Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 31: Rapid Redemption

Inspired by the sign of a bottle redemption center on Route 17 on the way to Augusta:

Rapid Redemption
Turkey Vultures soar high
scanning for roadkill

Monday, March 30, 2015

March 30: Oh the prolonged yearning that spring in Maine provokes

Yesterday we drove to southern Maine for some birding. Something about moving through the landscape never fails to provide inspiration.

Old snow encrusting the fields retains the patterns of a winter's worth of snow-sledding:

Snowmobile trails criss-crossing--
Celtic knots
a spell to unlock spring.

From East Point Sanctuary in Biddeford Pool, in southern Maine, looking west over water, stone, and beach, we could see the White Mountains looming sharp, clear, and snow-covered on the horizon.

White Mountains shimmer--
clinging specter of winter
on the distant horizon.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March 29: Where the deer were

In the old snow,
tracks zig-zagging up a hill--
a long winter for deer too.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 28: Seriously, more snow?

More snow forecast--
cardinal a lone spark
in this weather-worn season.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

March 26: Grateful

Footprints melting in snow--
thank you card sent late
better than not at all.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25: Sublimation

Sunny, above freezing--
one molecule at a time
snow disappears.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March 24: Looking for a Snowy Owl

A Snowy Owl has been seen regularly in the vicinity of Weskeag Marsh. After work today my husband and I tried to find it, with no luck. We were OK with that.

No real disappointment
to look for a Snowy Owl
and find bluebirds instead.

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 23: Bright sky, cold night

Cat curled up asleep.
Outside, bright crescent moon hangs
with Venus, Dog Star.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 22: Merganser

A duck's splashless dive.
Cold consequences
of things we wish we hadn't said.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 21: Dead Red-tail

Boys call it an owl.
Dead hawk's talons are curled tight
as if against cold.

Friday, March 20, 2015

March 20: First Day of Spring

North, a solar eclipse--
here, weak sunlight reflecting
on dirty snow.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 19: Spring Equinox Eve

Bent and broken trees,
a grange hall's caved-in roof--
what survives winter?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 18: March is going out like a lion

All night, roaring gusts,
all day, roaring gusts--
release your burdens, Winter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 17: Except, sunset

Tongue-tied by snow and cold
there's nothing more to say.
Sunset was brief.

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 16: Comfort in the dark

Awake at dawn, cold--
only the cat responds
to my touch.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

March 15: Spring Training

Such longing for spring--
first game on the radio
moves me to tears.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

March 14: Empty house

Cold March rain--
finches chatter in the pines.
Only myself to talk to.

Friday, March 13, 2015

March 13: Mr. Blue Sky

Cloudless blue sky--
taken aback by its depth,
one crow swimming.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 12: Panic

From the bar we watch
flocks of ducks scattering,
then the hawk.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March 11: Thaw

Conversation opens--
crows calling back and forth
late afternoon light

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March 10: Mud

How long has it been
since I've seen bare brown earth
oozing under my shoes?

Monday, March 9, 2015

March 9: Cat's back

We couldn't pick up our cat from where she was being boarded during our vacation until this morning. Those who say a cat has no feelings have never seen our cat back in her home after ten days away.

Cat reclaims her home
meowing with feline joy
in every room.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

March 7: Last day in the Bahamas

I've been sick for the past few days, so my outings have been less exuberant. I did make it out for a few hours around our hotel in downtown Nassau before we flew home, enjoying a quiet moment near a pool at the Greycliff listening to the doves coo in the palms.

Palm fronds rustle like rain,
doves coo a lullaby.
I don't miss snow.

Friday, March 6, 2015

March 6: Ferry to Nassau

Sadly, we had to leave Small Hope Bay Lodge today. In hopes of finding some pelagic birds, we decided to take the Bahama Fast Ferry from Fresh Creek. Friday is ferry day at the Lighthouse Marina, and the dock was bustling with cargo being forklifted off the boat and onto trucks. We were among the few passengers and had the entire top deck to ourselves; from that vantage point, we saw what was probably that first Bahama Oriole calling from the same perch as a few days before. We were also eye level with Royal Terns flying past as we left the dock.
The turquoise water of the shallows quickly gave way to the deep blue waters of the Tongue of the Ocean, an oceanic trench between Andros and New Providence Islands that is up to 6,600 feet deep. Out in the deep water, we saw no birds, but we did see several flying fish, which thrilled me as they buzzed for many yards over the waves below.
Pulling into Nassau, we approached the old lighthouse, on one side of which you can see the towers of Atlantis Resort & Casino on Paradise Island, and on the other, several multi-story cruise ships. And when we land, we're down below waiting for a taxi into the city.
Flying fish--
I wonder which element
it enjoys most.

Bahama Fast Ferry awaits us in Fresh Creek
Lighthouse Marina as we leave Fresh Creek
Looking back on shallow water as we cross the Tongue of the Ocean
Entering Nassau: Atlantis on Paradise Island to the left; cruise ships to the right

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 5: Blue Holes

Small Hope Bay Lodge's nature guide Tarran took us on a blue hole tour this morning in the nearby national park. Certain trees along the trail to Rainbow Hole were labeled, and Tarran shared with us each tree's value to bush medicine. At the hole itself, he encouraged us to take off our shoes and let the swarms of tiny gobi fish nibble our feet. We jokingly called this the spa tour. The fish tickled.
In Maidenhair Coppice, while trying to track down a Great Lizard-cuckoo, an elusive species we finally heard calling, we heard an even more elusive bird: the Key West Quail-dove. Given the density of the foliage in the coppice, I couldn't imagine how we'd actually see it. I guess our best bet would be for it to fly across the road in front of us. Its voice sounds like the moan of a distant foghorn. Unfortunately for us, a very distant foghorn. We didn't end up seeing either bird. But we enjoyed our tour, which culminated with a swim in 400-ft deep Capt. Bill's Hole.
In the afternoon I rode one of the lodge's bikes to Androsia, the batik factory started by the second wife of the lodge's founder. Meanwhile, my husband was bonefishing all morning, and learned how to scuba dive all afternoon. A little nature, a little culture, a lot of exercise in the subtropical air.
In the coppice's heat
dove's call a distant foghorn--
I'm thinking of home.
Paul fishing at Small Hope Bay Lodge
Capt. Bill's Blue Hole
Androsia Batik Factory

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March 4: Small Hope Bay Lodge, Andros

We took a taxi this morning away from the faded Lighthouse Marina, over the Fresh Creek bridge, past Hank's on the water where we had dinner the night before, past the crab statue at the center of Coakley Town, past two cemeteries and the primary school, past a few liquor stores and a Jamaican jerk chicken place, to Small Hope Bay Lodge. The ecolodge, established in 1960, is a lovely spread that specializes in scuba-diving and bonefishing, with a heavy emphasis on relaxing in hammocks, hanging out on the beach, and eating well. Rooms are draped in batik fabric made at the local batik factory. Water is solar-heated. And the fully stocked bar is self-serve.
After dinner we joined the nature guide Tarran for a nocturnal walk through the mangrove marsh, listening for night birds: Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Clapper Rail. Something large and pale flew away from us soundlessly in the dark.
Sun, sea, birds, food--
when all needs are met,
the sky opens its big blue book.

Small Hope Bay Lodge
View from my hammock
Small Hope Bay Lodge
Small Hope Bay Lodge dining room

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 3: Andros

A day of movement: fly back to Nassau, rent a car and bird around New Providence for a few hours, with stops at Harrold & Wilson National Park and Clifton Heritage National Park, then squeeze into another little plane for the 15-minute hop over to Andros. On Andros we find ourselves in a ghost town of sorts. The Lighthouse Marina was, according to all sources, an international hot spot in its day, visited by the Rat Pack, and the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson. Now, thanks to some bad luck, it's owned by the government, which explains the near-empty dining room, poor wifi link, empty pool, overgrown tennis court, and shoddy furnishings. We walk down the pier, past the one yacht and two sailboats, out to the point past a wrecked ship, a faded 1892 lighthouse and cannons, and around the corner to a little beach with a dilapidated tiki bar. You can almost hear the tinkle of ice in glasses, faint laughter. The wreck was named, appropriately, "Old Glory."
The one thing this place has going for it is the Bahama Oriole, our last target endemic. And luckily for us, it's one of the first birds we find here--two, in fact--and with 300 left in the world, probably the rarest bird I'll ever see.

A few hundred left,
but the oriole only cares
that one is female.
Bahama Oriole
Lighthouse Marina
Lighthouse and waxing moon

Monday, March 2, 2015

March 2: Elbow Cay

Our ferry to Elbow Cay didn't leave until 10:30, so we had a few hours this morning to bird the grounds of the Lofty Fig, where we're staying. Jeannette and I were hanging out by the pool when we heard the call of the elusive (to us) West Indian Woodpecker, a species we hadn't yet managed to see. Joined by Derek and Paul, we headed to the back of the property, past the ubiquitous dog, and eventually caught a glimpse of the bird as it flew into a large ficus. More enjoyable were our looks at a little wave of about a dozen migrant warblers, most very familiar to us in Maine if not usually so spectacularly: at one point I was looking at a Prairie, a male Cape May, a Yellow-throated, and a Worm-eating Warbler all together. We won't see them here for another couple of months at least, and I guarantee I won't be seeing a line-up like that.
Elbow Cay is about four miles off Abaco. A tall, red-and-white-striped lighthouse stands at the head of the harbor of Hope Town, a historic, colonial town that has retained a lot of its original character in its quaint and colorful cottages. Apparently the lighthouse was not appreciated by island residents when it was first built because it deprived them of shipwrecks, their main source of livelihood.
After lunch at a pier restaurant from which we could watch colorful fish, gulls, and even a sea turtle, we walked through town past cute shops and the harbor to bird our way south. Along the way, a West Indian Woodpecker strafed Paul and landed in a tree right overhead, so we finally got our good look at that bird. We walked a few miles to the pretty Abaco Inn, which is sited at a point between a surf beach to the east and protected shallows to the west. To the east, beyond that surf is open ocean to Europe. We enjoyed a cocktail from this vantage point and then got a ride back to town, with time to get an ice cream cone before the ferry.
Under the crashing waves
what wreckage remains--
shells, ships, history.

Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay
Hope Town
Hope Town
Wayfinding in Hope Town
Surf beach off the Abaco Inn--nothing beyond here but open ocean to Europe

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 1: Treasure Cay

This morning we headed north to Treasure Cay to meet up with emminent Bahama birder Woody Bracey, who graciously agreed to show us around for a few hours. Treasure Cay isn't an island per se, simply a peninsula, but it has the feeling of a wealthy, white enclave compared to the rest of Abaco that we had seen. For one thing, there's a golf course. Fortunately for us, a pond on this golf course hosts a flock of White-cheeked Pintails, a most beautiful Caribbean duck. Woody drove us right to them.
Next we walked the grounds of an old "nursery," a park-like place where we found a Barn Owl feather at the base of a palm, saw our first Loggerhead Kingbird, and got long looks at Cuban Emeralds feeding and fighting in a flower patch.
Then Woody fearlessly drove us up and down the rutted, overgrown roads of an old citrus farm, through fields being tilled by squatters--refugees from Haiti--and into the pine woods. We got better looks at the Bahama Warbler here. He told us about the wild horses of Abaco, a remnant herd whose Spanish ancestors were shipwrecked on the island centuries ago. It's vitality is close to being extinguished, however, as only one mare remains, though he said they were going to try to harvest her eggs. Apparently the woman who has spearheaded efforts on behalf of the horses also works on behalf of the "potcakes," the feral island dogs. The island is a real catchment of survivors, including human ones.
Single owl feather
tells a story of presence
and disappearance.

White-cheeked Pintails, Treasure Cay golf course pond
View from "the nursery" garden
Birding with Woody Bracey in the pine forest