In this morning’s newspaper I read an article about the loss of natural sound because we have created so much people noise. It took me back to a time about forty years ago when I think I first actually paid attention by sitting alone in the woods and listening–hearing the soft rustle of grass blades, chirp of the crickets, buzz of mosquitoes and vroom of a truck in the distance. I can still envision that spot on a hillside where I closed my eyes to the sun and tried to zone in only on sound–to let go of the rest of the world and focus on that one sense.
And so I took that thought with me this morning when I joined others to bird at the Bob Dunning Bridge, one of the entrances to Bridgton’s Pondicherry Park.
Truth be known, I also went birding at the bridge early yesterday morning when the sun shone brilliantly and a yellow-rumped warbler posed for an instant.
Today dawned raw and overcast. And at first, the birds weren’t all that song-filled or even evident.
But then we heard one on high and our natural high kicked in. A Baltimore oriole whistled its melodious tune and we swooned.
We watched an Eastern phoebe flick its tail as it looked to the right . . .
and then to the left. Because of the morning’s chill, the bugs upon which it feeds seemed non-existent to start.
But, perhaps it knew otherwise.
What we knew was that the temp climbed a wee bit and bird song increased, including that of the ever sweet song sparrow. Yes, we could hear the sounds of this sleepy, western Maine town since we were only a block from Main Street, but the songbirds shared their voices and for us–we focused on those delightful tunes as we tried to figure out who we could hear but not see.
One such resident arrived this past week, like many other snowbirds (people residents who winter south of Maine– or is it south of New England?). We recognized the catbird first by its cat-like mewing and then we spotted two along the stonewall and in the brushy shrubs.
Like all birds, however, they didn’t sit still. We did note, though, that they spent most of their time on the other side of the bridge in an area where they frequently nest.
And speaking of nesting, the song sparrow moved from its perch to the ground where it joined others as they scratched about and filled their beaks with potential materials to add to their new home.
I love that from above, it blended in with its surroundings. A good thing when you are but a wee bird.
That being said, not all went undiscovered and we noted that some joules were passed from one bird to another–energy flowing through the cycle.
Eventually, one of our favorites of the day moved closer and we watched it for some time as it worked upside down and then . . .
right side up. Again, we wondered if the oriole was working at the dried leaves and also seeking nesting material.
And finally, a song a few of us heard when we first arrived showed its face–“Sweet, sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet,” evolved into a yellow warbler, or two or three.
Because we were there and looking, other members of the world showed their faces, such as the flowers of Norway maples and . . .
We noted the emerging American elm leaves, already highlighting their sandpaper texture and asymmetrical base.
And then we got stumped momentarily by the butternut (aka white walnut ), but it’s the eyebrows above the monkey face leaf scar that spoke to its name. Less than a month ago, Jinny Mae and I discovered its cousin, black walnut at Narramissic. Both are not all that common in the woods, but both grow in places where human impact is more evident. That being said, human impact is evident the world ’round.
Eventually, all good things must come to an end and it was time for those gathered to move along into our days. But . . . we’d had the joy of spending a couple of early morning hours, whether in the sun or not, coming into contact with sight and sound and texture. We’d met the actual world and we loved making its acquaintance.
Thanks be to Mary Jewett of Lakes Environmental Association for offering these community birding events. And for her patience with us amateurs as she teaches us the finer points of identification.