Signs of Early Summer

IMG_0519I found this American Robin while I was on a walk in Colchester. I noticed it as it flew into a tree right near the path. As I looked more closely I could see that it had landed on a nest. Cool! But check out the beak poking out from under that mama Robin’s belly. She’s got a brood in there. Cooler!

And check out that nest. That thing was crafted with a beak. You can see the softer materials near the top, where the chicks are. All these people are walking past talking about challenges at work or local politics or relationship challenges, and there this Robin family is just getting on with it while we pass it by.

IMG_0514Earlier in the day I had gone for a hike up high. I wanted to see if I could find Bicknell’s Thrush where I used to search for it several years ago. Along with the Thrush I found this patch of bunchberry blooming on the trail, popping out at me in the morning sun light. Later in the summer they will produce small red berries that taste like tomatoes. And down near the left corner there is a yellow trout lily still blooming. It is a little late for those. Down in the valley they flowered out by early May.

IMG_0510And here is a view I caught as I hiked down from listening for various birds. I spent the day finding signs that summer is unfolding as it should. Birds are calling out for mates or marking territory. They are building nests and raising chicks. Flowers are blooming. Leaves are shushing in the wind. Again, this transition each year, the shutting down of so much life that slowly emerges with spring and then summer, the richness and diversity of it all, it elates me. All this life just keeps keeping on, doing what it needs to do to continue. Humans have big brains; they create and destroy and mold the world. But only humans have the capacity to be fools. That is easy to see if you look at all the other life that fills the planet.

Meadowlark

Blurry but an Eastern Meadowlark Nonetheless

When we moved off the mountain to our home in the valley a few years ago, it gave me a chance to learn some new birds. I knew most of the birds I saw and heard when we lived a couple thousand feet higher, but those birds do not live down here. I learned the bobolink, flitting about the fields, and was happy to know they were fairly abundant. I learned the song sparrow. I got to know the barn swallow. This year I heard a song I had been missing, either because it was not there, or because I simply wasn’t paying attention. I thought it was a meadowlark.

So I looked it up with the power of the internets. Sure enough, at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and its All About Birds web site, I checked the song I was hearing with a recorded one. Eastern Meadowlark is what we had. I kept looking for them and not seeing them. I would hear the yellowish rascal but not see it craftily hiding in the tall grass. See See SEE-yeer. I saw one today, however.

I sat drinking my foamy coffee drink, eating raspberries and peaches with yogurt and granola, when I heard the call. I mean, I literally heard the call, of the meadowlark. So I scanned the field with binos and eventually saw the little dude poking his head up and singing. It kept popping up and down in the grass but I got a good enough look to get a visual confirmation of the species.

Meadowlarks are ground nesters, so now we have a dilemma. We plan to cut the field more than once this summer but I would hate to destroy a nest. They take around 4 weeks from laying eggs to the young flying solo, so I guess as long as we give over a month between cuttings we might save a nest or two. Or maybe not, depending on the timing of things. First bobolinks and now meadowlarks. These field nesting birds make for some mental figure eights. We want to cut the field to provide, eventually, hay for local cows. We also want to cut it to reduce the amount of wild parsnip we have. That plant pretty much takes over and is a nasty invasive that can cause terrible skin burns, so we want it gone from here if we can help it. But the birds…

I do not want to drive away the meadowlarks (or bobolinks or song sparrows) but I do want to cut the field. We will have to monitor the birds to see that we do as little damage as possible. It is good to know that these birds are definitely here. I would hate to push them out just as I am getting to know them.