Saturday, May 1, 2010


May 1...(out of breath) May 1 have this dance?

Too late. The dance card may say May 1, but today is actually May 4. Note corsage petals under the trees.

I should have known I'd arrive late for the prom. For one, my sister's visit, entailing multiple games of Bananagrams, took priority. For another, May is just so gorgeous, sensuous, lush, you get paralyzed.

I suspect I'm going to be catching up all month long.

Here are some things that happened on May 1:
It was my friend Hilary's birthday.
It was also my neighbor Ella's birthday. She turned 5, and just happened to step outside for a moment, perhaps to look at her multi-colored balloons, just as my sister and I were walking by, so we were able to wish her a happy birthday and even step inside briefly and see the Ella Fitzgerald poster on her bedroom wall.
It was the day a major water main in Weston sprang a leak, resulting in a "boil water" order for Boston and 29 other towns including Arlington.

It was also a gigantic day for birds. May is when the spring migrants come pouring into the green canopies of greater Boston on their way north, and some to stay, like orioles and yellow warblers. Usually, we wait through a few start-and-stop weeks, the flow regulated by cold and warm days. But this time, the month was not a day old and local birders were excitedly emailing each other on the Arlington Birders' List Serve: Scarlet Tanager! FOY (first of the year)! Rose-breasted Grosbeak! FOY! 11 Hermit thrush! 4 Ovenbird! 7 Blue-headed Vireo! And warblers! 12 species already! 5 Black-throated Blue! 11 Black-throated Green! Redstart! FOY!
Ovenbird and Northern Waterthrush! FOY! FOY!

Still more to come, of course. No one has reported an indigo bunting, a Canada warbler, or a bobolink yet. But this FOY business is complicated. In fact, I would like to see it in slow-motion: Upon hearing a wood thrush's song for the first time since last year. Or seeing a returned Baltimore oriole in a treetop—that smashing orange in full sun. The burst of sound or image striking neuron, triggering memory triggering emotion (pleasure), pulling face into grin and maybe a "Yes!" or "All right!" or "Welcome back!"

It's hard when you have to multiply that FOY reaction by fifty species and fit them into the same hour. Let alone develop a bad case of Warbler Neck from trying to locate a kinglet in heavy foliage while looking into the sun.

For those who need to brush up on their warblers, I'll end with a brief tutorial in verse:

Wood Warbler Hoe-down

Redstart flits with feathers fanned;
Canada wears a black neck band.
Ovenbird sings “Teacher, teacher!”
Chestnut-sided’s “pleased to meetcher!”

seebit seebit, see titi wee!
teetsa teetsa, zee zoo zee!

Bachman’s warbler’s shy as a turtle;
Yellow-rumped was once called Myrtle.
Black-and-white creeps up the trunk;
Hooded’s cowled like a monk.

zeedle-zeedle-zeedle, chorry! chorry!
chip-chup-ee, chip-chup-ee, tory tory tory!

Prairie buzzes up the scale;
Palm is known to wag its tail.
Yellowthroat looks like a bandit;
Chat serenades till you just can’t stand it!

weesee weesee, tiddle tiddle too!
ticka ticka swit swit chew-chew-chew!

Blackburnian’s throat is a blaze of glory;
Blue-wing and Golden-wing both sound snory.
Wilson’s sports a black beret
And Yellow sings the livelong day.

weeta-weeta-weetsee, seedle chup chup
witchatitty-witchatitty, zeeeeeeeeeee-up!

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