Date: 5/4/20 6:16 am From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...> Subject: [VTBIRD] May 4, 2020: Thetford Center
5:51 a.m. 44 degrees. Gloves back on. The sky, almost cloudless, getting brighter, lumen by lumen. Third day in a row Ascutney visible on the horizon. Alder buds swelling. Red trillium in flower.
Hermit thrushes are silent as stone, not one rich melody pours out of the woods. Well, there is a single winter wren singing (I guess that counts as rich melody) . . . but the woods, surprisingly quiet, except for a titmouse's two-note whistle, like a peeper on steroids, here and there along the road. Chickadees appear to have settled down. No agitated calling. No spirited chases. No festered resentment. At least three black and white warblers singing. I struggle to find them. No luck.
Wetland: first hint of green in worn fawn-colored mats. Male mallard, still in main channel. No sign of mergansers. Bittern has added an introduction to the cheek-popping call. Now, the more traditional *gloonk, *like a large rock dropped a short distance into the water; a deep, hollow sound that carries throughout the valley. I heard him last night. I hear him now, secreted in muck and mire. Thus far, this spring bittern prefers the northwest corner, beyond my prying eyes. In past years, however, I've seen him on the rim of the pond; in the road, bill skyward, rocking back and forth (fooling no one); on a neighbor's front lawn, doing I don't know what. Several years ago, after listening to his baritone serenades for years, I sought bittern out as one might an old, reclusive friend. Dressed hip-waders, a rather extensive VPR tape-recorder around my neck, I staggered into the fen. Eventually, knee-deep in organic crud, I stood twenty feet away from the bittern, who, preoccupied, ignored me. His chest heave with each *gloonk.* Yellow eyes, inscrutable and resolute burned a hole in the morning. I lost interest long before he did.
I brushed the shepherds at the foot of the driveway; dog fur an offering for chickadees. Becoming reacquainted with my own home ground, fulfilling; it's taken a pandemic to remind that "You do not have to walk on your knees," as Mary Oliver suggested, to find peace in the world.