Date: 12/27/20 8:41 am From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...> Subject: [VTBIRD] December 27, 2020: Coyote Hollow, Thetford Center
7:27 a.m. 27 degrees, wind SE 3 mph. Snow lingers in parallel ridges along the edges of the road and in shady creases on the hillside. Otherwise . . . gone. Sky: mottled, pink blush in the east. Mount Ascutney visible in the distance, a blue-gray bump in the clear air. A mistless, hazeless sunrise. Permanent streams: ice laminates low, overhanging branches and twigs, the consequence of energetic water. Water level lower, but not by much. Wetlands: marsh, a snowless expanse of standing reeds, main channel sprawled and iced . . . an episodic lake. Pond: closing up, again. The dark, oblong lead of water from the feeder stream shorter and narrower. New ice thinner, grayer. Old deer tracks are reduced to amorphous dimples on the surface. Otter holes, round as the moon, sealed shut. An undulating crack runs north to south, cleaving the shell in half, the *stillness point* of a Yin-Yang pond.
Red squirrel, framed by the marsh, chastises me from a pine limb. I haven't seen a red squirrel at the birdfeeders in many months. Apparently, reds don't crave sunflower seeds when packages of turpentine-flavored white pine nuts dangle in spades. Gray squirrels, on the other hand, *travel to the beat of a different drummer*. . . only deep snow keeps them from my sunflower seeds.
Male hairy woodpecker in the cherry, on suet. Male downy woodpecker under cherry, on the lawn, foraging for loose seeds, dropped by careless chickadees and nuthatches. Hairy chases downy . . . and then, both resume original positions. Although the two species are members of the same genus, *Dryobates*, and look almost identical, hairy and downy are not as closely related as ornithologists previously thought. The downy is more closely related to the Nuttall's woodpecker, a California bird, and the ladder-backed, of the desert Southwest. The hairy is more closely related to the Arizona woodpecker, a bird of the Mexican highlands and southeast Arizona, and the Strickland's, a Mexican species.
Similarities of plumage may confer respect for the daintier downy woodpecker, whose range overlaps the more robust hairy woodpecker throughout much of Canada and the United States, known as *social dominance mimicry* or *competitive mimicry*. Means little to Cooper's hawk, which rips after either one with gusto.
Everything has meaning. Everything is connected. A world of individual pedigrees, tens of millions of pedigrees, all radiating from a common ancestor 3.5 billion years ago. Part of an ancient tapestry, interwoven strands of life we barely understand. We live in a world of colors we can't see. Sounds we can't hear. Sensations we can't feel. Questions we don't know to ask. Another day of unalloyed fascination* on the pale blue dot*.