Date: 5/9/20 6:00 am From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...> Subject: [VTBIRD] May 9, 2020: Thetford Center
5:28 a.m. Sunrise, though you won't know it. 31 degrees. NW wind 9 mph. Snowing, tiny flakes; thicker and wetter than a dusting. Snow inlays tender leaves and bark crevices; traces branches and twigs; whitens boulders; obscures much of the ground, except the road, where thrushes and robins, silent as the snow, pick at tidbits. Thrushes and robins also foraged on and around stone walls and along and in roadside gulleys, anywhere offering patches bare ground. Where are juncos? For the moment, the world belongs to chickadees, which, full of verve, sing and chase each other, animating and normalizing a rather bizarre May morning. (The only way this morning could be more bizarre is if birds wore PPEs and practised social-distancing.)
Three phoebes sitting on a apple limb, glumly, fluffed-out. One opens his bill, half-heartedly attempts to sing. A male rose-breasted grosbeak arrives at the feeder, breast a burst of color in a washed-out landscape. Even turkeys, for the first time in two months, have nothing to report.
Bittern called last night, the clipped, cheek-popping call. Nothing from the owls or the titmice or the woodpeckers, any of 'em, or the ovenbirds, which must be in shock. One vireo sings. One wren, jauty as ever; the rest hushed by snow. A half-heated song: a lone white-throated sparrows whispers *Ol' Sam Peabody*; cuts it off after two "Peabodys." A *myrtle* warbler ,forging in a maple crown, dislodges snow. A flock of goldfinches, bright as sunbeams, chatter.
Yesterday, a friend from Apollo Beach, Florida, told me that migants are still passing up the penninsula in decent numbers. I imagine a thin wave of Neotropical birds, stretching from Thetford (and beyond) to Apollo Beach, fifteen hundred miles of birds. The migrant vanguards in Coyote Hollow (what my family calls this valley) do the heavy lifting: frost; NW winds; frozen ground; numb, motionless insects; iced-over puddles; and, now, snow. Snow! If they survive they'll pass on tough-guy genes to the next gereration; if not, birds and genes are out of circulation. When I first came to the Upper Valley, in the fall of 1977, the Montshire Museum of Science's ragtag bird collection had ten or twelve freeze-dried scarlet tanagers and maybe a dozen or more warblers, vireos, swallows, and orioles, all with the same collection date on their speciemen labels: May 7, 1976. Back then, six inches of snow had blanketed the Connecticut River valley for two days and the birds, forced to forge on the margins of Route 10, eventually starved and were gathered and donated to the museum by Hanover commuters.