Shorebird morning

Shorebirds are passing through. Most people have no idea. Maybe they see “sandpipers” if they visit the beach, but in Vermont? No beach, no sandpipers, right? Well, mostly. But when those little wading birds head south, they stop along the way.

I went to Delta Park, in Colchester, to find some shorebirds the other morning. They were there. I saw seven different species. Lake Champlain is low enough that I could walk around the point. At times the wetland bleeds into the lake, so it makes for a wet walk. But I got around the corner and found them.

Some were on a sandbar, not far from shore–close enough to see well with the right optics. There were Semipalmated Plovers, the cutest birds you’ve ever seen–plump little buggers with a mask and orange bill. There was a Dunlin, with a long curved bill, probing deep in the mud for breakfast. And there were long-legged Yellowlegs, living up to their names with long bright yellow legs.

I also saw several Great Egrets, large elegant white wading birds, resting on a log just off the beach. And an osprey soaring overhead. And in the willows, a Yellow Warbler in its drab fall plumage. And on top of all that wildlife, the place itself is just stunning. Green reeds and grasses spilling out toward the lake, and the Adirondacks strutting their stuff over in New York. When I go there I can’t help but fumble a little, I am just so in awe.

So I saw my shorebirds. I stopped for a cup of coffee to sip on my way home. I watched the morning grow into full-on day. I vowed to go again the next morning, even though it would mean another drive to get out there. But when I woke in the dark that night, it was raining.

We have not had anything but showers in months, so I didn’t think much of it. But as the light strengthened, the rain did too. And it kept coming down. I was disappointed. But we got rain. We needed rain. I stayed home most of day–baked bread, made granola, read a book, payed some bills. Shorebirds will be passing through for a little while. I will get out to Delta Park again. And I will see those shorebirds that all the bikers and joggers on the nearby bike path don’t even know are there.

Still Some Color

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Peak foliage has passed. Around here it was about three weeks ago. Earlier farther north. We have had some wind, plenty of it in fact. And lately it has been raining. A lot. Wind and rain tear down the leaves, especially after they have reached their peak color. And so it has been. But there is still plenty of color to be had in the trees.

This morning I went down to the lake. I was hoping to find ducks. And maybe a late shorebird. Shorebirds have mostly migrated through, but there are always a few stragglers. But I didn’t see any today. I did see ducks from up north, however. Some of them will stick around for a while, as long as the ice stays away. I saw Buffleheads and Goldeneye and even a Black Scoter. Even if I hadn’t seen any, however, it would have been worth it.

The Adirondacks across the water were lit up with scattered sun. Clouds skittered across the firmament, but broken. So the sun popped though onto the mountains. The brilliant leaves remaining, and the fresh snow up high, were glowing. I started in Shelburne, with some birding success (Black Scoter!). I kept going south after that to the Charlotte town beach. I struck out there–the wind was fierce. There were a few Mallards in the cove and some gulls circling in the air currents, but otherwise it was a dud.  But those mountains…

Even on the Vermont side there were a few gems. One oak was ka-powing right next to my car. And there were maples lining the road in a couple of spots–yellow and red and orange.  I mean, it isn’t what busloads of visitors come to see. It wasn’t whole hillsides of brilliance. But still, there is some color sticking around. By Thanskgiving it will all be gone, but I’ll take it for now.

A Little Skiing

It’s not like I get out there that much these days.  My spouse and I used to get out at least once a week to ski, often long days in the backcountry.  Of course, we lived in the mountains.  We could walk out the door and access hundreds of acres of wilderness.  We also could walk out the door and ride the lift to ski or snowboard.  We used to sled on the groomed ski trails.

I’m not saying “Oh those were the days” or anything.  I’m no sentimental sap.  Living there was amazing but it also was pretty much impossible to walk out the door in the winter and safely go for a run.  A five mile steep road, covered in snow and hemmed in by snow banks is the place to run if you want to get back home.  But we did get in lots of skiing.

Yesterday I had one day at least of the kind of adventure we used to have.  I went with a handful of other gentlemen, poking around for some slides in the Adirondacks.  We found the snowmobile trail, skied up that, the puttered about looking for some access in the woods.  It was thick, filled in with hobblebush and birch saplings that had sprung up from the ice storm ten years ago.  Eventually, however, we found the slopes.

There were a couple of steep slopes, covered in powerdery snow.  There was a little ice underneath, but hardly much.  We were in there, we sweated, and we earned out turns.  It was great fun.  We sat for lunch at the top of an open slice of moutain, snow falling like crazy, with our backs a frozen waterfall and ate lunch before dropping down.  It was pretty dang good.

In the past week five feet of snow has fallen in the mountains.  Tomorrow, school on break, my wife and I both off, we will get into those mountains and, hopefully, link some turns.  I got in a little skiing.  I hope to get in much more this week.