Date: 6/27/20 7:20 am
From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...>
Subject: [VTBIRD] June 27, 2020: Coyote Hollow, Thetford Center
5:12 a.m. 53 degrees, wind N 1 mph, just enough to move mist. Sky: a
rose-flush across the south; a sheet of wrinkled clouds with highlights
across the east; clear everywhere else. Wetlands filled with horror-film
ground fog. Pond fog rolls southeast. In the absence of an otter or of
turtles, I consider pine needles. Deposited and marshalled by the wind,
needles spiral outward like concentric Etch-a-sketch swirls or a
sonogram of a veery; becomes the morning mandala . . . eventually to be
rubbed out by the *very* force that put it here. Smoking columns of fog
climb out of cloistered valleys, white on green. Red flowering raspberry in
flower. Iris in seed. Male flowers of white pine spent, an organic litter
ready to invigorate (if we ever get rain). Two bullfrogs call. Green frogs
silent. An almost frogless summer in Coyote Hollow. I cherish the big
garden toad, the only one I've seen this year.

A hermit thrush offers a musical overtone to the more mundane voices of
late June. Veery song spirals out of the fog. The drumbeat of a pileated
echoes across the valley. A Nashville warbler hops into view, eye-level on
an alder, sings twice. A female yellowthroat, off the nest and actively
gathering caterpillars, ushers Nashville warbler out of her immediate

Back home: evening grosbeak chicks are sunflower seeds reconfigured.
Already the same size as their parents, chicks camp in front-yard cherry,
wings drooping and quivering, bills agape. Pester parents. Mother and
father deposit shelled seeds down their throats, one after the other.
Songbird gravy train. There's never enough. An immature red-shouldered,
using the lilacs as cover, attacks a mourning dove. Dove escapes, leaving
behind some down and two tail feathers.

Phoebes fledged barn nest; hang out in red oak by barn door. Parents bring
them moths, mostly white.

Department of Misplaced Accolades: In the spring of 1804, in a cave in Mill
Grove, Pennsylvania, eighteen-year-old John James Audubon tied silver
thread on the legs of five nestling phoebes. Hailed as the *father of
bird banding* for the past two centuries, Audubon may have been given
credit he never deserved. In the 1830s, many years after he had claimed to
have ringed the chicks, Audubon wrote that the following spring two of the
five phoebes had returned to Mill Brook wearing silver bracelets. In a
recent article in the* Archives of Natural History*, a journal published in
Edinburgh University, a Pennsylvania biologist, who had studied the
artist's journals, reported that in the spring of 1805, when Audubon had
claimed to have seen ringed phoebes, he was in France. I'm not too
surprised by the revelations. Audubon got timber rattlesnakes wrong. He
painted one with round pupils and a set of teeth in the upper jaw. And, in
1827, while delivering a lecture in Edinburgh, Audubon claimed a Louisiana
rattlesnake chased a gray squirrel through the treetops, like a limbless
gymnast; and that the snake eventually killed the squirrel by
constriction, not venom (pure fiction).

Phoebes, less concerned than I am about their place in the annals American
ornithology, beg for moths.
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