Friday, May 21, 2010

End Notes

One little refuge: the patch of woods at the southern end of Lower Mystic Lake. The same place I wrote about in early spring ("Among March") has become a reliable hangout for warblers lately. Mostly heard, not seen. But some grin-worthy exceptions. The black-throated blue warbler flaring its wing. A black-throated green, briefly. A Tennessee, as plain as they come, stuttering its loud staccato high in a treetop. And yes, finally: a Canada!—glimpsed for three seconds from behind, so I was denied the reward of the black necklace. But after stalking it up one path and down another and finally venturing into the understory as close as I dared to the bush where I'd heard its percussive twittery burst, I was glad to see any part of it.

Now the parade of northbound migrants has pretty much moved on, from palm warbler to blackpoll. Meaning the month of rolling opportunity is mostly over—getting up at 6 am in the hope of nailing a Blackburnian or an indigo bunting—and so are all those little detonations of hard-earned or dumb-luck reward: Hearing that Sweet-sweet, chew-chew... (indigo song!)... spotting movement in a tree, around ten o'clock, between two bare branches...and seeing it! bright turquoise blue, in full sun... Thank you.

(It's not completely over. Just today, in Belmont's Rock Meadow, I saw my first brown thrashers, posted up in two treetops, delivering their paired imitations like crazily disciplined catbirds.)

But what is also mostly over is seeing birds as celebrities, or as names and numbers on a checklist, which gets wearying after a while.

I know there are plenty worse agenda for a day than tallying flycatchers, and I know keeping track of numbers is important to bird conservation. But it will be a relief not to tally or stalk at all. To appreciate the homies again: the downies, the nuthatches, the tufted titmice, the mourning doves. And to listen to birds not to find them but to hear what they're saying, and watch them not to record them but to see what they're doing.

At least for a while.


  1. Hal, you're my very favorite. I've never seen a live indigo, can you believe it? I should visit you in spring sometime so you can take me out with you.

  2. Well, I have to confess, the indigo I saw this year was not in full sun, so it appeared to be gray. (You never know what hue you'll get.) But sure! Next spring!