Date: 5/7/20 5:06 am From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...> Subject: [VTBIRD] May 7, 2020: Thetford Center
5:08 a.m. 38 degrees. Windless. Thin clouds, here and there; not enough to
hide the moon, which, nearly full and bright as a bulb, rests above the
western horizon, sporting a hint of rose, the gift of an unseen sun.
Although leaves are opening everywhere along the Connecticut River, the
hills a wash of pastel (autumn without the density of color), not nearly as
much happening up here, at 900-feet. Spring creeps into these hills: black
cherry still seems dormant, like this morning's frogs; sugar maple and
white ash buds swollen but not open, knobs on the ends of twigs. Alder,
however, flowers subtlely along the edge of the wetland. Tiny cones,
narrow, and maroon, await pollen. Willows catkins, yellow-green and loaded
with pollen, await wind, truant in the Northeast today but swirling
counter-clockwise everywhere else in eastern North America.
Ovenbirds scream, three maybe four. Thrushes, dumpster-diving through
worn-out leaves, still quiet. Blue-headed vireos, singing here and there,
divvy up the valley. A broad-winged hawk soars through the weft of
branches. Lands on a maple limb looks for a chipmunk or a garter snake. A
stubby hawk by hawk standards. (So stubby that I first thought it was a
barred owl.) Short, wide tail. Long, broad wings best for catching thermals
rising off rock-studded hilltops. Not so good for spirited chases, which
are best left to goshawks. I saw a forlorn broadwing last March pass above
La Selva Biological Station, on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica.
Bereft of its own flock, which in Central America might have numbered in
the thousands, it trailed thirty turkey vultures, also headed north. Hawk
moves from tree to tree, staring at the forest floor, lingers with the
patience of Job.
Bittern calling. Grouse drumming. A rapid drumbeat. Sylvan tachycardia.
Male turkey scavenges spilled seeds under the feeders ignores me. Gray
squirrel cautious. Even the barn cat, my first line of defense against Lyme
disease, cowers under an Adirondack chair. If you didn't know that birds
are gorgeous reptiles—crocodiles are more closely related robins than to
turtles or lizards— watching a turkey would affirm the reptilian lineage .
. . a small dinosaur cloaked in iridescence. Running an animal genome in
the lab validates just how interesting and mysterious this planet really
is. No dull uniformity, natural selection follows mutable laws . . . and
everything and everybody is related to everything and everybody else . . .
the present and the past and the undreamed-of future are inseparable.
Darwin's unmistakable genius.