Doodling in the Gloam
From pearls before breakfast to peents before dinner.
It felt like the scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind where the local yokels are waiting along a mountaintop roadside for the flying saucers to arrive. I had stationed myself below a clump of young white ash trees in the old field near the
I had just heard the story of how Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post had arranged for Joshua Bell – perhaps
Now, I’m no classical music fan - about the closest I get is when I enjoy Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring - but when I read the Post article online and watched the hidden-camera videos, I felt my eyes welling up. What has
On this cool, early-April Moose Hill evening, I was pausing. There was no wind, but I could feel the cool air draining off the hill so I pulled on my fleece hat and draped my blanket over my shoulders. The peepers were singing loudly in the maple swamp and I strained to hear the calls of other frog species amid the din. I thought I heard a few different calls, but didn’t know any of them well enough to give them names. A robin chuckled in the swamp and a dove cooed gently down at the other end of the field. A cardinal stopped by to give a few chips before heading off to his roost. I was waiting for my vernal virtuoso.
Sunset was at about and by I could see my own tea-warmed breath in the air. It was getting late and I was starting to worry about biking home in the dark. I wondered if it might be too cold, but the peepers reassured me. At I heard the first call from the shelter of a big mass of forsythia up the hill behind me. My maestro was warming up. The calling was followed in a few minutes by a twittering sound as the bird flew behind me and circled the perimeter of the field, spiraling upward. I watched his dark silhouette against the lighter sky until he rose out of sight as if in slow motion. A period of silence was followed by what I can only describe as a random chirping similar to the sound that comes from one of those little wooden Audubon bird calls that is held between the thumb and forefinger while twisting the metal thumbscrew with the other hand. A couple of minutes later, the ground calls – known as peents – began again and the entire performance was repeated.
The woodcock is a funny little bird. With his long beak that is used to probe the mud for earthworms, he looks like a shore bird that took an evolutionary wrong turn to wind up in the uplands. The timberdoodle has a long history as a game bird and as a target for pot hunters. This heritage may contribute to the fascination many have for this rich brown bird with big eyes and bigger feet that make me think of E.T. His ground call is a funny little squeak that Julie Zickefoose might say sounds like an accident, but his song as he falls from the sky is almost other-worldly.
The show was just starting but I had to go and I heard more peents behind me as I pushed my bike down the old gravel road. The upturned crescent of the moon did little to light the way. When I got to the pavement I turned on my blinking red taillight and plunged down the hill into the deepening darkness. A lone car passed and I chased it down the steepest part of the hill at about 30 miles an hour letting his headlights light the way. As the road flattened out, I could no longer keep up, so I pedaled happily from one pool of streetlamp light to the next.