Date: 5/13/20 6:31 am
From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...>
Subject: [VTBIRD] May 13, 2020: Thetford Center
5:08 a.m. 27 degrees, Wind SE 3 mph. Cloudless. Steamless. Frost in the
wetland. Half-moon east of center sky; above a duckless pond. In transit:
three geese, honking; one loon, lit by the morning sun, tremolos echo
across the valley. Is there a more haunting call on a chilly May morning?
Turkeys: gobble, strut, mate. Today, in the lower pasture, upslope from
alders that crowd north end of the wetland. For a moment I could imagine
the males, after two months of procreating, exhausted, washing up like
spent salmon along the shores of the lower pasture. They've become my new
yardstick for stamina.

Worth a slight digression: Yesterday afternoon, walking along the
snowmobile trail, I flushed a hen, literally underfoot. An incipient nest?
(Elsewhere, turkeys have begun to hatch. On Mother's Day morning, I found
an evacuated eggshell in Norwich.) Further along the trail, three
bushel-size depressions . . . turkey dust bathes, wallow-sites in the
sandy earth where birds asphyxiate feather mites. Last week, as I walked
through my living room, I noticed the young, glum male at the feeder—the
one who struts to no one in particular. He jiggled, left to right, wings
akimbo and tail fanned, released a cloud of dust, a veneer of which coated
the stonewall.

Morning of the ovenbirds, which must have ridden into Coyote Hollow last
night on the southeast breeze. Twelve singing along my three-quarter-mile
route. Several in full view, close at hand on horizontal branches mid-way
in trees. Screaming. Hollering. Reiterating. Ovenbirds look and behave like
thrushes, which are silent, again. Home, shortly after the sun crests the
eastern rim of the valley. Six ovenbirds in the front yard mixing with the
hoi polloi. One picks up a small numb earthworm. Slurps it down. Another
probes around the blueberries; displaces oak leaves. The rest mingle on the
lawn.

A remanence: Several years ago, while radio-tracking rattlesnakes with a
biologist on a ledge in the Champlain Valley, I found an ovenbird nest, a
domed-over, grassy structure, not unlike a Dutch oven with a portal in
front. The nest held five tan-colored eggs, heavily stippled. Several days
later, I was told all five hatched. Then, a week after their hatching came
a grimly fascinating peek into secret lives within a forest: the biologist
found the rattlesnake, bolus in its belly, coiled near the threshold of the
ovenbird nest. The nest was empty.
 
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