Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31: Visitor

When a co-worker called me over to the window, "Quick!" I thought I was going to catch sight of some unusual bird. Instead I was surprised to see a large doe standing right outside our office. She seemed to catch sight of our movement inside and flicked away, but we were able to track her as she ran past a row of office windows, and later, wandered around the other side of the building. We were all struck by her long graceful neck and the speed with which she could make her large body disappear so quickly and utterly.
We hoped to see you
leap over the fence. Instead
you vanished in trees.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30: Poetry Dinner

My poet friend Elizabeth Tibbetts (author of In the Welland I recently resolved to meet one night a month and "be poets" together, making space and time to talk about poetry and write or share poems. Tonight was our first session, and we decided to really do it up by meeting at The Lost Kitchen, Belfast's coolest new restaurant. Over oysters, then halibut and mussels, we talked and talked, and then wrote some poems. I wrote a tanka (like a haiku, but with two extra 7-syllable lines added at the end) and a haiku; she wrote a short free verse poem which I like very much. So it seemed appropriate to share the fruits of our poetry dinner here.

My tanka:
Outside the restaurant
chimney swifts flicker. Inside,
lit candle, cocktail,
lustrous grey and gold oysters.
Across the table, dear friend.

My haiku:
Everything's local--
rhubarb and vodka cocktail,
mussels, oysters, us.

Elizabeth's poem:
The evening light slides
down like this river
oyster. Forget the innuendo
and remember the salt,
salt of blood and sea.
The lilacs are going by,
next the honeysuckle.
Tip the glass high, let
the last pale sip in.
Remember. Try it now.
Remember what you wanted
most, what drew you
like the chimney swift
to the flue.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29: Peace sign

Photograph (and peace sign) by Clifford Pendleton
It was all over Facebook among friends here in Camden--or those from Camden--on Memorial Day. Cliff Pendleton had somehow managed to create a perfect peace sign by burning rubber right in the center of town the night before. The street serving as the canvas to this masterpiece of public car art is Main Street (a.k.a. Route One), at the intersection of three other major streets, the literal crossroads of town. The precision driving required to create such a thing boggles the mind a bit. 

As Cliff wrote when he posted this: "Fuel to town ten bucks, court summons [by the Marine Patrol, no less] hundred thirty nine, miles of smiles PRICELESS!!" This is civil disobedience at its best, in my opinion. I especially enjoyed seeing a photograph posted later of the town's Memorial Day parade passing over the peace sign. What better way to honor our fallen dead than to wish for peace so that no more fall in combat?

Tire tread mark peace sign--
sometimes a small disruption
can make a big point.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28: Treefrog

We returned home from Monhegan this afternoon to be taunted by our backyard birds. After looking for three days for a black-and-white warbler out on the island, the first bird we heard upon pulling into our driveway was a black-and-white warbler, singing loudly right there. Then, as I was checking out how the flowers had progressed since we left on Saturday (lilacs in bloom! columbine in bloom! rhodos starting to bloom!), I was strafed by a hummingbird. We saw zero hummingbirds on Monhegan, despite the island being loaded with both flowers and nectar feeders--so this was a nice welcome home.

One odd thing, however, was hearing the trill of a gray treefrog coming from somewhere up the street. There are no wetlands in our neighborhood, other than the river on the downhill side of the house. This solo frog was calling plaintively in the vicinity of our neighbor's garden. I've been hearing him off and on for the past couple of weeks, but was surprised he was still around in what seems to be a completely random spot and still making noise. Guess he'll keep at it till he gets lucky.

Good luck, little frog--
you're not near water or mates,
but your song's pretty.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 27: Empids

Birds of the flycatcher genus Empidonax all look alike for the most part. So when you see one, unless it's singing, you generally can't tell which of several species it might be. We have to let a lot of Empids go unidentified, just tiny grey-green flycatchers with wing bars and some kind of eye ring.

My husband and I got lucky today, however. We actually heard four of the five Empids that might be found out on Monnhegan Island, and as a bonus, got good looks at several. Here's what we saw/heard:

Least Flycatcher: says "Che-beck"
Alder Flycatcher: says "Free-beer!"
Willow Flycatcher: says "Fitz-bew"
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher: says "Pe-wee!" but not like a pewee says it. It also has a distinct yellow wash on its belly, unlike the others.
(The fifth Empid is the Acadian Flycatcher, which is the rarest in these parts; I've only had one out here once.)

So, despite a paucity of warblers, we enjoyed our flycatcher day (we also heard/saw a Great Crested Flycatcher, kingbirds, and pewees). It involved a lot of standing quietly near lush, thickety wet areas with our ears and eyes on high alert, which also enabled us to spot several other birds as they passed by--as well as swarms of little flies in the columns of light filtering through the trees, the birds' reason for being there. A welcome change of pace.

Flycatcher puzzle
keeps us occupied for hours,
intent but content.

Flycatcher Quest on Trail #6

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 26: Monhegan again!

I can't get out here enough! Fortunately this weekend my husband was able to join me on my favorite island. We left in pea soup fog, and now I'm enjoying a cocktail in full sun on the deck of the Monhegan House while a flock of siskins chirps overhead, the foghorn whistle sounds, somewhere far off a bell buoy clangs, and gulls cry down at the harbor's edge. The sun is slowly lowering itself over the curved green back of Manana, the island across the harbor, as I'm slowly settling into the island rhythm for the weekend.

Besides the visual attractions of the island and the brightly colored migrants that pass through it, and the constant sounds of the waves and singing birds, my high moment today had to do with the sense of smell. While listening and looking for a mourning warbler, a skulking, boreal bird with a song often used, for some reason, in TV ads, I found myself suddenly engulfed in the perfume of a lilac grove. The ancient, twisted lilacs are laden with redolent purple blossoms right now, with bright warblers moving among them. For an instant, part of me was on the island I love, on a quest for a sought-after bird. And part of me was back at my grandmother's house, a child again, breathing in that heady fragrance as if it were oxygen. They do say smell is the sense most closely linked to memory.

As a child, too, I
gloried in lilacs, and birds,
at the ocean's edge.

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25: What's with you?

Everyone has their own memory devices to identify bird songs. But what works for one birder might not work at all for another, especially if that other is an older birder who's lost the upper register of his or her hearing and can't hear all the notes of the song. Fortunately, that's not me... yet. I may need reading glasses, but my hearing is still excellent and I do most of my spring birding by ear.

But here's what I'm talking about. Most birders learn the song of the white-throated sparrow as, "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody." Or, an alternative: "O Canada, Canada Canada." Those long, clear, resonant notes are distinctive in the Maine woods, recognized by most as a sound of summer even if they don't know what the bird looks like or even its name. I, however, was taught as a child by my grandmother that the sparrow is singing, "We're going to have rain"--each word a long, drawn-out whistled note. It was years before I really heard the vibrato that makes those final notes into triplets of sound (like "Peabody," "Canada"), but by then it was too late. The "rain prediction song" was the association irrevocably stuck in my head. (And here in Maine, it's going to rain almost always--so that prediction is usually accurate.)

In many bird books, the song of the chestnut-sided warbler is described as "Pleased, pleased, pleased to meet you!" But I hear, "Hey, hey, hey, what's with you?" As I was walking to my car this afternoon to run an errand, a chestnut-sided warbler sang close by, very loudly. "What's with you?!" he asked, and I found myself musing as I drove to the bank if that was more than a mnemonic. Maybe the world was posing me an existential question through that bird. What is with me? Why am I so tired this week? Is it this blanket of fog? Or something deeper, darker?

Then I laughed.

What's with me? Thinking
the world is all about me.
Birds sing for themselves.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24: Peaceful sparrow

Occasionally a song sparrow visits my office bird feeder. I looked up from my desk this afternoon to see one just standing there for several minutes. He'd pick up a seed now and then, but eating didn't seem to be the focus. For long seconds he would look through the window as if checking out the office. Then he'd spend several more moments looking toward a stand of birches. He didn't grab a seed and run like the titmice and chickadees do, or twitter and fidget like the wary goldfinches. The sun was shining on his back, and I imagined that sitting in a feeder full of seed on a warm day with no predators visible must be a bird's idea of heaven.

All the sparrow needs:
seeds, sunshine, safe nest, a mate.
And what else is there?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23: Young deer

The highlight of a bird walk I led this morning on Ragged Mountain wasn't a bird, although there were several cool birds--singing wood thrush, singing rose-breasted grosbeak, singing towhee, woodcocks flushed from a nest, a bluebird in a nest cavity, several warblers... As we walked up the woods road, a deer stepped out in front of us and looked our way. I thought at first it was a big doe, warm brown in her new summer coat. But looking through my binoculars, I could see it had little velvety nubs of horns: a young buck. His big ears swiveled as he tried to figure out what we were. We must have been downwind, because he began to slowly walk toward us, seemingly curious. We held still and watched, but not silently. He flicked his white tail but didn't bolt. Eventually he must have decided we were beneath his notice, and he melted into the woods. We never heard a sound, even as we walked past where he had entered the shelter of green leaves.
More aware than we
of all those birds in the leaves--
young deer, still fearless.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22: Overhead

This morning from my office I could hear the piercing, high-pitched call of a broad-winged hawk. Often I'm faked out by blue jay mimics, so I went outside to see which this was, hawk or jay. Overhead the small hawk circled above the office several times, whistling insistently. It felt as if he were calling us outside to admire him as surveyed his domain: Pay attention, subjects! The light illuminated his barred breast and banded tail. I could see where the same flight feather in each wing had fallen out and left a gap, like missing teeth--clearly, he's molting. He called over and over, eventually soaring over the river toward Mount Battie. I think they nest on the mountain each summer.

Later at my desk I heard a loon calling as it flew upriver. Such a strange and wonderful sound to punctuate my work day. And so unlike the beeping of trucks backing up at the warehouse across the street or the neighbor's dog barking incessantly.

River calls them in.
We're simple witnesses here
to all that wild noise.

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21: Sweeping away the cobwebs of winter

On this glorious sunny day I opened my office windows wide. The sound of yellow and chestnut-sided warblers singing in the nearby alder patch, a great-crested flycatcher "breeping" down by the river, and a nearby group of chipping sparrows kept my ears well entertained while I worked away on the computer. The boys of spring are back.

Late morning I heard a slight scrabbling noise at the window and looked up to see a titmouse tugging at a white mat of cobwebs that had accumulated on the inside corner of the window frame over the past several months. The little bird quickly cleared off the entire edge of the window, even perching on top and tugging at something it found up there. Perhaps there were insects trapped in the webs, but it also flew off with some of the stuff, presumably to use in its nest. Webbing helps hold together a nest well. Meanwhile, the view from my nest of an office was looking a bit neater thanks to the bird.

Repurposing webs,
titmouse tidies my windows,
does my spring cleaning.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20: Off island

The hour-long ferry ride home from Monhegan, especially on a day of dazzling sunlight and calm seas, offers an almost dream-like transition from the isolated island--for me, a repository of years of wonderful memories and experiences with dear friends and thousands of birds--and the reality of my ordinary life. I'm tired, sunburned, lulled by the rhythm of the boat through the waves. I often nap. The laughing gulls raucous calls as we approach Port Clyde harbor seem somehow an appropriate awakening. And then I'm in my car, Red Sox game on the radio, heading up the St. George peninsula, already thinking ahead to a mundane errand I need to run on the way back home.

All that deep water
between here and there. It seems
days past, not mere hours.

View of Fish Beach, Monhegan, as the ferry leaves harbor 

May 19: Monhegan sapsucker

A Monhegan story: a birder friend of mine who lives in New York City (when he's not on Monhegan) was at a bus stop years ago when he noticed a yellow-bellied sapsucker on a nearby tree. Being a gregarious man, he turned to the woman next to him and excitedly announced, "Sapsucker!" "Pervert!" she exclaimed, moving as far away from him as she could get.

When I was in second grade, a boy in my class told our teacher that he was a bird-watcher. She asked him what birds he'd seen, and he said he'd recently seen a yellow-bellied sapsucker. I remember this because I didn't think such a bird could exist. It sounded so improbable and exotic. Little did I know that almost 40 years later they would be an ordinary part of my life, that others would be looking at me strangely when I casually mentioned seeing a sapsucker.

Sapsuckers are one of our few migrant woodpeckers (along with flickers), and some days on Monhegan it can seem like there's one clinging to every tree. Those lines of holes you see fretting the apple trunks--those were made by generations of sapsuckers. Today, however, I only saw one, this female below, who landed just a few yards in front of the group I was birding with and then posed obligingly for photographs, close enough for even a lousy pocket-sized point-and-shoot like mine.
Even in my slightly blurry photo you can see she lacks the red throat of a male. You can also see the faint yellow wash on her belly, from which her species gets its name. What you can't see is the buffy, almost gold, color that ran alongside her black throat. And what you can barely see, but which I was struck by most, was the delicate barring on her breast contrasting with the bolder spots on her back. A beautiful, intricately patterned bird. Her long pause before us felt like the visitation of some wonderful alien being (with an appropriately strange name). 

Little sapsucker
pecking out her secret code,
tapping into spring.

May 18: Monhegan weekend, first night

The first of two nights on Monhegan Island for the weekend. I went to bed sated by a day of perfect weather, dozens of birds flitting through the trees, hours of walking on trails winding past blossom-laden apple trees and lilacs, the great company of friends old and new, and a good supper. The night was chilly but I left my windows open so I could hear the sound of the waves crashing and the foghorn over on Manana. Also, so that in the morning I'd awaken at first light to bird song. I crawled into my sleeping bag happy and, unusual for me, fell asleep right away.

My cabin is a separate building from the one that contains the bathroom, so in the middle of the night I was forced to traipse across the dewy lawn. When I looked up, however, I was glad that I'd had to go outside. The night sky was clear and full of stars, unimpeded by light pollution so far offshore. In fact, it was a challenge to make my way 20 yards across the lawn. So late at night, the stars looked out of place, and I had to re-orient myself with the Big Dipper, which was tipped up in a different direction than when I saw it much earlier in the evening. My first thought was how beautiful and rare it is these days to see the sky like that. My second thought was that this clear sky means birds are migrating, and some of them will find the island at dawn so that I can hopefully find them.

Late night, glasses off--
swarms of stars blur overhead,
guiding birds northward.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17: Ravens

Today is our wedding anniversary, and as is our tradition, my husband and I met after work at the outdoor chapel where we got married. Nine years ago, it was also a sunny day, a bit chillier--I wore long underwear under my dress--with the leaves just unfurling and the earliest flowers blooming. My husband brought me roses, and in the afternoon light his eyes shone with that unreal color blue that first drew me to him all those years ago.
The theme of our wedding was ravens--specifically, Odin's two birds named Thought and Memory. Our wedding rings had engraved ravens on them. It's a long story, but now we have matching black ceramic wedding rings, still adhering to the raven theme.
Which is why it seemed especially symbolic when, back home, I heard the croak of a raven flying overhead, headed for some corvid fracas on Mount Battie. Later, my husband and I watched together as the pair soared back over the house.
They're not here for us,
but we thrill to see ravens--
Thought and Memory.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16: Weather report

Driving early this morning on my way to lead a bird walk, I was listening closely to the weather report on public radio. Showers stopping on the coast, the weatherman said (and I paraphrase), with maybe even some brightening this afternoon. However, he went on, this was not necessarily a good thing, as that might produce atmospheric disturbances leading to thunderstorms.

The rain did stop, and at one point this afternoon, a patch of sky shone briefly. We were not disturbed by thunderstorms. However, as I drove home early this evening from a meeting, a tiny scattering of hailstones bounced around my car for a moment. And then they were gone.

After days of rain,
would a little sun really
cause a disturbance?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15: Guide to capturing a quince blossom

I recently picked up a copy of Red Pine's translation of Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom, by Sung Po-jen, first published in 1238. Not a typo--this was written in China almost 800 years ago. The concept: 100 paintings of plum blossoms in varying stages, from Covered Buds to Forming Fruit. Each painting is accompanied by a poem that refers to the plum blossom's physical appearance, as well as many layers of associated cultural and political symbolism. Really, some quite lovely political critiques.
Sung Po-jen was clearly obsessed with revealing the essence of his subject, and he was so successful that later painters didn't bother to study the real thing anymore--they just memorized his book and its 100 stages.
Reading this book has made me look at my flowering quince's ruffled, peach-colored blossoms with new eyes.
Radiant blossoms--
plum or quince inspire poets
of any era.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14: On alert

I heard loud cawing and looked out the window to see a swirl of crows in the pine and the pair of Canada geese standing in their usual spot, looking very much on guard. Just as I had my hand on the door to go out and try to get a better look at what all the fuss was about, my director yelled for me from his office. Thinking it was work-related, I turned back and went in to talk to him. "There are five upset crows out there!" he said. Back to the door I went, chuckling to myself at how alert we can be to what's going on outside even as we focus on our work.
My presence on the porch flushed the crows to a more distant tree, and I never did see why they were so agitated. From their posture and location, I can only assume it was something on the ground--a stalking cat, perhaps, or maybe even the raccoon we've seen bumbling through the riverside alders.
Alarm calls of crows
make even me pause, look out
on sudden alert.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13: Wildflowers

Because I only carry a pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera, when I'm hiking around I don't take many photographs of birds. Even with a 16x digital zoom, it doesn't have the capacity for a good bird shot. Most of the ones I try are of the "that dark blob there is the bird!" variety. But even when I'm birding, I'm not always looking up in the branches or in the sky. This time of year, especially, I try to also notice what flowers have returned along with our spring birds. Some I've known since childhood, their familiar presence on the forest floor linking me in memory to years of tromping around these local woods: Canada mayflower, trilliums red, white, and painted, hepatica, trailing arbutus, bloodroot, moccasin flower (lady's slipper), bellwort or wild oats, trout lily, rhodora, violets, clintonia... Not all of these are blooming yet, but I'm happy to find even the bright new leaves themselves poking up through the forest duff, knowing flowers will soon follow.

I've realized that a photo is a great tool for recording a plant species I'm not familiar with, to look up later in my wildflower guide. Yesterday, I learned that I'd come across wild ginseng and golden Alexander. Today, wood anemone. Part of my wanting to know and remember the names of all these flowers is the simple desire for knowledge. Knowledge equals power, after all. But there's more to it than that: to know what lives in a place is essential to truly coming to know that place. It's like living in a neighborhood. If you don't know your neighbors, you'll never feel a real attachment to the place, no matter how long you live there. This is my home. I know my neighbors; I know the woman who owns the corner grocery. But when I'm in the nearby woods, I also feel at home there. Here are the little green flags of Canada mayflower among the hemlocks; here is the rhodora in that same wet patch of the field; and here's the hummingbird come to feed.

The hummingbird too
knows wildflowers, rejoices
in their re-blooming.

Wild Ginseng

Golden Alexander


Wood Anemone

May 12: Sap sippers

I visited the Ducktrap River Preserve early and spent several hours exploring and watching/listening for birds. The hemlock-shaded uplands resonated with bird song: Blackburnian, black-throated blue, and black-throated green warblers, ovenbirds, pine siskins, kinglets, and blue-headed vireos made their presence known, while down the bluff, the river rushed ever on. For a long time I sat in a patch of sun on an old fallen log and just let the music of it all tumble through the warm air around me.

The sunshine seemed to have awakened quite a few butterflies, as well, of few of which I could even recognize: red admiral, comma, and question mark. I was particularly interested to note several butterflies, mostly question marks, fluttering around a stand of birch trees. Looking closely, I could see where a yellow-bellied sapsucker--a local species of woodpecker--had drilled a few small "wells" in the trunks. The butterflies were gathering on these wells, sipping birch sap. At one, a butterfly seemed to be vying with a corps of largish red and black ants for the sap. These butterflies wintered over and now renew their energy with this sap thanks to the sapsucker. The sapsucker's only thought, of course, was for itself, but it also benefited the insects without even realizing. Ah, the workings of Nature...

Sipping spring birch sap,
ethereal butterflies--
even they must eat.
Question Mark

Friday, May 11, 2012

May 11: Brownies

Today's subject matter isn't natural or particularly seasonal, but when Kendall Merriam, Rockland's former Poet Laureate, arrived at the Land Trust office this afternoon with a pan full of rich, amazing, homemade brownies--"Katherine Hepburn's brownies"--which he served up with his grandmother's antique metal spatula, it was certainly a moment of light that helped energize us through to the end of a long work week. Kendall scrawled out the recipe for us in long-hand on a yellow notepad, and it looked like he was writing us a poem. Which, in fact, he was.

At work, grey Friday.
A plate of homemade brownies--
just what we needed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 10: But

All this jabbering
about bird song and flowers,
but what about love?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 9: Scarlet Tanager

Allergies slammed me so hard last night that I slept about 12 hours and went in to work very late this morning. But thanks to the timing, I was in the right place at the right time. While at my desk preparing to leave, I happened to notice a black-and-white warbler spiraling a tree branch outside the window. I went out on the back porch with my binoculars to get a better look: a striking male in bright spring plumage, pausing every now and then to sing his "squeaky wheel" song. Nearby, a downy woodpecker climbed a birch, and a ruby-crowned kinglet chattered in the arbor vitae. The goldfinches kept up their usual cacophony in the background.

Then I caught a glimpse of red in the maple tree hanging over the river. Expecting to see the neighborhood cardinal, I gasped aloud when I looked through the binoculars and saw a scarlet tanager. While he isn't all-over red like the cardinal--his wings are black--his red is a pure, vivid scarlet, a vibrant color more suitable for the tropics than a foggy back yard in Maine. But there he was, poking around the freshly unfurled maple leaves as the river rushed beneath him. I hoped he'd sing, but he remained silent. Silent, but very visible, until at last I had to drag myself off to work.

Red as a stop light,
and who wouldn't pause to look
at such bright beauty?

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 7: First gosling

While in the middle of an intense phone conversation at the office today, I was delighted to look out the window and unexpectedly see the local pair of Canada geese escorting one tiny gosling upriver.

A single gosling--
already hatched out, floating
between its parents.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6: Bee

Ah, my favorite Sunday activity: sitting on my back porch in the afternoon sun, lulled by the constant rush of the river, while I read a book. Caught up in a good mystery, I still find myself distracted by a cacophony of goldfinches chattering in the neighbor's trees and the high-pitched song of the season's first hummingbird zipping around the neighbor's azalea. All this was after I heard my 94-year-old neighbor yelling for help and rushed over to give her a hand so she could get up her front step. She'd been enjoying a glass of wine on her patio alongside the river, and when she got up to go inside, found her joints too stiff to move her legs properly. We all have our ways of enjoying sun after days of rain and chill.

Made lazy by sun,
I let a bee rest awhile
on my open book.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May 5: Forget-me-nots

Where did this lovely, solo tulip come from?
The grass in our shady back yard is still too patchy to consider mowing, unlike the lush, pocket-sized front lawn, but I've been enjoying seeing what has popped up there this spring besides the slow-growing grass. Here and there little ferns unfurl. Pockets of vivid green moss deepen in color. A single white tulip, perhaps inadvertently planted by a squirrel, stands surrounded by a scattering of little white violets. Forget-me-nots bloom by the shed, reminding me of how many would grow in my grandmother's garden when I was a kid, those clusters of tiny pink, blue, and white flowers that spread further each year. Soon, the grass will be tall enough, but there will be too many flowers blooming back there for me to bear to mow them.

In the unmown lawn
forget-me-nots once again
inspire memories.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 4: Sparrows in the mist

We decided to embark on a staff outing up Beech Hill today, despite what we call 100% humidity: light rain and heavy fog. The barrens were bright with blooming blueberries, sign of hope for this summer's harvest. I even saw some bees among them, undaunted by the wet. Something about the mist seemed to amplify birdsong. Or perhaps, because my vision was limited, my sense of hearing was enhanced, because the "bouncing ball" song of a field sparrow rang out across the fields loud and clear. From various corners, the towhee's "drink your tea" song resonated, as well--from perhaps as many as six or seven individual birds altogether, though the disorienting fog made it a challenge to pinpoint their locations. At the summit, at least one song sparrow and a handful of Savannah sparrows made their presence known, darting in the fog, chancing a song or two. Not much of a view, but the soundscape more than made up for it. 

Field sparrows return
to the field where they hatched, sing
their father's same song.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 3: Vulture flying

To soar, vultures ride thermals, circling on warm air currents rising from the earth. Early in the day before the ground has had a chance to warm up, especially on a bleak, chilly day like today, these large raptors often have to flap hard to keep aloft. I watched one vulture slowly flying over the ridge of Mount Battie this morning, an ungainly activity for this most graceful of soaring birds.
On this cold morning
vulture labors, wings flapping,
to gain altitude.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 1: May apple

One big apple tree outside our office has leafed out, and soon it will have uncurled its tight pink petals into blossoms. When the tree is in full bloom, it's a glorious thing, humming with bees, crawling with birds. Today I was happy just to look at its healthy, leafy-green fullness and imagine what it will soon become during this merry month of May.
Did a chickadee
or raindrops rustle those leaves,
stir the greenery?