Date: 6/16/20 7:36 am From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...> Subject: [VTBIRD] June 16, 2020: Coyote Hollow, Thetford Center
5:07 a.m. 43 degrees, wind S 1 mph, only aspen tree knows the wind moves. Sky: without a cloud; bland uniformity except for a pinkish wash across the south. Mist over wetlands thickens and disperses. Dawn belongs to crows and robins, which are everywhere and noisy. Fractious fledglings beg and chase. Having eaten something gooey, male robin wipes bill on a branch; then, he goes back to work.
A chatty house wren in the pines enunciates every note as though giving dictation. Pileated, close to the road, tattoos a hollow tree; hammering resounds across the valley; second distant woodpecker answers, barely audible. Yellowthroat and chestnut-sided warbler, unconcerned about social-distancing, side-by-side in the same chokecherry. Yellowthroat chips; chestnut-sided sings. A deer bounds through woods, tail up. Dogs at attention; ears up (sort of).
In the wetlands: red-shouldered hawk perches on the last snag standing, a barkless white pine, limbs long broken. The hawk's russet undersides . . . perfect camouflage; an extension of weathered trunk. Its incandescent vision fixed on reeds and muddy channels, looking for the subtlest of movement; perhaps, a breath taken too deeply. The hawk flies to pine on the western shore; perches mid-tree, mid-limb, and continues surveillance. If I didn't have binoculars and hadn't known where to look I would never have noticed the hawk. Certain perches suit its interest, providing me with a level of passable predictability that keeps me checking snag and pine limbs. Because hawks are mobile favorite perches accrue over a wide area. When a red-shouldered hawk hunts Coyote Hollow I know where to look . . . but it's not always here. It hunts several wetlands in several valleys.
Timber rattlesnakes, which I've spent *some* time watching, are the epitome of predictable. During a timber rattlesnake's lifetime, which may stretch half a century or more, there is a ninety-nine percent probability that it won't switch dens. Year after year, the female births and sheds almost always on the same site. Males know this. I know this. And hawks that hunt rattlesnakes know this. A red-shouldered hawk watches over a vast landscape, a bird of eminence that sees the world from an unrestricted perspective. Hawk and valley entwine. The valley inhabits hawk as surely as I inhabit the valley. Both of us transparently dependent on the same landscape . . . hawk for physical survival; me for spiritual survival.