Date: 7/16/20 6:36 am From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...> Subject: [VTBIRD] July 16, 2020: Coyote Hollow, Thetford Center
5:23 a.m. 63 degrees, wind SSE 3 mph. Sky: lineated clouds, wispy clouds, cloud mounds and valleys, many with a hint of peach and mauve, a painterly sky; a shifting landscape of moisture. Permanent streams: flowing and chatty. Intermittent streams: muddy and saturated; a chain of barely flowing puddles; preparing to aestivate. Wetlands: quietly green; not a hint of steam; a breeze across the reeds. Pond: earth brown; a gaunt mist rolls east.
Out of a neighboring valley, a red-shouldered hawk screams, a high, drawn-out squeal, crystalline and sharp; over and over and over; a rain of verbal arrows that sounds like a blue jay on steroids or, said the other way, a blue jay sounds like a red-shouldered hawk on barbituates. Red-shouldered hawk, scream of screams. It's not the disspirited cackle of a bald eagle or the none-stop yelling of a goshawk or the discordant notes of a peregrine. Like the wistful notes of Miles Davis, the cry of a red-shouldered hawk is meant to be savored. Hangs in the air for a moment, tapers and fades. Repeats. Fades. Repeats. Adds life to a world already alife.
I don't have to see the hawk. Just knowing it's out there hurling its voice like a javelin is quite enough.
Tanager in oaks. Ovenbird in maples. Red-eyed vireo everywhere (or so it seems). A black-billed cuckoo, calling out of shadows across the wetlands, its voice a cuckoo drizzle rather than a hawk storm. Then, as if on cue, a bird flies into the big, decrepit aspen, the one with widow-maker limb that hangs straight down. A cuckoo? It's the right size. Its movements measured and screened. As reticent as a rock. Picks something off the back of a leaf. A caterpillar? A treefrog? Hidden by fluttering aspen leaves. I wait, expectantly, for disclosure. Then, a jay flies into the aspen: another and another and another. Five blue jays comb through the canopy. A taciturn family that's more concerned with dining than chattering. Right size; wrong bird. Four jays move on. One stays.
From far away and high above, the red-shouldered hawk screams, an otherworldly scream, interstitial entertainment filtering down the columns of a July morning. Colors my walk. The dogs, oblivious, tug their leashes; and remaining blue jay methodically picks at leaves . . . and another morning unfurls like a blossom.