Birds and Coffee

We have a huge field in front of the house, but we do not seem to have any nesting bobolinks in that field.  They are in the fields all around, just not ours.  Throughout the day I can hear their warbling.  They sometimes pass over our field but they seem to avoid it.  It is a puzzle.

One theory is that the plants in the field are not what they like.  We cut it once every year, in the fall, and let it mulch itself.  This keeps things open.  If we left it to grow a forest would trying to occupy that field in a couple of years.  Maybe these birds prefer the grass in the fields that get hayed.  Frankly, we were hoping that by keeping it open we might attract bobolinks.  So much for that idea.  We do attract lots of butterflies and lots of other birds, however, so we have that.

Another theory is that our neighbor’s cat loves our field too much.  Either it has driven off the bobolinks that did manage to make a home here or the birds decided not to stay when they discovered the cat.  Nice place to visit but the neighborhood just isn’t all that safe.

Maybe it’s too wet.  Maybe all the activity around the house intimidates them.  Maybe it smells bad to them.  I don’t know.  In any case, I love to listen to them.  We do get to hear them sing and that is a joy.  Maybe one of these days they will come around to stay.  The cat can’t live forever.

Listening to the bobolinks, and then the hermit thrushes and robins late in the day, plus the red-winged blackbird scolding me for getting too close to her next, and the field sparrows and the kingbirds, I’ve got a lot to keep my ears busy.  Tomorrow I get to head out early to try to find one of the most elusive birds in Vermont, Bicknell’s thrush.  I don’t hear that bird in our field.  They only hang out up high where the trees are dense on the mountains.  I’ll have to get up early.

They typically only sing during the day’s bookends–dawn and dusk.  So I will rise at 2:00 in order to drive and then hike to get where I need to be on time.  I am a volunteer for Mountain Birdwatch, a program of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. I will listen for Bicknell’s thrush and other birds in the wee hours.  This made me think about coffee.

A hot cup of coffee might be nice as I drive in the dark.  So I had the idea of setting up the brewer tonight.  Then I though I wouldn’t.  Then I thought why not?  I am still wavering.  And then I thought about the connection.  One reason thrushes and other migrating songbirds are threatened is because their wintering grounds are no longer what they were.  When forests get slashed for coffee plantations, birds have to find a new place to hang out in the northern winter.  Where do they go?

I try to purchase shade grown free trade coffee, partly because of this study.  I learned to hear a Bicknell’s trush because I volunteered nine years ago and I still am amazed by its song.  To know it is still there, that it has returned for another summer, fills with the unexplainable wonder of the world.  So making sure the coffee I drink doesn’t impinge on that is important.  It is an easy thing to do.  I will get some coffee on the way home either way, but do I sip in the car?

You know, I think I will.  I never have and one thing I can’t stand is things staying the same for too long.  It is easy to fall into a pattern and just keep following it.  If I don’t break things up, I feel stuck.  So I guess I have one more thing to do to get ready before the morning.

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