Early morning sights and sounds from the Adirondack perch
AN ADIRONDACK chair sits always at the ready on a small hill outside our barn overlooking the horse pasture. In early morning it is very inviting. The wide flat surface of the arm makes a reliable coffee mug holder; a towel on the seat and back absorbs dampness accumulated overnight. With my new binoculars (Nikon Monarch 5 8x42—love them!) I watch for movement and listen for noise.
Noise comes first. Well, actually first noise stops. The trilling of frogs, one of my favorite nature sounds, comes to an abrupt halt as soon as I get close to the chair, which is at least 100 yards from the pond from which the sound seems to come. How do they know? Do they see me? Feel the vibrations of my foot falls?
A cardinal in the pear tree so close to where I sit binoculars are not necessary starts it sharp chip, chip, chip, then strikes up the long whoop, whoop, whoop ending with a tweet, tweet, tweet and flies away. The resident pileated lets out its crazy loud call then begins hammering away at its favorite dead branch in one of the huge oak trees along the stonewall between our lawn and the road. As the sun starts to warm the air, swallows chitter and chase each other high above the barn they call their summer home.
In the distance, I hear the sharp squawk of a corvid; I assume crow not raven but I am not sure. In less than a minute, the squawk again but a little closer.
Then a little closer. And I realize that this is the morning clean-up crew heading my way, sweeping the country roads for the remains of unfortunate collisions between animals and cars from the night before. Sure enough, the squawking gets closer and closer until I see the black bird cruising perhaps 25 feet above the road. It looks large enough to be a raven but I never get a clear enough view between the oak limbs draping over the roadway.
The bird squawks again as it leaves the part of the roadway visible to me from my Adirondack perch. Intermittent squawks once again become slowly more distant. The bird seems to just keep going which, while their easy meals is the one “positive” from the slaughter on our roads, makes me glad that apparently no roadkill has been spotted this particular morning within my hearing range of the scavengers.
And the winner is …
A couple of columns ago I included a photo of a bird’s nest that I could not identify. The consensus from several readers is that the nest is that of the red-eyed vireo. I wish I had spent more time with binoculars trying to see the bird that built the nest — if I have ever seen a red-eyed vireo I didn’t know it!
Readers’ questions, comments
A reader from Peterborough wrote to ask about a curiosity in a phoebe’s nest. The nest, he wrote, contains six eggs. Five of the eggs are solid cream color. The sixth is a light green with lots of speckles. I wondered if another species of bird laid her egg in the species nest and left it for the phoebe to raise with her own brood. Or perhaps the speckled one belongs to the phoebe and an unbelievably lazy bird laid the other five in the nest to be raised by a stranger. Any other thoughts that might explain this mystery egg?
Another reader responded to my wondering if my nest of unknown origin might be a catbird nest, that in his experience catbird nests are a bit larger, more randomly constructed, and often contain more grandiose decorations such as snakeskin or even one he had in his yard that decorated with a freezer-pop wrapper!
A reader whose name also is Cheryl told a great story about sitting on her steps one day when a titmouse flew from where it was hopping around on some nearby bushes, landed on Cheryl’s shoulder, and plucked a hair from her head and flew off with it.
Not only that, but as she sat still during the proceedings, the titmouse returned several times to retrieve more nest-building material straight from Cheryl’s head!
Despite the fact that I have not seen a woodcock in years, apparently they are around since a couple of readers wrote with woodcock stories. Both involved almost stepping on nests. The same person whose hair was plucked by the titmouse was mending electric fence one day and saw a woodcock fly away. “With that warning,” she says, “I checked the ground and found I was about to step on a clutch of four tiny, fuzzy babies, beautifully camouflaged by Mother Nature! As I stood marveling at them they rose up in unison and ran (as best they could) in four opposite directions (like the points of a compass!).” She left the scene asap in hopes that mom would come back soon and collect her babies.
Great stories, thanks to everyone for writing!
Cheryl Kimball is a freelance writer who lives north of Rochester. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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