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 otter.