauty of these winter visitors and enjoy their soft trills, even as I could also hear a brown creeper singing his sweet, clear spring song and a pileated woodpecker calling loudly from deep in the woods.

A red-tailed hawk soared over the parking area as I set off up the trail, probably one of the resident birds I see every time I come to this part of the mountain. I enjoyed a mellow walk through the awakening woods, relishing the almost-sensuous sunlight, the soft flapping of last year's clinging beech leaves, the clear, unfrozen stream, and a sense of peace among trees slowly stirring back to life. The occasional bird sang from amid still-bare branches, and I sometimes lost the path in my distraction, wandering here and there amid stands of slender trunks shining in the sunlight until I found another blue blaze.

Hiking down the trail--
everything looks different
than when I went up.

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