Date: 5/6/20 7:03 am From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...> Subject: [VTBIRD] May 6, 2020: Thetford Center
5:17 a.m. 26 degrees. Cloudless and windless. Frost throughout the wetland and pastures. Leaves of red maples, tiny and red, give the woods a ruddy complexion, as though trees could blush. Beech leaves unfurling. Ash buds swelling.
Two herds of wild turkey calling from opposite ends of the wetland: one north, in the lower pasture; the other south, in a clear cut, just above the east side of the pond. Gobbling carries in the cold air, the valley stereophonic. Three ovenbirds (FOY) screaming in the pines: *teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher*. Teachers unresponsive, of course. They all self-isolating, online teaching.
A junco on a low branch chipping, pink beak in relief against gray breast. A pair of sapsuckers duel twenty-feet apart. One on the resonant roadside maple limb, tapping the small, broken terminal end, which is barely bigger than he is; the other, up road plays the trunk of a standing dead beech. I see them both. They see each other. Preoccupied in their war of wood, percussionists are oblivious to me and to the dogs, which tug their leashes, wanting to walk. Gray squirrel crosses the road, heads up the driveway toward the feeders; dogs tug in another attention.
Last night, I read an article that recently appeared in the journal *Ecology. **Topic:* an obscure aspect of migration. *The given: 1)* two billion birds cross the Gulf of Mexico twice each year, hemisphere to hemisphere; No surprise. *The given: 2)* along the way, thousands, maybe tens of thousands, maybe even millions perish. Flocks starve. Exhausted and disoriented, others land on the water and can't take off. Still, others fly too low and get engulfed by waves, swallowed by an unforgiving sea. Flocks hit oil rigs and boats. Still, no surprises. *The crux*, *the* *oddity of the article:* newborn tiger sharks wait off the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi for hapless migrants. A predictable pulse of protein for babies just learning how to hunt. Eleven different species identified in bellies of baby sharks: yellow-bellied sapsuckers, swamp sparrows, eastern kingbird, common yellowthroats among them. All birds that live in this valley. *"Notorious for their dietary breadth," *the authors wrote, tiger sharks eat almost anything: alive; dead, inorganic. Feeding with a proprietary air. Who knew that a stage in their lives tiger sharks depend on the sky to deliver protein. Loren Eisley, simplifying Francis Thompson, wrote *One could not pluck a flower without troubling a star*. I'm not sure either Eisley or Thompson had songbirds and sharks in mind . . . but it fits.