Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 28: Abaco National Park

Headed out early today in order to spend time in southern Abaco at the big national park created there to protect habitat of the Bahama Parrot, a subspecies of the Cuban Parrot of which there between 3,000 - 5,000 birds remaining on Abaco (8,000 - 13,000 are estimated on Great Inaugua Island). Began our day enjoying a Bahama specialty treat, guava duff, on a beach in the little town of Sandy Point, then headed into the park on foot to enjoy Bahama specialty birds. The open pine forests were hot but birdy, and we found three more of the five Bahama endemics: Bahama Yellowthroat, Bahama Warbler, and Bahama Woodstar (a hummingbird), in addition to other area highlights: Cuban Pewee, Olive-capped Warbler, Cuban Emerald (another hummingbird), and Bahama Mockingbird. And the air was filled with pretty little Atala butterflies. But no parrots.
Our outdated bird guide suggested another stop outside the park at a bonefishing camp, but the camp had clearly given up the ghost many years ago. Junked cars and dilapidated buildings were overgrown by vegetation, looking not just abandoned but pillaged. A careful walk through on creaky walkways gave me the creeps. And yielded no new birds.
One last stop on the way back to Marsh Harbour, however, brought us our parrots. We came upon a flock of a couple dozen or so foraging in roadside fruit trees. These large, loud green birds with white and pink heads seemed to have little fear of us as we stood below gawking and taking pictures. They're the first wild parrots I've ever seen--and what's cool is that they're a truly wild parrot here, not a population established from escaped birds as are all the parrots in the US. What's also cool is that these birds nest in limestone caves--this explains their scarcity; the Inaguan population has adapted to nesting in trees and avoids predators more easily.
Blues I carry with me:
this turquoise ocean,
shimmer of a parrot's wings.

Abaco National Park
Crossing Rocks beach
Abaco National Park
Bahama Parrot

Friday, February 27, 2015

February 27: Abaco

From Nassau, we fly to Abaco, where we will spend the next four nights in Marsh Harbour and begin birding the Bahamas in earnest. We start on our way from the airport, where Paul and I pick up a couple of new species at our first stop: Bananaquit and Black-faced Grassquit, and we all add LaSagra's Flycatcher. The place we're staying is right across the street from the marina and we can see gulls and frigatebirds soaring overhead. We also spot the first of five Bahama endemic species we're seeking this trip: Bahama Swallows active in the sky right over our little cottages. We spend a few hours wandering the grounds of a nearby resort, where we add ten more lifers, including the brightly patterned Western Spindalis and the very vocal Thick-billed Vireo. Later, while Paul swam in the pool, Derek, Jeannette and I wander through town up to the ferry pier, where we enjoy a Kalik beer and watch an oystercatcher eat a snail out on a jetty.
Many anoles and curly-tailed lizards live on the property where we're staying.
When I open the door
brown lizard darts inside--
travel companion.
Saw-scaled Curlytail
Saw-scaled Curlytail
Hermit crabs

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 26: Arrival

Flying out of Boston this morning, my husband, our friends Derek and Jeannette, and I touch down before lunch in busy Nassau, the largest city in the Bahamas--a distinct contrast of climate and culture to where we came from. The taxi ride from the airport passes long white sand beaches lined with palms. We check into our worn downtown hotel within view of the pink parliament building and head out to explore: tourist shops, liquor stores, pirate museum, straw market, conch fishermen, line of restaurants on Arawak Cay selling cracked (fried) conch and rum cocktails, abandoned buildings, art museum, crowds of uniformed schoolchildren, rum distillery, honking cars, flowers. We've gained about 60 degrees, the place literally wraps its warm arms around us. Heat is a foreign country.

A small jungle grows
amid ruined, pink walls.
Doves nest here now.

Ruins, downtown Nassau

Ruins, downtown Nassau

John Watling Distillery, Nassau

Conch fishermen, Nassau

The Straw Market, Nassau

Nassau schoolchildren

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February 25: Long winter

Ghost of snow
blows through the branches--
fleeting dreams of spring.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 24: Inspiration

If not for squirrels
would the cat leave her bed?
What gets me up?

Monday, February 23, 2015

February 23: Porch light

Winter twilight--
neighbor's porch light glows,
an evening star.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 22: Hopeful

Wren on the suet--
we just might make it
through the winter.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

February 21: Before the next one

Raking the roof--
two days without snow,
pause to clear our heads.

Friday, February 20, 2015

February 20: Birthday

The Chinese Year of the Sheep began yesterday, and today I begin a new turn around the sun. The way a new year begins always feels auspicious. I have a good feeling about this one. We celebrated Chinese New Year with tea and dumplings in a sunny Portland cafe yesterday, and again last night with more dumplings (and cocktails) with good friends at Empire. This morning began with breakfast on the go from Standard Baking Co., which I ate while tromping around the frigid Portland waterfront looking for white-winged gulls with a birder friend--an outing puncuated by calls from my mother and sister singing "Happy Birthday." The white wings of Iceland Gulls shone in the sun, seals surfaced nearby, crows chased a Red-tailed Hawk overhead, a Peregrine stood sentinel on the Casco Bay Bridge, and all is right in my world.

A new year starts well:
coffee and croissant,
gulls along the snowy pier.

Update: And my birthday closed with a brilliant conjunction of the young Moon, Venus, and Mars in the southwest sky... All signs point to yes.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

February 19: Happy hour

Before dinner with friends--
a strong drink shared with you,
snow falling, streetlights.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February 18: On the phone

Unexpected phone call--
out the window a planet
stares back at me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February 17: Birthday candle

Blowing out the candle--
we all wish
for his good health.

Monday, February 16, 2015

February 16: Nachtmusic

A darkening room--
ice in the glass, then bourbon,
the wind's fierce music.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

February 14: Valentine

Valentine's Day--
pair of cardinals at the feeder,
starling's wolf whistle.

Friday, February 13, 2015

February 13: Prepared

We can't go a week anymore without another huge snowstorm rolling through, so you'd think people would be stocked up and prepared at this point. Friday night is usually a good time to hit the grocery store, but tonight, two nights before the storm, a lot of shelves were picked clean.
Storm preparations--
water, chips, frozen pizza,
always some need to meet.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February 12: Food Network

One of our winter entertainments:
We eat burritos
watching chefs on tv
bake exotic desserts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February 10: Bean-Throwing

In my Beginner's Japanese class tonight we learned about Setsubun, the Bean-Throwing Cermony held as part of the annual Spring Festival on February 3, the eve of spring in Japan. The ritual, called mamemaki, is supposed to drive away evil spirits from the year ahead. There was no little irony in imitating the ritual with our teacher by tossing beans outside the door into three feet of snow. If only it were really the cusp of spring here.
What you say:
Oni wa soto (demons outside)
Fuku wa uchi (happiness inside)
Beans tossed into snow--
if only this ritual
could conjure spring.

Monday, February 9, 2015

February 9: Headache

Crow flies in a white sky,
wings slowly flapping.
My head hurts.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

February 8: US Toboggan Championships

Today was the last day of the US Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl. Despite the low temperatures, the tobogganers were lively in the chute, food was hearty, and we left smelling of woodsmoke.
At the toboggan races
eating egg sandwiches
around the fire pit

Saturday, February 7, 2015

February 7: Five degrees

Anticipating moonrise
the plumes of my breath
obscure Jupiter

Friday, February 6, 2015

February 6: Life imitating art

One of my favorite art genres is the 19th century Japanese woodblock print (ukiyo-e). Shoveling out after this latest in a long series of generous snowstorms, I was surprised to find I still possess any capacity for finding beauty in this absurdly snowy landscape.

A Japanese print--
snow-laden willow arching
over my driveway.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

February 5: Bird flurry

Flurry of siskins
flocks the snowy feeder--
a bright storm of birds.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February 4: Winter state of mind

What's going through the mind
of the huddled dove
unmoving in the sun?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

February 3: Heard on the street

I thought a raven called
but it was children playing
in the snowy street.

Monday, February 2, 2015

February 2: Morning Meditation 6

In this morning's guided meditation for Winter Feast for the Soul, Tibetan monk Anam Thubten described how in a certain meditative state we feel "empty inside in a beautiful way." I couldn't help but think of Wallace Stevens's poem The Snow Man, which is referenced in line two below.

More snow falling.
It takes a mind of winter
to simply watch it fall.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February 1: Embracing the snow

My husband and I snowshoed up Beech Hill in Rockport this morning, in hopes of soaking up as much sunshine as we could before the next snowstorm rolls in tomorrow. The snow was beautiful--pure, fresh, dazzling, patterned with striking shadows and animal tracks.
Snowshoeing on Beech Hill--
our path intersects
that of a snowshoe hare.