Monday, August 28, 2006

Warbler Overload

We got to spend a few days at Hasty Brook last week. The weather was cooler and a bit drizzly, but a welcome change from the hot, muggy days of our previous visit. There were no projects planned so we got to simply relax. The kids kept themselves pretty well occupied and Art caught up on rest and reading. I was left with lots of time for birdwatching and reading as well- perfect! The woods were FULL of warblers. Such beautiful, flitty little things. My ID skills are not great, so I saw this time as an opportunity to really learn alot.

I parked my chair beside this lovely balsam pine and for over an hour the branches above me vibrated with tiny birds. They seemed to tumble down through the branches, catching insects, then hop back up, to tumble down again. None seemed bothered by my presence. According to my field guide, there were black and white, chestnut-sided, yellow, and, I'm pretty sure Wilson's warblers. I saw yellow stripey warblers but I couldn't tell them apart even with the book. Then there were the millions of yellow/olive, yellow/gray, olive/yellow, olive/gray, olive/olive/yellow.... My enthusiasm waned. My head ached. I was frustrated. Time to put the books down and go for a walk.

I found myself in a spot along side the creek near the old beaver dam. Even though the water was low in the creek, I could still hear it moving over the logs. So nice. I was treated to the song of a hermit thrush! They weren't singing like they had earlier in the summer- it was so nice to hear. Across the creek, where I heard the song, out of the alders popped the thrush! I made a mental note of the field marks, hoping to confirm the bird in my field guide back at the camper. What really caught my eye was the tail dipping. The bird's tail would quickly dip and then rise a bit slower. Later I found this characteristic listed! I was thrilled! Throughout the summer I had found the hermit thrush song to be the most beautiful sound and now I saw one! I'm not much of a lister, and to be honest I don't know if I could tell most thrushes apart, but I'm quite sure that one was a hermit thrush.

A little while later something else caught my attention. About five feet away, at eye level, perched a hummingbird. She sat there turning her head, looking at me with one eye, then the other. I had one of those moments- eye contact with a hummingbird! After a few more seconds she flew up to me checking out my bright pink T-shirt. I felt the air from her wings on my cheeks and she was gone. What a treat!

I really did enjoy the time I spent with my binos and field guide and all of those yellow/olive and olive/yellow warblers. But the real gift was the time by the creek with the hermit thrush and the hummer. I have found that often the best things happen when we watch and listen and stay in the moment. I think that is part of what draws me to watching birds. They don't worry about tomorrow. They don't agonize about when to nest or migrate, they just DO. They live totally in the moment. Something I'd like to do more in my life.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Family Time

Our trips to Hasty Brook have given us a great opportunity for family time. That's not to say that we don't bring along the kids' iPod, GameBoy, and other electronic do-dads, but they get tucked away when we're outside. This day trip last winter is one example. Winter is the best to see the contour of the land. The snow wasn't too deep this day and we did lot's of hiking. We walked along the edge of the curving creek looking for the best/ narrowest place to cross.

There was only one spot upstream of the old beaver dam that we found ice sturdy enough to cross. Actually, only Art crossed. The ice was VERY soft and I was quite nervous, but Art wanted to measure the distance across because he would one day like to make a bridge. The area where we camp is surrounded on three sides by the creek and we would like to be able to explore the other side a bit.

When he was ready to cross back, Art took a running start. The kids roared as he slid across the ice and then planted in the snow on the near side. Even Gidget (the dog) laughed!

I think we talk more when we're up there. That's always a good thing. On this early spring day the fire felt pretty good. What is it about a fire? Conversation flows, but silences are OK too. I love the atmosphere around a fire.

Here's John. John is twelve and is the funniest boy I know. He is very thoughtful and kind-hearted. OK, no more Mom adjectives!
. I love this picture- a boy, a pocketknife, and a stick.

Here is my Molly. I love this photo as it captures her exuberance. Molly is thirteen and full of life and possibilites. I have been blessed with a wonderful family and I believe we are very fortunate to have a place like Hasty- a place to feel part of the woods, and a place to know each other better.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Walk in the Woods

I like to walk slowly. I'm always the last but that's OK with me. There is just too much to see and to hear. Sometimes moving just a little ways down the path, the air carries a different scent. The ground smells different in the sun or in the shade. It's noticeably cooler down the hill by the creek and I can hear frogs plop into the water as I get near.

I watched this beautiful little bird for quite a while- a song sparrow? I'm not too sure.

There was a large clump of this vine. The flowers look like hops.

I found these ferns growing in the damp along side of the creek. The fronds are wider and have irregular edges- quite different than he varieties of fern growing on the hill around the campsite. I wonder if there is a field guide for ferns...

Yep. I like to walk slowly.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I've heard but not seen three birds while camping this summer, the loudest being the urgent "teacher, teacher, teacher!!" that my field guides described as the ovenbird. Finally, last weekend, there he was, hopping about at eye level-scolding away! I watched for a while, noting field marks- pinkish legs, distinct white eye ring, solid olive/brown back, streaky breast and rusty/orange patch on crown. I was able to snap off a few pictures and this is the best one! There are two other birds that I have heard in our woods but have yet to see- the veery and the hermit thrush. Both sing beautifully in the evening there. I have several audio guides that have helped identify what I am hearing. Veeries have a strange song, reminding me of a carnival toy my kids have called a giggle stick. Every evening we've been at Hasty this summer, I've heard thier songs, always just beyond the clearing, always out of sight. The hermit thrush sings in the evening also, but from deeper in the woods. His song is THE most beautiful bird song that I have ever heard- absolutely magical. In July I heard hermit thrushes singing well after dark, falling asleep to those lovely songs, sweet dreams.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Just for the Day

We drove up to Hasty Brook on Saturday to spend the day. You can barely make out the camper to the left of the truck at the end of the driveway. We had some work to do, cleaning the camper, stocking with supplies and stacking fire wood.

Art, my husband and best friend in the world, brought lumber up to finish the steps he and his brother built. The steps run from our campsite down the hill to the trails that lead to the creek.

I found two clumps of these yellow tipped ferns. I don't know if it's an indicator of fall coming or if they grow naturally this way. There are just so many shades and textures of green in the woods. It hums with life and there is a peace I find there that I don't find anywhere else.

Friday we're back up to Hasty for the weekend. We're having lots of company. There will be two campers and a tent for all of the kids. The weather forecast looks good (no more 100 degree days!).