Date: 6/20/20 6:59 am
From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...>
Subject: [VTBIRD] June 20, 2020: Coyote Hollow, Thetford Center
5:05 a.m. 60 degrees, wind ENE 0 mph. Sky announces the first morning of
summer: clouds an amalgam of shapes, sizes, and textures, from monster
mounds of cotton candy to lines and windrows; mostly shades of blues,
grays, and white, with hints and edgings of rose and mauve; hot white
highlights two F-stops brighter than everything else. Mist thin and
inconsequential: low and only across the center of the wetlands; more like
a haze over the pond. The woods, green-shaded and cool, hums with
mosquitos, which, fortunately, can't penetrate denim. Blue flag iris still
flowers along the lip of the pond. Mountain maple flowers on the edge of
the wetlands, loose stems of upright or nodding clusters. Individual
flowers, tiny and white, attended by thrips.

DOR: hairy-tailed mole and chipmunk sans head.
AOR: White-tailed deer and robins.

A plump woodcock flies in front of me, wings whistling: stout head; big
dark eyes, set high; knitting-needle bill pointed downward as though
dowsing for earthworms. The color of earth upon which it lives—mottled
browns and blacks and buffy orange. I've walked a short distance away from
an incubating female to fetch my camera and never found her or her nest
again.

Woodcock are sandpipers, a large family embedded within order
*Charadriiformes*, which includes plovers, gulls, and terns, among other
groups. Woodcock are doing better than most other sandpipers, their
prosperity based on choices made long ago. They're homebodies, less
worldly, which has allowed them, successfully if inadvertently, to bypass
the gauntlet of environmental ills that *now* plague other globe-trotting
shorebirds. Arthur Cleveland Bent, a supreme citizen scientist during the
first half of the twentieth century who wrote a twenty-one volume series *Life
Histories of North American Birds, *called woodcock *mysterious hermit of
the alders*. What Bent could not have known at the time was that woodcock
were in a far better position to survive the twenty-first century than many
other shorebird species because eons ago, woodcock abandon the shore for
the woods.

Pileated works the old big-toothed aspen. Sees me and leaves. Red-eyed
vireos especially loud. Warblers especially quiet. A veery calls, a harsh
note repeated at intervals. Scolding. Lands on a branch in front of me.
Follows me down the road. Scolds again. Yellowthroat and chestnut-sided
warbler gather caterpillars on alder leaves. More concerned with eating
than singing.

Snapping turtle mid-pond, floating, its carapace an archipelago of spikes
and points. Our truest, oldest, meanest-looking turtle, snapping turtles
were present when dinosaurs lived and died. They've been laying white,
round eggs in sandy loam and glacial till for eighty million years.
Snapping turtles have witnessed the drift of continents, the birth of
islands, the drowning of coastlines, the rise and fall of mountain ranges,
the spread of prairies and deserts, the comings and goings of glaciers.
They've witnessed humans crossing the Bering Land Bridge, the arrival of
Conquistadors and Pilgrims, the slave trade, too many wars to mention,
Spanish flu of 1918, the Stock Market Crash, polio, assassinations, the
Beatles, riots, climate change, the internet, globalization, protests and
persecutions, and, now, Covid-19.

Snapping turtles: hatch-faced and ill-tempered, their beauty-deep, based on
endurance and adaptability.
 
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