Monday, October 18, 2010

My New Heaven


October 13, 2010

It is a perfect autumn day in New England. Crisp air, blue skies, brilliantly colored leaves. I have just returned from a trip to Connecticut to retrieve my 2 cats which have been staying at my mother’s house while we get settled into our new apartment. Though there are still boxes to unpack and closets to clean, it was time to bring them home. Now, after setting up their necessary things I abandon all the other tasks that await me and head down the road for a walk.

As I step out the door a pair of black-capped chickadees pop out of the hedge alongside the walkway. I am amazed at their boldness in being so near to me, and I smile at their tiny feathered forms so close and so sweet. They both give me a bit of a startled look and fly off to safety in a nearby tree.

I walk across a lawn still green from summer. The frost has not yet killed the grass. Silky grass leaves are interspersed with woodland flowers, weeds, acorns and small pinecones. Patches of moss cushion my feet. Dried maple leaves are scattered about randomly. I walk past towering pines, oaks, and maples. In the woods dead trees lean against the live ones. Tucked in amongst it all are quiet New England homes.


I walk the pavement down one such quiet street with brown leaves crunching beneath my feet. It has been so long since I have smelled these autumn scents and felt the autumn chill countered by the warmth of golden rays of sun. I feel as if I am walking through my past, yet also into someplace new. I feel as if I am in a time warp, or perhaps a tesseract, where the past has folded in on the present and I am experiencing both at the same time. Old memories rush at me, new sensations surround me. I am old and new all at once. I am enveloped by this experience and it carries me down the street.

It is 4:00 p.m. EDT and the children are out of school. They play in grassy yards and along the tree-lined streets. I see 3 boys playing ball in their yard, then pass two little girls in another. One of them is singing a song from the musical "Annie." She pauses for just a breath as I near, then decides to continue her song anyways. I smile inwardly at her lack of self-consciousness. I enjoy this simple moment. I wonder if I look strange to them as I pass by with my huge camera strung over my shoulder and my bins hanging from the other. I have a green fanny pack belted around my waist in which I am carrying my glasses, phone, and notebook, for I am on my way to a new location to count birds.


I discovered this place about 2 weeks ago right before we moved in. It is only ¼ mile from my apartment and though I had seen it over a month ago when we were checking this apartment out I had not really stopped to bird there. On September 30th I did stop and was amazed by what I found. A bog surrounded by forest spread out before me. In the middle of the bog dead trees and stumps poked into the gray sky. Along the roadside a line of eastern white pines had been planted and beneath them a flock of chipping sparrow fed. In their branches yellow-rumped and palm warblers flitted through the trees. Out over the bog blue jays, American crows and more yellow-rumped warblers flitted about. I saw three kinds of woodpeckers on that day. There were birds everywhere and I could not count fast enough. I have landed on my feet, I thought to myself. I now have a new location for my next Site Survey for eBird. I drove away smiling.


Today as I approach the bog I hear crows calling. Nuthatches honk in the nearby trees. Then a pair of downy woodpeckers flies across the road in front of me, lands on a tree in the woods and then flies back to the bog. Today faded blue skies arch overhead and the slanting gold light illuminates each brightly colored leaf. The trees encircled the bog as if in a warm embrace. I slip between the pines and stand on the edge of the bowl. This is “My New Heaven,” I think to myself. I sigh a deep sigh of contentment as I gaze out at my new world.

Last time I was here the bog was completely dry, but recent rains had filled it some and small channels of water flow like silver ribbons across the barren ground. Dead branches, twigs, and stumps are strewn about everywhere.

Dead trees rise like silver bones to the blue sky. I see bits of old bark flaking off and holes bored out by birds for looking for food and shelter. Once again the yellow-rumped warblers reign. It seems they are everywhere I look.


Far across the bog in a quiet pool I spot two Canada geese. Then, in another section I find 10 more. Eventually I find another small pond with more geese in it. By the time I am done I will have counted 21 geese on the ground and a flock of 12 that flew overhead.



I scan the skies for birds. I scan the trees and brush. A lone junco appears for a minute as it lands on a nearby branch, then dives back into the bog. Behind me I hear the voices of children playing, but there are as a fog in my mind. I am totally focused on this scene before me. I want to know what I will see next.


I am scanning the forest edges for hawks or owls, but I do not see any. I hear the cry of a northern flicker and then I spot a butterscotch colored bird on a stump with its tail cocked up at a 90 degree angle. Its brown back and head are broken by a thin cream colored line and I rejoice for I know that I am seeing a Carolina Wren!
The shadows across the bog lengthen before me. I feel the chill of night falling around me. I have been here for almost and hour. I know it is time to go home. As I emerge from the protection of the pines I step back into suburbia once again.

Gray pavement is my path home but overhead I hear a familiar sound and gaze up to see an American Robin high at the tip of one of those dead trees. Its rust colored breast positively glows in the light of the setting sun and it chatters at the sky, its body pointed west as if is it saying “Good-night dear sun. I will see you in the morning!”

Birds Seen at the Bog 10-13-10 (watched for 50 minutes)
  1. Canada Goose 34
  2. Downy Woodpecker 2
  3. Northern flicker 1
  4. American Crow 14
  5. Blue jay 5
  6. Tufted titmouse 4
  7. Black-capped chickadee 1
  8. White-breasted Nuthatch 2
  9. Carolina Wren 1
  10. American Robin 1
  11. Yellow-rumped Warbler 12
  12. Dark-eyed Junco 1



24 comments:

  1. The writing is great. As I have always said, "You make me feel welcome on your walks".

    Terrific photos.

    Martha and I have started a new Chapter in our life. We received our certifications as Texas Master Naturalist. We have been spending a lot of time Giving talks and leading Wildlife Walks, Working on Plant Taxonomy and Accessioning at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT), and course photographing Nature.

    So many people have asked and requested, I guess I will have to start Blogging again (at I C U Nature).

    http://troymullens.wordpress.com/

    Looking forward to your new Blog and I'll get back and catch up on your old Blog.

    Your Texas Friends,
    Troy and Martha

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  2. Lovely story, lovely day, Kathie. I particularly like your statement, "I feel old and new at the same time." I think you are going to have a fabulous winter enjoying those snow birds!

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  3. I thoroughly enjoyed that walk Kathie, you are so eloquent I felt I was right by your side. Super photos!

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  4. Ah, Kathie, I had faith you would land on your birding feet. I'm so happy you have a place nearby to visit and grow to love and enjoy.

    Welcome back to the land of changing leaves and winter snows.

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  5. Well it looks promising Kathie.

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  6. Welcome back to blogging. I have been looking forward to your posts. Your definitely not in AZ anymore. Enjoy the Fall. Loved the photos!

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  7. Hi Everyone! So good to see you all that I am almost in tears! I am smiling!

    Troy, what a surprise! Congrats! I do hope I can come to Texas someday and meet you in person! I will add your new blog to my new blogroll!

    Mary, it is so exciting to see these "familiar" birds in a whole new way! I just saw my first Hairy woodpecker here this afternoon! It's always nice to see your face on my blog!

    Denise, and I am so pleased to have you along!

    Wren, thank you so much. I am still upacking and getting caught up. It will be awhile before I get the whole blog looking the way that I want it to but it will get there. I still need to hook it up with the Nature blog Network! It will be easier now that I have my own computer up and running!

    Thanks Roy!

    Kathryn, no, not AZ but so many new things to see and new places to go! Hope you can join me sometime!

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  8. I love your adventurous spirit, scouting out birds, new walks, new places. And that 'old and new', so familiar, the way time seems to overlap in some places. Its that wonderful way in which our senses engage the past, making things around us feel familiar. Love your excitement over reuniting with a Carolina wren. One of the many special birds that make the east the EAST.

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  9. Hi Kathie, what a delight to see the wonderful colors of Autumn. The birds are spreading their wings in glee!

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  10. Vickie, thank you for such a wonderful comment! I am enjoying myself. It will be even more fun when I finally finish unpacking!

    Ebie, nice to meet you! Yes, the birds are spreading their wings in glee and so am I!

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  11. What an excellent post! Right now in North Carolina, the purple finch has been spotted(pit stop during migration). Loved the picture of the Canada goose in flight. =)

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  12. How wonderful you are beginning to feel comfortable in your new home. Your photos are so crisp!

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  13. New England in the fall. What a great venue. As a relatively new birder it certainly is a joy when I'm able to find a new place to walk my overgrown puppy.... binoculars in hand. With the winter season close at hand I'm looking forward to new adventures in the boreal forest to our north. Rare Canadian visitors could well be there. :)

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  14. Wonderful writing Kathie. If you have to move there's no better place than fall in New England, especially since you grew up there!

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  15. Beautiful My World posting

    Have a nice week,
    Greetings, Bram

    My Word Tuesday post

    Seen on My World Tuesday

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  16. What a beautiful world you live in!

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  17. GORGEOUS! I knew you were going to make me miss New England!!!! ~Jess

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  18. Very pretty shots!

    Greetings from western Massachusetts!

    My entry is here

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  19. Beautifully written. I was right there with you. No move is easy, but I admire your positive attitude and your appreciation of your new neighbourhood.

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  20. aloha,

    thanks for showing us your world today.

    this is an interesting place, i love the visuals and your wonderful observations

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  21. Hi Kathie. I silently walked at your shoulder as you explored your new patch, soaked up the atmosphere and I'm enthralled by the obvious joy this new beginning will provide for you.
    Have fun. FAB.

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  22. I always like the look of a bog. It makes you feel like you're out in the wild woods-and Chickadees are a birders friend for life.

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  23. How relaxed I feel after reading your blog! It feels like I am there! Great pictures Kathie!

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  24. Howdee Kathie..wonderful post! Do you know it was featured amongst a few other great blog posts in the ABA blog.the post written by Nate.

    So..I am ready for our outing..Lets go!

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Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.