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.
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.
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)
- Canada Goose 34
- Downy Woodpecker 2
- Northern flicker 1
- American Crow 14
- Blue jay 5
- Tufted titmouse 4
- Black-capped chickadee 1
- White-breasted Nuthatch 2
- Carolina Wren 1
- American Robin 1
- Yellow-rumped Warbler 12
- Dark-eyed Junco 1