The beginning of wisdom, as the Chinese say, is calling things by their right names. (E. O. Wilson, as cited by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal, Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Striders and a Butterfly

March 31, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  This morning Moi and I make our annual excursion to S________ to buy kielbasa and city chicken for Easter.  When we come home we both lie down to rest for an hour; I have to work tonight; it is now about 2:30, and I am about ready to take Mway out for a walk.  Moi has already let Mway outside, and from my office window, I see her chase a ground hog into the summer house, then roll on her back in the yard.  It is pretty warm out, so I’m not planning on wearing a jacket today.  I have my contacts in, so I plan to bring along binoculars.
State of the Path:  Outside, Mway is sitting in front of the porch in the middle of the chickens.  When she sees me, she runs back over to the summer house, starts sniffing the dirt for the ground hog.  Since she went that way, I decide to take the reverse way on the path.  Mway lingers around the summer house, then finally catches up with me at the break in the ridge, where I’m trying to bend back a sumac branch so I have more space to step around the puddled ground.  Mway runs past me and wades into a puddle in bug land.  In the area of the red willows, I see a bird in the shrubs, but by the time I raise my binoculars it has flown away.  The mud in the feed channel is glistening bright in the sun; I barely manage to negotiate it without falling.  I still don’t see any colt’s foot near the skating pond.  Mway wades into the creek.  After she steps out, I see drops of water shining in the path that have fallen off her coat.  On the way back over the feed channel, I see how Mway gets across it: she scoots under the wild olive shrub then hops over the channel where it’s not so steep and muddy.
State of the Creek:  Water striders again on the water.  And flitting along the path, a lavender butterfly, a little smaller than a cabbage butterfly; I see another one later up by the wigwams.  I don’t see anything like it in Audubon’s comprehensive field guide to wetlands.  On the side path along the old orchard, I see what I think are already shoots of golden rod and blackberries, or dewberries, coming up.  Down by the creek, I forget to look for the white flowers.
The Fetch:  When I get to the clearing, by the reverse way I usually do, Mway is not there, and I have to call her.  But she soon comes, with a smile on her face.  Only 2 fetches, though.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Rustling in the Sumacs

March 30, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:   I wake up about 9, and since Moi stayed overnight at Jazz’s, I have to do all the things she usually would do: make coffee, turn on my computer, feed Squeak, let Mway out.  I check my email and see that I apparently have no work today, so, since Moi is out, I sit down to work in the music room, postponing the morning walk with Mway.  A little after 10, I hear Moi stomping on the porch toward our door; I get up to greet her, listen to all the things she has to say, then, as she goes outside to check on the chickens (a task I neglected to do), I gather my walking clothes together to take Mway out.  I washed my walking socks last night, so they are fresh and clean, and since it’s apparently cold outside I put on my snow suit.  After debating about it for a while, I also strap on my binoculars; I’m wearing my glasses, and the binoculars don’t work ideally with them, but I figure I might as well bring them along.
State of the Path:  The dominant sound outside today is the wind.  Mway dashes up to the chicken cage and scares them back away from the cage door.  The path is about as wet as it was yesterday.  I hear a few birds, but they are not out too much today; the only bird I see is a blue jay as I’m approaching the creek.  Down by the creek, I look for the white flowers I saw yesterday.  Along the path, I see what I think is another skunk cabbage, growing right by the water on the far bank.  Before I come to the area where I saw the flowers yesterday, I find some other really tiny white flowers, and debate for a while whether I should make any kind of effort to identify them.  The flowers are about the size of a gnat, and I consider that they might not be in full bloom or at their peak size, making an identification all the more difficult.  I finally pick a stem, and right away I don’t know how to carry it.  I’m afraid to put it in a pocket for fear of crushing it, so I just carry it along in my gloved hand as best as I can.  Further down the creek, I keep my eyes on the ground looking for the other flowers, peeking up at the trees every now and then to see any birds.  I’m just about ready to give up on finding the flowers, when I see some very little tiny white flowers, in about the right location.  These are probably the ones I saw yesterday, but they look like they haven’t opened up today in the cold weather, so I just pass them by.  I don’t bother taking the side path along the skating pond – I didn’t take the side path along the orchard either.
State of the Creek:  The water is about as high as it was yesterday.  It’s too cold for any water striders in the pool behind the log jam; too cold also for any peepers, and I hear nothing from the pond between the ridge.  As I’m stepping gingerly along the edge of bug land toward the pines and the break in the ridge, trying in vain to avoid the puddled ground to keep my feet dry, and debating every second whether I should just toss the flower specimen I’m carrying, I suddenly hear Mway barking behind the ridge, then a rustling of bodies in the weeds. I hurry through the break in the ridge.  Up one of the sumac trees on the ridge scoots a big raccoon, with Mway at its tail.  The raccoon quickly climbs high enough to be out of Mway’s reach.  I stand there, not knowing what to do or say, as the raccoon hangs onto the skinny tree and Mway looks back and forth between me and it.  Eventually I turn around and just continue walking, and Mway soon follows, rushing up to the clearing ahead of me.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I don’t know what to do with my flower specimen, so I just set it on the ground, and in the course of tossing the stick soon lose sight of where I put it.  As Mway is fetching the stick, I marvel at her discovery of the raccoon, and wonder whether it just came out of a winter’s sleep for Mway to suddenly come across it on one of our walks.  And I also wonder what it will do now, whether its habitat has been irreparably disturbed and it will now wander someplace else to live, or whether it will try to stay here at its hole or whatever on the ridge, with the possibility that its life will everyday be threatened by a dog.   Just now I’ve looked in the encyclopedia:  it says that raccoons “in good habitats” (whatever that means) may roam up to 10 miles.  So this raccoon tomorrow could be long gone from where Mway found it today.  A few years back, one evening, I came into the driveway to see a huge raccoon standing at our back door, its snout in the air, looking just like a dog pawing at the door to be let in.
Addendum:  I take Mway out for her second walk, around 3:45 pm.  I don’t bother to bring any binoculars; I hike at a fast stride (as fast I can, given that I have to meander around puddles, mud, and soggy ground) on the main path down to the creek and back.  Mway, however, doesn’t go all the way to the creek.  At Moi’s old wigwam, she wanders up onto the ridge around bug land, and starts sniffing in the sumacs, at dead leaves and roots.  After I’ve walked the length of the path along the creek, then up along the ridge around bug land, we come together at the break in the ridge.  Mway gives me a nod with her body, then prances off up the path to wait for my arrival at the clearing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Find the Binoculars

March 29, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work late morning, early afternoon. When I come home Moi has left for Jazz’s, and I take Mway out about 3:30.  A couple days ago Moi and I were discussing birds, and she brought up the jazz bird, which she associated, not with the chickadee, but with the yellow-bellied sapsucker.  So I thought that I must have been wrong all this time.  But I looked today in the book, and Auduobon describes the sapsucker, a kind of woodpecker, as a very quiet bird, which makes at best a mewing sound – so I believe that I am right, and that Moi must be wrong about this.  Today, Moi having found them for me, I bring along the binoculars.
State of the Path:  The chickens strut up to me, Mway ignores them.  Between the outbuilding and the coop, the path is wet, meaning that the spring in the coop has filled up.  In the old orchard, there is a little water streaming down, which eventually gathers together down by the maples and flows into bug land.  Along the orchard, I find a squirrel or mouse skull on the ground and stick it in a tree.  Then in the hedgerow, I see a bird that’s not one of the kind that I know well, so I try to look at it through the binoculars.  But to hold up the binoculars, I have to drop my sticks, and when I do they thump on the ground, and the bird flies away.  Down by the creek, I look for my red-bellied woodpeckers in the oaks, but I don’t see them.  Then I spot another bird on a smaller tree, but by the time I pick up the binoculars, it has flown away.  I then think I hear mallards farther down the creek (in past years, Mway and I have often disturbed a pair of mallards on our walks in the early spring).  So I get my feet soaked crossing the feed channel to the skating pond, thinking maybe I’ll see the ducks down there, but no such luck.  It’s warm enough to hear the peepers, although they’re not as loud as on some days; a little bit too warm to being wearing a jacket.
State of the Creek:  The water is low enough today that the water behind the log jam is placid enough for the water striders to be skipping across it.  All along the walk, I’ve been seeing little shoots coming up, but down here I see one that I can identify: the distinctive speckled leaves of the trout lily.  I also see a little white flower, but I have no idea what this is.  I’ll have to check out the leaves on this on my next walk.  I notice that the leaves are coming out on the multiflora.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, on my second toss of the stick, I see a couple birds perched on a bush beyond the electric pole, so I bring my binoculars up to my face to try to view them.  Before I can even get my bearings through the glasses, Mway drops the stick at my feet, and starts her usual barking to coax me to throw it again.  I try to ignore her barking, but I can only stand it for a couple seconds, and when I lower the binoculars, I see Mway looking off in the direction I was looking.  Then when she sees I’ve lowered the binoculars, she starts barking again -- I give up on trying to look at the birds and continue tossing the stick.  About 6 or 7 fetches.   Back in the back yard, I draw the chickens into the cage with a handful of feed, and inside the house I give Mway her supper.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Walk in the Rain

March 28, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  As usual work all day today – more specifically, I typically leave the house at 10 am and do not get home until between 6 and 7 pm.  The same routine happens today, except at the end of my work period, the workplace loses electricity, the result of, the reports varying, either a squirrel climbing into a transformer or a rain storm causing a generator to burst into flames.  All the way home, about 40 miles, it is raining hard.  Although it will still be light out when I get home, I anticipate that I won’t really have to take Mway out for walk.  But I like to walk in the rain and like to see spring waters gushing, so when I get home, about 6:30, even though I know my feet will get wet because of my poorly made rubber boots, I nevertheless put on my snow suit and my father’s air force safari helmet and take Mway for a walk.
State of the Path:  Amazingly the path at its start, between the outbuilding and the chicken coop (or former spring house) is relatively dry, meaning that the artesian well in the coop has not overflowed.  But after that, the path is pretty much one long puddle all the way.  Down by the wigwams, water is streaming through the maples and spilling over into bug land.  By the time I reach the creek my feet are already wet, and as I’m walking along the creek I can even feel water inside my snow suit dripping from my armpit down my side.  Some sort of birds are chirping along most of the walk, but the predominant sound all the way is that of rain falling on my helmet.  Down by bug land, as I hike along, my sticks sometimes sink a couple inches in the mud. As much as I like to walk in the rain, I don’t take either side path; it’s just down to the creek and back, and again it’s too cold for the peepers.
State of the Creek:   Despite the rain, the creek is so far staying well within its banks (Moi tells me later that it’s only been raining since about 4 pm); the water is flowing strongly; even at the log jam the water is moving.  Though the creek is not flooding, most of the path along it is one long puddle.  I try to walk in the weeds beside the path; Mway just walks straight through the water.  Water is visible in much of the high grass of bug land:  it is a chain of puddles from the upper end to the drainage area at the creek.  Where the path narrows, I’m mindful of Moi’s concern of the ground being undermined by the water, and step carefully.  At one place close to the bank of the creek, I can poke my walking stick through the ground, but only with some effort, and I don’t see any sign of the ground seriously giving way.
The Fetch:  By the time I reach the clearing, more water has seeped into my boots from passing through the area above the ridge, and water is also dripping from my other arm pit down my other side.  I toss the stick for Mway, who runs after it oblivious of how wet she might be, and I start counting, hoping indeed that Mway does not make very many fetches today.  By the time she fetches the stick a third time, I’m worried that she might hang in there for six or seven times, but I’m relieved when after the fourth fetch, she runs by me and starts down the path back to the house.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Woodpecker Flies off Quickly

March 27, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi is back, and we both work tonight.  I take Mway out about 3:30.  As soon as I step outside, the chickens strut up to the porch, looking for a hand-out.   Mway charges at them, but then goes off by the swimming pool to squat.  I realize that I’ve brought one wrong glove with me, so as the Boy steps outside (on his way to something or other), I step back inside to get the right glove.  When I get back outside, the Boy is pushing the chickens off the porch and scolding Mway for charging at them.  I realize I got the right glove for my one hand, but then that I exchanged my other glove for a wrong one, so I have to go back and make another exchange.  When I come back outside, Mway, anxious now with all the commotion, is barking at me to get on with the walk.
State of the Path:  Birds are chirping.  I see a redwing black bird flying through the field, a robin near the cedar by the old orchard.  As I’m coming down to the creek, I spy a blue jay in a tree across the creek, preening itself.  It flies off and then I immediately see a cardinal in the tree behind where the blue jay was.  Down by the big oaks, I look for the red-bellied woodpecker, and eventually do see it in its favorite oak, but it flies off up the field on the other side of the creek before I can observe it for long.  Rustling in the leaves on the ground across the creek is a little brown bird I can’t identify.  I carefully cross the feed channel to the skating pond, my boots making a sucking sound in the mud of the foot holds and immediately taking in water.  I don’t see any colt’s foot yet, but in front of a sumac hanging down from the ridge along the far feed channel, some tiny ferns are coming up, and next to them, the first green shoots of something or other.  In the trees down from the ridge, there’s a pretty gray bird roosting on a tree branch, which I can’t identify either.  The path is soggy and wet in the all spots it has been for the last week or so.  Too cold again for the peepers.
State of the Creek:  The rocks that I stepped across to look at the skunk cabbage are again dry on top.
The Fetch:  As she usually does, Mway greets me at the clearing, hopping and spinning around and following along at my feet until I take my stance at the far end near the briars.  There’s lots of space to toss the stick, so I throw it as far as I can, toward the cement rubble, toward the electric pole, toward a wild olive shrub that is now getting its leaves, and back down the path into the dead golden rod, and Mway dashes off after each toss, sometimes having to make a sharp turn when she realizes she’s miscalculated the direction it’s gone, throwing up dirt with her paws, skidding in dead weeds, then running back with the stick dangling in her mouth, pitching it at my feet, and sometimes spinning around on top of it as I’m trying to pick it up off the ground.  As I’m throwing the stick, I realize I’m counting the tosses, and I ask myself why I’m doing that, and as soon as I do so I lose an exact count.  6 or 7 fetches.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Believe Red Headed to be Red Bellied

March 26, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Yesterday I did take Mway for a second walk, a short one, past the summer house to the strawberry field then right up to the clearing.   7 or 8 fetches, making up for slacking off in the morning.  I also managed to get the chickens back in their cage.  And I’ve also noticed that the forsythias on the side of the house have turned yellow.  This morning I get around to taking Mway for her first walk about 9:30.  Down in the kitchen, as I’m putting on my jacket, hat, and gloves, and Mway is hopping at the door in anticipation, she starts barking.  She knows I don’t like her to do this, and she usually only barks with Moi (that is, at the door; during fetching, she barks regularly with both of us).  But with Moi gone for the last couple days, I guess Mway can’t contain herself.
State of the Path:  It’s cold and breezy enough for my snow suit today.  The chickens are standing at the door of their cage, anxious to be let out.  Hear birds chirping, but not as much as on a warmer day.  The starlings are not flocking in as large numbers; they seem to have dispersed, or moved on, or whatever they do.  Down by the creek, the breeze blows up a dead leaf in my face – at first I’m startled, thinking this is a bird flying at me.   Down at the oaks, I start looking up in the trees for my red headed friend.  At first I don’t see him, but then I spot him in the second oak on the other side of the creek.  He flits from branch to branch, then flies over to the other oak, and I have a fairly good view of him – I even see him take a few pecks at the branch he’s sitting on, and this bird definitely has a red head, unlike the similar bird I saw the other day, which only had red around its neck.  Before sitting down here at my computer, I’ve leafed again through our Audubon bird book – I am amazed to find, under the entry for “Red-bellied Woodpecker, a description corresponding to what I’ve been experiencing.  First, according to Audubon, the Red-bellied is “barred black and white above” – yes, this is what I’ve been seeing, not the “large white wing patch on each wing” of the Red-headed.  Then Audubon says the male has a red crown and nape, the female only has a red nape – whoa, so I’ve been seeing both the male and the female.  Audubon says the red patch on the lower abdomen is seldom visible in the field – well, that’s reassuring, because not seeing a red belly is why I haven’t been calling these birds “red-bellied.”  And Audubon’s description of its voice – “chuck-chuck-chuck, descending in pitch.  Also a loud, oft repeated churrrr” – is pretty much what I hear.  By the way, Audubon says the bird is common in the South, scarcer farther north – a statement that would dissuade me from shouting “Red-bellied,” if not for the other things the book says.  Coming back through the briars from the clearing (after our fetch), I see what I’m pretty sure is a chickadee in the sumacs.  I hope to hear it sing its be-bop lick, but no such luck.
State of the Creek:  With the rain we had last night, the creek is somewhat higher.  The stones where I stepped across to look at the skunk cabbage are covered.  More water is trickling into the creek from bug land.  Too cold today to hear the peepers.  Mud too gooey to walk by the skating pond.
The Fetch:  3 fetches.  Back in the house, I fill Mway’s dog dish, then go back outside to gather up 4 poop-speckled eggs, after scaring off the brooding hen, then let the entire flock out to free-range.  Their first destination: following my heels in the hopes of a hand-out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

See the Red Headed Bird Again, But It Looks Just Red Necked

March 25, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:   This morning I have to do all the things Moi would normally do.  Make coffee, feed Squeak, turn on my computer and deal with the damn new search engine I was forced to download so I can use YouTube.  I let Mway out the door, and she sits on the porch for a while, just looking around, until she barks and I let her back in.  By the time I get ready to take her for a walk, it’s about 9:30.   I’ll have to take her for some sort of walk again later, but since I have to leave for work around 3:30, it probably will be a short one.
State of the Path:  Mway dashes out the door, runs to the old shed by the driveway, and scares a ground hog back into its hole inside the shed.  Near the walled garden, I see burdock shoots.  See a couple cardinals in the old orchard.  Just before the wigwams, I step on the red willow sapling along the path which I’ve been regularly stepping on on my walks, in the hope of keeping this shrub from growing into an impediment in the path this summer.  Down by the creek, I hear a bird among the oaks, and start looking for it, expecting the red headed bird that I still haven’t been able to satisfactorily identify.  I finally spot a bird in the oak on our side of the creek, but because it’s straight overhead, I can’t view it too well.  After a while it flies off, then comes back to perch on the oak on the other side of the creek, and I have a better view of it.  But looking at it today it seems to me that its head is not so red, that it’s mainly its neck that is red, and its head is black – and I wonder if this is a woodpecker why it’s not down at the trunk of the tree pecking for insects (one of the secondary trunks off the main trunk of the tree is rotted and has been broken off by the wind, with some of its pieces on the ground, and one piece lodged in the fork of another smaller tree, which I’ve noted before).  I keep looking at the bird to try to make it out better, but then I’m distracted when I hear Mway wade through one of the mucky ponds in bug land.  When I turn back to look at the bird, it has gone.  A little further on, as I’m walking along the ridge to bug land, Mway also decides to wade into the pond between the ridges – why do this? I shake my head.  Don’t hear the peepers today.
State of the Creek:  My eyes are in the trees today.
The Fetch:  3 fetches.  Back in the house, I get Mway her dog food, then go back out to check on the chickens, another task I have since neither Moi nor the Boy are here.  I scare a hen off her nest, and find 5 eggs, which I gather up to bring in the house.  I then let the chickens out, so they can “free range” a bit.  Later on, before I go to work, I’ll try to draw the chickens back in their cage with a handful of chicken feed.  I was able to do this successfully yesterday.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Walk over to the Skunk Cabbages

March 24, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Moi is working in western Pennsylvania this day and the next two.  The Boy has gone back to Jennifer’s.  I work tonight, and have to leave around 4, so I take Mway out about 2:30.  It is cool enough to wear my denim jacket.
State of the Path:  When I step outside, I don’t see the fetching stick on the bench.  I’m considering what lesser stick I might use, when finally I do spot the one I’ve been using on the ground by the wood pellet pallets.   The chickens gather around me looking for a handout.  Mway ignores them, and follows me to the walled garden.  I chase a bunch of redwing blackbirds from tree to tree through the old orchard, scare up a couple robins along the hedgerow, and flush out what looks like two mourning doves from out near the cedar tree.   Much of the path now has green grass growing in it, usually with a strip of mud down the center.  Down past the wigwams, the path, though, is still mostly mud, with water still trickling ever so slightly into bug land.  Just before the creek, where there are seeps, the path spreads out wide with soggy ground.  As I’m walking by the creek, a big bird soars over the vicinity of the skating pond – at first I take it to be a hawk, but now (having looked through my Audubon) I think it probably was a turkey vulture.  I don’t hear any peepers until I’m down by the creek, then I hear them good and loud in the pond between the ridges.  There’s still water in the drainage basin to bug land, and in both feed channels of the skating pond.
State of the Creek:  Because the water looks low enough today, with a couple stones actually out of the water and dry on top, I decide to cross the creek to look at the skunk cabbages I saw yesterday.  Unfortunately, the stones are small, and I still get water in my boots.  I have to duck under the wire fence, which fortunately is not electrified.  Later on, since my feet are already wet, I decide to cross the feed channel to the skating ponds, using both sticks to keep me propped up as I negotiate the muddy foot holds.  I don’t see any colt’s foot growing yet.  But walking by the skating pond, I hear a high-pitched croak that seems to be coming from the pond and seems to be different from the sound the peepers make.
The Fetch:  7 fetches today.  I think Mway has a sense that I am the only one she has to account to for the next couple days, and puts her full effort into my walk today.  Back in the house, I fill her dish with dog food.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Peepers Are Loud

March 23, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Early this morning I hear the jazz bird outside our windows, so-called because of the somewhat be-bop cadence to its song.  Moi and I some time ago did figure out, as she recently reminded me, that the bird making this sound is a chickadee.  I work this afternoon, and take Mway out for her walk around 5.  It is cool enough today to wear my denim jacket.
State of the Path:  I see spots of rain on the sidewalk, but as I continue along I find that it’s only drizzling outside.  The chickens come strutting over to me as I walk down the steps, and follow me back down the sidewalk.  Mway ignores them, but she does venture into the chicken cage, and I have to yell at her to get out of there.  We take the side path along the orchard, and I look for the little white flowers Moi pointed out yesterday, but I don’t see them.   There are some birds out – a sparrow by the hedgerow – but they are not very loud today.  The spring peepers – which you can hear as soon as you step in the back yard – are the dominant sound today.  Although there’s no sign of water on the ground in the upper part of the field, except what’s in the mud, there’s still a little water trickling into bug land from the area around the maples.
State of the Creek:  At the corner of our property, I see, over on Hutchinson’s land below the power lines, what I believe are a number of skunk cabbages.  They are just beyond the wire fence on the bank of the creek.  I think about crossing the creek to inspect them more closely, but I don’t because of the pathetic state of my boots.  My feet are now getting wet as I walk along the ridge along bug land, where the ground is very soggy these days, even before I reach the soggy area on the other side of the ridge.  The peepers are squeaking loudly in the pond between the ridges, and it seems to me I hear a bird in the trees along the creek trying to imitate their sound – a mockingbird perhaps?  It is gray out today, and hard to see what birds might be in the trees.
The Fetch:  Up in the clearing, Mway awaits me with a smile, even coming back down the path a little to urge me toward the clearing.  4 fetches – good enough; after all, her life is pretty much the same whether she makes 4 or 10 fetches.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Moi Stomps on the Ground

March 22, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work this afternoon, get home about 4, ready to take Mway for a walk.  Moi is outside, having just swept up pine cones and other debris from the spruce tree into little piles, the chickens all around now scratching the piles apart.   Moi decides to come along with me for a walk.
State of the Path:  Earlier today I had noticed a robin from the kitchen window, and a couple daffodils in bloom along the side of our house.  And, also I’ve noticed small purple flowers in the weed area next to my car.  I take Moi over to see if she can tell me what the flowers are – at first she doesn’t know, but later on on the walk, she concludes that they are creeping myrtle – not a wildflower, but something that has grown there from debris she has tossed there.  The lilac bushes around our house are now in bud, as is the red maple beside the swimming pool, and also, all along the path, the wild olive shrubs.  By the old orchard, Moi comments on a packed thicket of shrubs that looks like a bee hive or a crown.  “Looks like a wigwam,” I say, “what do you think it is?”  “Maybe it’s multiflora shrub that collapsed under the snow,” she speculates. Near the cedar tree by the back hedgerow, she spots some tiny white flowers growing in the dead weeds – but she doesn’t know what they are.  The starlings are out chattering, and a few crows caw in the distance, but I don’t really see any birds today, except the chickens, of course, who start to follow us down the path, but get no further than Moi’s garden pond, Mway having sprinted back to them to stand in their way.  Down by her wigwams, Moi says that she’s sorry she hasn’t had the time to work on her new wigwam.
State of the Creek:  There has been a little rain today, so the creek is a little higher, but not much.  I point out to Moi that I see some sedges growing in the creek.  As we come to where the path narrows, Moi again wants to stomp on the ground to show me how the ground is going to fall through soon, but I dissuade her from doing so.  We come up to the feed channel on the way to the skating pond, but the mud is so gooey, neither of us wants to cross it.  I see that the animal skull I put in the tree has fallen down and broken into two.  I fit the pieces together and put them back in the tree.  As we’ve been walking along we’ve been hearing spring peepers, and their squeaking is coming from the pond between the ridges, the first time this year I heard them coming from there.  We walk over to the pond, and Moi stomps on the ground, expecting the peepers to quiet down, but they do not fall completely silent until Mway comes around.  Bug land at its bottom end is quite soggy, even on the path along the ridge going toward the pine trees.  A couple little ponds in bug land are still visible, and probably all the brown grass there is saturated with water.  The other side of the ridge is still very soggy, and you can see how the water drains down here from the field and ends up in the pond where we heard the peepers.  Moi ends up walking way ahead of me, and she is already on her way to the back yard by the time I get to the clearing.
The Fetch:   Mway goes after her stick with as much enthusiasm as any other day, her paws kicking up clods of mud as she runs.  4 fetches.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Moi Comes Along

March 21, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, and when I get home, sometime around 6:30, it is, unfortunately, because of daylight savings time, still light out.   I ask Moi if Mway needs to go out, and she says yes.  I invite Moi to come along for the walk (today is the anniversary of our meeting each other in NYC 31 years ago).  Moi brings along her iPhone to take some photos.
State of the Path:  Because of the long work day, I am perhaps not as attentive as I usually would be, and, with Moi along for the walk, there is a lot going on.  Before we even reach the path, Moi throws some feed into the cage for the chickens, who strut in after it, Mway lunging at one or two of them.  When we reach the walled garden, and the bags of trash piled there, Moi talks about burning the trash tomorrow during the rain we’re suppose to get.  Past the walled garden, there are (as I actually noticed a few days ago) leaves of day lilies coming up.  I lead Moi (and Mway) down the side path along the old orchard, a route that Moi says she never takes.  We brush past the new raspberry runners, and Moi talks about not cutting them back (as she once heard you were suppose to do to get bountiful fruit) to see how they do this year.  I mention what I have been calling garlic grass, and Moi corrects me, calling the tufts of green plants all over the place wild onions (indeed, I remember now that there is a plant that comes up later in the spring, quite widespread, which it took us a long time to find the name for, which we call garlic grass).  We circle around the cedar tree and come back around to the main path.  I point out to Moi how I’ve been trampling down a path here through the weeds, but express my doubts that I’ll be able to maintain a path here all through the summer.  Birds are singing and chirping, rabbits are running, and down by the creek, the peepers are squeaking, but I’m not paying too much attention to these things today.
State of the Creek:  The creek is running gently as it has the last few days.  Along the path, Moi points out some wild mustard that is coming up (this may have been what I called gill-of-the-ground a few days ago).  At the log jam, Moi marvels at the big log that spans the creek, and wonders where it came from.  We both wonder if it was indeed the Boy who several weeks ago took the barrel out of the creek.  I ask Moi what makes the scum on the water, and she shakes her head.  I look up in the big oak across the creek, hoping to see the red headed bird there so I can enlist Moi in helping me to identify it, but I don’t see anything.  Moi stops before the oaks and remarks that she thinks the creek is getting wider there.  Where the path narrows beyond the oaks and just before the drainage area of bug land, she points out how the creek is undermining the bank, and that some time soon the ground might give way there (as it did at one place to me a couple years ago).   Then she starts stomping on the ground, forcing the ground to give way, and I yell at her to stop, telling her that there’s no need to aid the process.  I invite Moi to follow me on the side path along the skating pond, another route she says she never takes herself (as I know perfectly well).  As we double back at the far ridge then pass along the creek, I spot something white in the ground, and when I dig it up, it turns out to be, as I suspect, another golf ball.  Crossing the feed channel on our way back to the main path, I ask Moi what the plants are there that are growing in the water.  She says that some of them are sweet flag that she transplanted there some years back and another one is sedge.  I point out to her the animal skull that I found a couple weeks ago and placed in the tree by the channel.  At the pines just before the break in the ridge around bug land, Moi bends over and fondles the new pine sapling which she pointed out to me many months ago, and which has survived the winter without me stamping on it.  We pass through the break in the ridge, both of us finding it difficult to walk on the path here without getting our feet wet.
The Fetch:  Up in the clearing, Moi takes pictures as I toss the stick for Mway – I forget exactly how many fetches Mway makes.  About three.  On the way back to the back yard, Moi points out to me how this winter the feet have broken off of her cupid statue in her garden pond.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Look for the Red Headed Bird

March 20, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi has to go off and march in a parade and she wakes me up to tell me she doesn’t have time to take Mway for a morning walk, that I’ll have to do it.  She also tells me to let the chickens out around noon.   By the time I get around to taking Mway out, after having some coffee and checking my email, it’s around 9:45.
State of the Path:   Again, I appreciate the indirect sun of the morning, the coolness of the air.  See a rabbit running from the field into the old orchard.  Hear birds, but it seems that the starlings are no longer amassing in large numbers in the tree.  Don’t really see any birds until I’m down by the wigwams and see a male and female cardinal flying toward the hedgerow.  At the same time I hear Canadian geese – I look for some time before I see them in the distance passing over the top ridge, flying in their V formations.  Down by the creek I look again for the red headed bird I saw yesterday – I’ve checked the Audubon guide and I couldn’t find anything that looked like the bird I saw.  The picture of a redheaded woodpecker in the book, the closest contender, doesn’t really look like what I saw, with its black and white body in contrast to the gray body I saw.  As I approach the big tree on the other side of the creek, I do hear a bird, making the same scolding sound, “Cha cha cha cha,” followed by a rattling sound, that I’ve been hearing.  I finally see two birds perched high in the tree, but they are black like the ones I saw a couple days ago.  I think I see red on the wings, but I can’t be sure -- the birds are probably redwing blackbirds.  The tree, which I think is an oak, is the tallest one down by the creek, and as I’m staring up in it I finally notice that it has started to bud, the only buds that I have seen so far this year
State of the Creek:  The creek is running gently, much like yesterday.  There is water in the drainage area from bug land, but it is pretty much standing still.  I think about going by the skating pond to look for colt’s foot, but the foot holds I put in the banks of the feed channel yesterday look too mucky and slippery.
The Fetch:  Two fetches!   Although they’re carried out with vigor and enthusiasm, I’m surprised that this is all Mway does on what is manifestly her first walk of the day.  Of course, ultimately I don’t care.  Back in the house, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feed Mway – Moi didn’t say anything about this, so I just give Mway half a biscuit.
Addendum:  I take Mway out for a second walk around 4 pm, and I’m surprised Moi isn’t home yet, as we both have to work tonight.   I decide to go the reverse way on the path, starting out at the summer house and going down toward the strawberry patch first.  Sure enough, down at the creek, I see the red headed bird again, in the uppermost branches of the tall oak.  Whatever this bird is, it is definitely not a female cardinal.  If it were on the trunk of the tree, pecking at the wood, I could safely say it was a woodpecker.  As it is, I can only tentatively call it a woodpecker.  Up in the clearing, I see Moi driving in.  Mway does 5 fetches – that’s a total of 7 for the day.  Back in the house, I go to feed her but her dog food bin is empty.  Moi tells me to give her 15 biscuits instead.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Squeeze in a Quick One

March 19, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Work late this morning, early afternoon.  Also have to work tonight.  Manage to squeeze in a walk about 3:15.   Early this morning Moi tells me to be on the look out for colt’s foot, the first flower of the year.  She has seen them around the skating pond in previous years.
State of the Path:   Mway dashes out the door.  The chickens are on the side of the house, and she ignores them, and heads down the path.   There seems to be less water on the path by Moi’s garden pond, but elsewhere the path is still soggy and muddy.   I hear birds, but I’m not paying too much attention to them today because I’m in a hurry.   But nevertheless I do run into them, starlings by the hedgerow, redwing blackbirds that I startle up by the skating pond on my way to look for colt’s foot (which I don’t see any of).  I manage to get across the feed channel, but I really have to dig foot holds in the muddy bank and be careful how I step to avoid stumbling into the water.  On the way toward the back hedgerow on the side path along the old orchard, I’m surprised to see what I’m pretty sure must be a butterfly – is it a fritillary?
State of the Creek:  The creek is running gently, iron brown.  More water striders in the pools.  As I’m walking along the creek, I hear a bird high in a tree on the other side scolding me much like a bird was doing the other day.  When I look up I’m surprised to see a gray bird with a red head.  I know this could be a female cardinal, but it also looks to me like some pictures I’ve seen of a woodpecker.
The Fetch:  5 fetches.  Good enough.  I follow Mway back to the back yard.  Before I get there, I hear Moi’s voice yelling to Mway, “Knock it off!”   When I get in the back yard, I see Moi digging in the vegetable garden, and Mway wandering around without her stick.  I ask Moi about the red headed bird I saw, and she confirms that it could have been either a female cardinal or a woodpecker.  I then yell to Mway to find her stick.  She looks around for it a little bit, but finally finds it, brings it to me, and starts hopping up and down, coaxing me to toss it again.  On another day, I would do so, but today I simply carry the stick back to the porch, Mway hopping at my side.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Go Out Early

March 18, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:   I have to work tonight, and I also should put a couple hours of work in in the afternoon, so, since Moi has not yet taken Mway out for her morning walk, I decide to do so – about 9:30 am.   This is certainly not the first time I’ve taken Mway out in the morning – when Moi has been away working, I’ve taken her for walks both in the morning and the late afternoon.  But usually if Moi is around, I don’t take her out in the morning.   Mway doesn’t seem upset by the change in routine; she’s standing ready and eager at the door as I prepare myself to go out.  I’ve checked the temperature outside, and it seems cool enough to wear my denim jacket this morning.
State of the Path:  There is dew on the grass, and I like the slant of the sun and the long shadows at this time of day.   There is much chattering, chirping, whistling, and singing of birds – but I don’t see any of these birds as I’m walking toward the chicken coop – the chickens are in their cage.   Above all the bird sounds, one sound stands out as louder than the rest – some bird is going “Wheeeeer! Wheeeer! Wheeeer! Wheeeer!”   That’s the best I can transcribe it, and of course I have no idea what kind of bird this is.  Finally when I’m walking along the old orchard I see one bird, probably a redwing blackbird.  And then while I’m walking through the maples I catch sight of the goldfinch I’ve been seeing in the back hedgerow – apparently this bird likes something about the hedgerow.   As I approach the creek, I hear coming from downstream somewhere some bird making a rattling sound.  I don’t see the bird, and of course I don’t know what it might be, and my hopes of maybe catching sight of it are dashed as first Mway rounds the corner and heads along the creek, and then I follow, and the bird falls silent shortly after.   At the midpoint of the path along the creek, I do see a black bird of some kind perched high in an oak on the other side of the creek, and it starts making a scolding sound as I walk by, “Chaa!  Chaa!  Chaa!  Chaa!”   When I finally walk past it, it stops its scolding, and makes more of a throaty rattle, but not quite like the rattling sound that I first heard coming down to the creek.
State of the Creek:   The creek is flowing along much like it has in the last couple days.  There is still water flowing in from bug land, and there is water in the feed channel to the skating pond, still too much for me to try to venture across it.  Up above the break in the ridge around bug land, I again get water in my boots.
The Fetch:   Up in the clearing, I expect Mway to make quite a few fetches on this, her first walk of the day.  So I start counting, as she enthusiastically starts chasing after the stick – but I get to count only up to three, before she starts dashing down the path through the briars on the way back to the back yard.  I really don’t know what’s up with her not doing many fetches with me lately – maybe in her middle age she’s simply decided she doesn’t have to fetch as much as she used to; maybe because I haven’t been feeding her right after her walks she no longer feels she has to do as much fetching with me.  Although I like the feel of throwing the stick, it really doesn’t matter to me.  Nevertheless, when we get back into the house, I make a point of personally filling her dish with dog food.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mistake Yellow Sign Flapping for Goldfinch

March 17, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Moi and I both work tonight.   Indeed, we have setting up to do in the afternoon.  When we get back, about 4:30, I take Mway for her walk.  No jacket again today.  Earlier today I had seen the Boy out tossing stick with Mway in the back yard – I assume this, plus an early walk with Moi, will have tired Mway out for the day, so I don’t expect much fetching on this walk.
State of the Path:  Hear starlings, see them in the trees of the walled garden, as soon as I step outside.  The chickens are rummaging in the compost heap by the vegetable garden, and Mway does not see them.  When I get to the walled garden, the starlings suddenly stop their chattering.  I see them flying out of a tree and gathering together again in the trees farther out in the orchard, where they begin chattering again.  Hear, in the distance, mourning doves.  The garlic grass is getting high enough that the tips are curling.  See what I believe is a goldfinch in the back hedgerow;  when I think I see another goldfinch, it turns out to be a yellow “No Trespassing” sign posted for Hutchinson’s field flapping in the breeze.
State of the Creek:  When I get to the creek, again hear spring peepers; this time they do not stop their squeaking as I walk along the creek.  I believe I hear a woodpecker, probably coming from the woods above Hutchinson’s field.  In the largest pond (really more of a puddle) in bug land, and in the pond between the ridges, I see new grass and new green algae growing, or some kind of green muck.  Again the feed channel to the skating pond looks too treacherous to hop across.  Again, above the break in the ridge around bug land, I feel water seeping into my boots.
The Fetch:  Two fetches – just about what I expected.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Plastic Bag in a Squirrel's Nest

March 16, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  I have work to do in the late morning and early afternoon, get home around 2:30.  As I get out of the car, I see something flapping from a squirrel’s nest in a tree by the walled garden.  As I look closer, I realize it’s a piece of plastic bag – probably used by the squirrel for similar reasons we used the whole bag in the first place.  The Boy is home and says he plans to make supper.  Moi is out working most of the day, so I decide to do the dishes.  As I’m looking out the kitchen windows, I see that some day lilies around the summer house have sprouted and I see two bluejays frolicking in the front yard.  When I finish the dishes, about 3, I decide to take Mway for a walk.  It’s a warm day today, so I decide not to wear any jacket, just my walking clothes, and my boots, my gardening gloves, and orange wool cap (I decide against the helmet because I don’t want a brim impeding any view of birds I might have).  Mway has closed the door on herself in her room, so I have to open it to let her out.
State of the Path:  I hear starlings in the big spruce tree as soon as I get outside.  Mway first goes by the summer house then comes back to squat by the swimming pool.  I have my eyes out looking for the chickens and don’t see them anywhere, but as I’m walking down the sidewalk I hear roosters crowing somewhere up by the driveway.  Mway runs over by the chicken coop, but of course she doesn’t find any chickens, and she follows me into the walled garden.  In the big tree by the outbuilding, I scare up a bunch of redwing blackbirds that I then end up chasing among the trees through the old orchard to the back hedgerow.   I see a couple brown pigeon-headed-like birds fly from the garden into the old orchard – are these mourning doves?  In the old orchard, the water that was running through there before has dried up, but the ground gets wet again as I double back to the main path, and there is still water sitting in the gulleys down through the maples by the wigwams.  As I’m coming up to the pin oaks just before the creek, I hear spring peepers – the first time this year I hear them on a walk.  But as soon as I step up to the creek, they fall silent.  As I’m walking along the creek, I notice there are still ponds in bug land, and one that I hadn’t noticed before in front of the wooden barrier the Boy once used for playing paintball.   There is still water trickling through the drainage ditch from bug land.  I don’t take the side path by the skating pond, again because the sides of the feed channel look too slippery and there is a lot of water sitting in the channel.  It looks like some plant there in the water – a catty-nine-tails? – is getting ready to spring back to life.  Above the break in the ridge around bug land, the path is still very wet, and because shrubs and sumac trees hem in the path here, this is where I inevitably get water in my boots.
State of the Creek:  The creek is a little lower today, some areas resuming a rusty brown color.  At the log jam, there is foam and scum gathered in front of the big log, and in the pool behind it, I see one water strider.  I see a couple more striders in a pool farther down the creek.
The Fetch:  Mway meets me at the clearing.  As I’m walking toward the end of it to take my position for tossing the stick, she strides along, looking up at me and smiling, hopping and spinning around eagerly.  Then one fetch – that’s it, and deliberately avoiding my look she starts running down the path through the briars back toward the walled garden and finally to the back yard.  When I catch up to her in the back yard, she’s standing in the midst of chickens, without the stick in her mouth, looking up at me.  I keep walking toward the porch, Mway following me, chickens milling around.  I see the stick by the pool and tell Mway to pick it up.   She grabs it in her mouth, and follows me up on the porch with it, then drops it and stands at the door, waiting to be let in.  As I’m tossing the stick on the bench, I see a hen on the porch pecking at a bag of feed that Moi had taken out of the coop because rats were getting in it.  Yesterday, there was a broken flower pot on the porch.  I didn’t see any chickens on the porch yesterday, but I did see some chicken droppings, and my guess is that the chickens had knocked the flower pot over.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Concerned about the Chickens

March 15, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  I only have a little work to do this afternoon, so I decide to take Mway out about 12:15.  When I put on my boots, I notice that they have split apart at least in one spot where Moi had cemented them.  There is dried mud on the legs of my snow suit.  My biggest concern today is that the chickens are out of their pen, free roaming – I even saw them wandering down the lane earlier out of our living room window.  A few years back, Mway had run to death our previous flock of chickens, and Moi has been hesitant to let this new flock roam around the yard for fear Mway might do the same to this flock.   However, last night Moi had Mway out while the chickens were roaming free, and it seemed to her that Mway might now be okay with them.  Still I have to be a little concerned and make sure that Mway doesn’t run them to death.
State of the Path:  I consider bringing a leash along in case Mway starts chasing the chickens, but the best leash is tied up to a plastic wire rope out on the porch, and it seems like too much trouble to untie it.  Also, I see that Mway doesn’t start dashing after the chickens, so I figure we’ll probably be all right without a leash.  The path is in pretty much the same condition as it was last night, wet and muddy.  Between the outbuilding and the chicken coop, a grape vine is sagging down in the path.  I see that it’s been broken at one end, so I bend it back to one side to get it out of the way.  I take the side path along the old orchard, and see streams of water flowing from the orchard – these are the streams that eventually go down through the maples.  By the back hedgerow, I see some redwing blackbirds, a couple goldfinches, and two rabbits.  Down by the wigwams, I see and hear water again trickling into a hole as I did earlier this year.  I don’t take the side path along the skating pond – the mud on the banks still looks too slippery.*   
State of the Creek:  The water is a little lower today, but it is still running strongly.  The froth of foam at the log jam has spread out across the water.
The Fetch:  Four fetches today.  My theory is that lately it has been more convenient for me to take Mway for her walk earlier in the day, and that with supper so far away at that time, Mway feels that these early afternoon walks are extra walks, and that she does not really have to work so hard as she would on a walk that occurred, say, right before supper time.  My biggest concern, however, as she runs off back to the back yard, is that she doesn’t start chasing after any of the chickens.  Fortunately, when I get into the back yard, I see that she’s standing up on the porch waiting for me to let her in the door.  Inside, I don’t feed her, but I do give her half a biscuit, to show her that her fetching the stick (and also that her not disturbing the chickens) is still appreciated.
ADDENDUM!!!:  Tonight, after dark, as I step outside to get something out of the car, I again hear peepers.

*I had first written “the mud on the banks looks too slippery still.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

It No Longer Matters That It's Sunday

March 14, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, but because of daylight savings time, when I get home it is still light out.  Although Moi says I don’t need to take Mway for a walk, since Moi hasn’t yet taken the garbage can down the lane and it looks like I’ll have to do that, I decide I might as well take Mway for a walk too.  So I get out of my work clothes (sports jacket, black knit sports shirt, black slacks, socks, and loafers), put on my walking clothes, and take Mway out about 6:30.
State of the Path:  Moi says it has been raining most of the day, so I’m curious to see how things look.  On my way to work this morning, I saw that P____ Creek was overflowing its banks.  It’s not raining now, though.  But from Moi’s garden pond down to the creek, the whole path is puddled or soggy, and I have to walk as much to the side as possible, even stamping on whole thickets of briars.  Coming up from the creek, the path is also almost entirely wet, and around bug land it is so soggy I finally feel the water seeping into my boots.  In the walled garden, I see and hear some birds perching in the trees.  In the dim light I can’t tell what they are – sparrows I figure.  Any bird that I can’t identify at this point, I call a sparrow.  In the maples down by the wigwams, there are steams of water flowing down through the field, which cross the path right at the ridge and trickle down into bug land.
State of the Creek:  The water in the creek is high and it is flowing strongly, but it is not overflowing its banks.  It’s hard to tell, but it looks like the creek might have overflowed its banks earlier today or last night.   It’s hard to tell, because there has been debris stacked up along the banks since the flooding a couple months ago, but it does look to me like the new grass that has been growing on the path has been recently swept down.  In the log jam, the cow piss foam is sudsing up so much it looks the head of a beer.  I take Mway’s fetching stick and scoop up some of the froth, take a look at it, then poke the stick back in the water to let the suds clump up with the main batch.  The water from bug land is flowing more strongly today, and I see there’s water flowing toward the creek from the pond between the ridge around bug land and the ridge around the skating pond.  I walk over to the feed channel to the skating pond, but I don’t cross it because the banks of the channel look too slippery.  The water in the channel is not flowing, but I see water extending back into the high grass of the skating pond itself.
The Fetch:  From what Moi told me earlier, I expect that Mway will not be in the mood, or see the necessity, to do too much more fetching today, but she still greets me at the clearing with an eager smile and carries out the few fetches she does do very enthusiastically.   However, it is what I expect: she only fetches the stick about four times.  When I first arrive at the clearing, I see that the stick with the fungus on it has been broken into two pieces, and I wonder if earlier today Mway might have chewed it into two.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Back to Wearing the Snow Suit

March 13, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi and I both work tonight.  I take Mway out about 3.  Because it looks rainy and cold outside, I go back to wearing my snow suit.
State of the Path:  Despite the breeze and drizzle, I again hear starlings and soon see them in the trees of the old orchard and in the back hedgerow.   Because of the drizzling rain, I hike pretty fast down to the creek and back, walking along the sides of the path to avoid the mud in the middle.  Down along the creek especially, it seems to me that bright green grass is starting to grow in the path, and in a patch of soil that was washed out by floods a month or so ago, I see green sprouts of something or other coming up – maybe gill-of-the-ground.
State of the Creek:  The water is flowing along soupy green like yesterday.  Here and there, in low spots in the creek, I see bright green patches of grass.
The Fetch:  Although she’s been ahead of me the whole walk, when I get to the clearing, I don’t see Mway and have to call out to her.  Pretty directly I see coming around the bushes around the electric pole, first a rabbit, and then Mway following after it.  I think for a moment that Mway will keep on chasing the rabbit, but when she sees me at the end of the clearing with the stick in my hand, she abandons the chase and comes over to me to stand ready for the toss.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Could It Be a Goldfinch?

March 12, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:   Work tonight, take Mway out about 1:45.  Wear the denim jacket again today – the season for the snow suit may have passed.
State of the Path:  As soon as I step outside I see a flock of starlings swoop through the air then land on the top branches of our willow by the corn crib.   The air is filled with their eerie chattering and chirping, and soon I see a hundred or more starlings on the top branches of the trees in the side hedgerow and in the old orchard, in about a half dozen trees in all.  The air is misty today, with a fine drizzle.  In the old orchard, more garlic grass seems to have come up, and the clumps are larger.  Along the back hedgerow I see several colored birds flying low along the trees – I can’t make out what they are, but as I keep on looking, I finally see a single yellow bird dart into Hutchinson’s field – could it be a goldfinch?  The mud in the path is widening its expanse; more and more I have to walk off to the side into the weeds.  I note the pond between the ridge of the skating pond and the ridge around bug land.  It is very soggy along bug land and on the other side of the ridge.  Try as I do to step to the side of the path, I feel water seeping into my worthless boots.
State of the Creek:  The water is higher today.  It has lost its rusty brown color and is now a soupy green.
The Fetch:  With all the snow gone in the clearing, a couple days ago I spotted again the stick with the weird fungus on it.  The fungus, though, is crumbling off.   On the first toss today, a rabbit runs out of a bush and into the lane behind the summer house as Mway is sprinting after her stick.  Focused as she is on the stick, Mway misses seeing the rabbit.  I lose count how many times she fetches the stick today, sliding on soggy ground, plowing through weeds, dragging the weeds against her collar back with her, doing whatever is necessary to fetch the stick as fast as she can and ultimately carry it back to the house.  As I sit here in the office, a lady bug walks across the glass of the window, as a number of them have been doing the last week or so.
ADDENDUM!!:  Tonight, after I come home from work, Moi says she’s heard spring peepers tonight, the first night this year.  I step outside to listen for them.  At first I don’t hear anything – probably I have been deafened a little by all the noise at work – but when I step further out into yard, I do hear them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Can't Find the Binoculars

March 11, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Work tonight, take Mway out about 1:30.   Again I put on the denim jacket, rather than my snow suit.  I also decide to take the binoculars, but I can’t find them – did Moi take them with her to work?
State of the Path:  Outside I immediately take off my jacket and drape it over the clothesline.  The starlings are out again.  They’re not flocking in large numbers, but I hear them and see several of them swooping from tree to tree.  In the big tree behind the outbuilding I see a bird with a long tail perched – I wish I had the binoculars.  But as I get closer, it takes off, and I think what I see may be a female cardinal.  In fact as I walk along the old orchard, I see it again, flying through the trees toward the back of the lot.  At the back hedgerow, I then spot about twenty redwing blackbirds perched high in a tree.  As I get closer, they take off and fly to the next tree, then as I approach again, they take off again for yet another tree farther away.  In fact, I end up chasing these birds down the hedgerow then up along the creek, and at the midpoint along the creek they’re joined by another group of birds (sparrows?) and by a squirrel running from branch to branch.
State of the Creek:  Mway crosses the creek and sniffs around on the opposite bank, and above the log jam she even walks along for a while in the stream.  She then takes off ahead of me, and in fact she may be the one rousing the birds and the squirrel to move hectically from tree to tree.
The Fetch:  Mway only gives me about four fetches today, but they are a vigorous and enthusiastic four fetches.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hundreds of Starlings; Gather Golf Ball and Skull

March 10, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Work tonight, take Mway out about 12:30.  Yesterday, those were indeed starlings I was hearing, as later on that afternoon, after Moi came home and was outside checking her chickens, we saw and heard them up in the trees in the old orchard, and Moi confirmed, “yes, those are starlings.  Flock around like this every spring.”  Today I first hear and see them outside the living room window, dozens of them in the walnut trees along the lane.  Then I see them fly over to the trees around the summer house.  Today I decide not to wear my snow suit; instead, together with my wool cap and gloves, I put on the denim work jacket that used to be my father’s.   Dried mud falls off my boots as I put them on, and falls in clumps on the floor.
State of the Path:  As soon as I step outside, the starlings in the trees by the summer house start to fly off.  As I walk past the walled garden, snapping off some of the multiflora branches off the bush opposite Moi’s garden pond (which has been filled with mucky water these past couple weeks), I see what I think are the same starlings gathering together in the trees along the hedgerow.  As I walk along the old orchard, these starlings are again spooked and start to fly off.  In the distance, though, I can hear the eerie chirping and chattering of starlings, and when I get to the hedgerow, I look across Hutchinson’s field, and sure enough I see hundreds of the birds perching in the trees in the wood lot beyond the field.  Down at the creek, at the corner of our property line, I look up in the field going up to the ridge and think I see some sort of ground bird standing there.  I stand quietly for a couple minutes, waiting for some movement of some kind, but finally conclude that I must be simply looking at some sort of plant, and move on.  As I walk along the creek, I see more starlings perched in the oaks ahead of me, but these birds fly off too as I get closer to them.
State of the Creek:  The water is starting to get low, although there are still ponds in bug land, and water running off from bug land, but this water gets trapped in a sand bar right in front of the creek, and slowly trickles in from the side.  There is water in the feed channel to the skating pond, but it is not moving.  I’ve decided today, come what may, to fetch the golf ball and the skull on the other side of the creek.  In that area of the creek there are no big rocks to step across, so I have to step right into the water a few steps.  Sure enough, as soon as I do so, I feel water seeping into my rubber boots.  I gather up the golf ball and the skull, as well as a couple of leg bones I find near the skull.  I put the golf ball in my jacket pocket, and I place the skull in the crook of a small tree near the ridge along the skating pond, and lay the bones crosswise each other at the base of the tree.
The Fetch:   Up in the clearing, Mway seems to be on a roll for fetching these days, again going beyond the three fetches that seemed to be her standard for a number of weeks.  I pitch the stick as far as I can, and Mway goes after it enthusiastically, sometimes sliding in mud as she nears the stick, and barking each time after she’s dropped it at my feet, until – I don’t bother counting how many fetches today – she decides she’s done enough and runs off ahead of me to the back porch.
ADDENDUM!:  Just now I went down into the kitchen to roll a cigarette, and outside I hear what I believe to be the same song I heard the other day that I identified as that of a sparrow:  “chee-oo chee-oo chee-oo.”  But when I look out the window I see a male cardinal in the tree, at the spot where the sound must be coming from.   So now I conclude it must have been a cardinal I was hearing.  But looking back at what I wrote on those days, I see that I’ve transcribed the song as “choo-ee choo-ee choo-ee,” rather than “chee-oo chee-oo chee-oo.”   Am I indeed hearing the song of two different types of birds, or did I incorrectly transcribe the song I heard before?  I am confused.