Saturday, May 20, 2006

Back to the Hill

I was finally able to repeat the trip that initially inspired this blog. A combination of work, personal commitments and about 10 inches of rain in the past few weeks has kept me from visiting Moose Hill aside from the usual drive-throughs, jogs and bike rides. I went to bed early last night thinking that if I got up early enough and the sun was shining, I'd bike back up there for breakfast. I was up in the middle of the night for an hour or so for no apparent reason, so I thought that once I finally fell back to sleep, I would sleep too late for breakfast on the hill. Thanks to a squirrel helpfully chewing on my house at 6:15 AM, I was indeed up early enough and the sky was beautifully clear.

At the top of the paved road, I continued onto the gravel road, past the 'no bikes' sign, and rode to the first meadow. As I hoped, a bluebird was there, warbling away at the tip of a tall dead pine. I found a sunny spot at the edge of the field and settled down with my back to the old stone wall. The bluebird flew off, but a pair of tree swallows was busily flying in and out of one of the two nesting boxes set up in this small clearing in the woods.

I was relaxing, having coffee, enjoying the warming early-morning sun glistening off the dew on the meadow plants and enjoying the show provided by the swallows. I was surprised to see the birds repeatedly landing on the ground, picking something up and flying back to the box. I was a little surprised, because I assumed swallows fed primarily on the wing. I was probably on my second cup when it dawned on me that they were not busily feeding a hungry brood, but were building a nest. For the most part, it looked like the female flying regular sorties from the box to a spot about 30 feet in front of me. She would select a short segment of bracken fern stem that had been chopped by the mower and ferry it back to the birdhouse. The male was supervising the proceedings from his perch atop the box. It was fun to simply sit there and enjoy the moment.

Breakfast over and with a few minutes to spare, I walked up the road a bit to another clearing. I saw a few birds moving about and heard a few others, but things were quieter than I expected in mid-May. I saw chipping sparrows and phoebes and heard several red-eyed vireos. Deeper in the forest, I heard the eerily mysterious melody of the wood thrush. I'm not sure if I missed the peak of the migration while I was huddled inside to escape the rain, or if many birds were simply too busy nesting to make a lot of noise.

It was also great to see a few other birders. As long as there a people who appreciate these woods, they may be safe for future generations.

Just as I was getting ready to head home, I saw a small bird land among the electric-green leaves of a small birch at the edge of the small field. As I studied the picture-perfect scene of the fresh Spring leaves weeping over the lush green of the grass, backed by the bright white bark of the birch, I noticed the bird had landed on a nest. Fumbling for my binoculars, I was a little surprised to spy a vireo nesting only about 8 feet above the ground. It seemed to be putting the finishing touches on a nest that looked like an old gray sock dangling from the twigs.

With that, I hopped on the bike to coast down the hill toward home. In no more than 90 minutes, I had enjoyed an invigorating bike ride, had breakfast in the sun, and witnessed miracles of life. How cool is that?

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At 10:51 PM, Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

That is COOL.

At 11:30 PM, Blogger lenĂ© said...

Very cool. Glad to hear you got outside. We've had quite a bit of rain here in Vermont, and I, too, have noticed the bird songs being more absent than I expect in mid-May. I was wondering if it had anything to do with the rain. Do you know?

At 4:22 AM, Blogger clairesgarden said...

oh it sounds lovely, so nice to sit and watch the wildlife being unconcerned about us.

At 11:23 PM, Blogger LauraHinNJ said...

Love your comparison of the vireo's nest with an old gray sock! Vireos make me crazy with their singing because I hardly ever can spot the bird. I've found a few of their nests and they are lovely.


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