Date: 6/19/20 6:59 am
From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...>
Subject: [VTBIRD] June 19, 2020: Coyote Hollow, Thetford Center
4:59 a.m. 58 degrees, wind N 0 mph. Leaves of aspen as motionless as the
mist above the wetlands, which lingers like an injured cloud. Sky: lines of
pastel rose in the south, all point to the unseen sun; clean, pale blue in
the north, which darkens as the morning progresses. The upper permanent
stream limps. The lower not so permanent; absorbed by a gravel bed, like a
desert river; and then reappears downstream as a series of pools.
Disappears again. Sticklebacks couldn't survive the drought, and pickerel
frogs, which favor moving water to spawn and have bred in both streams,
seem to have skipped breeding this spring (so far). Mist over the wetlands
erases the far shoreline; thickens over the pond. Water pulls away from the
parched shore. A pair of great blue herons, in no particular hurry, pass
overhead, deep arcing strokes; slow-motion flaps compared to mergansers. A
heron grunts, a low, guttural sound like steam escaping a radiator. A
bullfrog belches.

Crows chase one another through treetops, noisy and reckless. Crows
modulate their voices, intelligent birds that speak in tongues. There's far
more to a *caaw-caaw-caaw* than meets the ear. Wings slapping leaves sound
like ripping paper. Veeries calling, not singing. Red-eyed vireos singing
but quietly . . . for a change. One enthusiast chestnut-sided warbler;
others silent. Foraging yellowthroat inspects alder leaves.

Otter sports the ultimate coat: nearly four hundred thousand hairs per
square inch mid-back. Looks better on otter than on us. Otter cameo:
yesterday, I looked at eleven in the morning. Nada. At four in the
afternoon, five painted turtles basking on the surface sank. Otter, nada.
This morning, fresh sign, which I examine like a jeweler fingering
a diamond. A short trail in and out of the pond has been used more than
once. Reeds flattened. At the trailhead, three feet from the water, more
digging. No scraps of turtle shells. No pieces of a bullfrog. No sign of
anything other than digging and filling. Otter must have time to kill. A
supreme predator. A wide-ranging hunter that patrols miles of rivers and
wetlands and lakes. Can sense a fish in black water beneath a pall of ice
and snow. If he stays too long there would be nothing left to eat. A
Pyrrhic victory. An otter is *so *good at fishing he has time for carefree
play, has time for solitary and group games. As an artist, otter takes the
joy of childhood into adulthood. Tobogganing. Sliding. Chasing and throwing
leaves. Invented catch-and-release . . . invented catch again and again and
again . . . and again. There are less enjoyable things to do than watch an

Our world needs more otter.
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