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One Reason I Love Steve May 29, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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At dinner last night:

Steve: I’ll have an order of the mussels.
Waitress: Large or small?
Steve: What’s the difference?
Waitress: Small is about twelve, large is about twenty-four.
Steve, to his partner, D: Would you like to share some?
D: No, not really.
Steve, to waitress: Large.

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Hammock May 28, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Monday—a holiday—for almost an hour, I hung out in my hammock.

My hammock is one of those multicolored-stripe, solid-cloth numbers that looks Central or South American. Maybe it is. My sister gave it to me. I think she got it in South America, or maybe Hawaii when she lived there. Or maybe in L.A., when she lived there. Clearly I don’t remember this detail.

For the most part, my hammock lives rolled up in the closet under the stairs. Once or twice a year I get it out and hang it from the hammock hooks on the front porch—the hammock hooks that were already there when I moved in, painted so as I could hardly notice them, just waiting for someone to hang a hammock from them. My hammock fits perfectly.

It’s a little high, though, and I need to step on a chair to climb in.

From my hammock I can watch the tops of a couple of trees where orioles often nest. I didn’t see them up there on Monday.

On Monday, in my hammock, I read a couple of short stories. It was breezy, so I stopped reading and just watched the leaves—oh, beloved leaves!—toss and expose their delicate undersides. A robin flew onto my neighbor’s front porch. She’d built a nest atop a pretty decorative wreathe—prime real estate, despite the foot traffic. With my binoculars, I could look right into her white-ringed eyes as she sat on her eggs. I’m pretty sure she saw me. Since then, I’m always checking to see if she’s there.

But I haven’t had another chance to check from my hammock.

Indigo Bunting May 23, 2008

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My buddy Louise in Portland just called. We chatted in our double-entendre fashion for a few minutes before she handed the phone over to Tim, who was in her office. While talking, I was pacing through the house as usual (hyperactive much?). I looked out my bedroom window, down to the empty bird feeders, and there was an indigo bunting!

My first of the season, at about 4:48 p.m. I just feel really, really bad that I had nothing for him. After I got off the phone, I filled up those feeders and stuffed the suet-cake cage with oranges.

Adventures in Portland: Landed Immigrant May 15, 2008

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A couple of days ago, Tim left for another long business stay in Portland. I couldn’t go along this time—too many social engagements and my own business trip next week. Needless to say, I’m up to my old tricks in his absence.

Here’s a story from last month’s trip that illustrates how much time Tim spends there. Each late afternoon, a plate of warm cookies appears on the hotel’s front desk. On our way out one evening, Tim went to grab one. “Hey!” said the oh-so-familiar front desk agent. “Those are for guests!”

Marsh Hawk, Marsh Hawk, Marsh Hawk! May 9, 2008

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We’ve had some beautiful, warm May days lately. These are the rare kind of days, the kind of days when one should forego one’s NordicTrack and get out there for a power walk on the rail trail. But because of the important time-saving aspect of staying in (I work out in the middle of the day, after all), and because of late I’ve been feeling particularly pudgy, I’ve stuck to the indoor workout. Until yesterday.

I figured a walk would be a good complement to my late-afternoon yoga class. There’s some justification: If I’m exercising later, I can cut back a little on the sweat now. And, frankly, I wanted to see an oriole or two.

I know they are back. I’ve talked with people who’ve seen them. But I haven’t seen or heard one yet, and I often do if I get back onto the rail trail.

I was getting out into the very-open-fields part when I saw something pretty far away moving with a fast, flat glide. Up went the binoculars. Gray, white. Osprey? No, didn’t seem right. Wait . . . a northern harrier! A male northern harrier! It was way out near Sue and John’s place. I watched it til it dropped down too far for me to see.

I see harriers infrequently enough that there is almost always this hesitation for me. What am I seeing? Then I remember to look for the trait that northern harriers and I have in common: a bright white rump.

Northern harriers used to also be known as marsh hawks. The male is gray; the female is brown.

I hiked out a big farther, and wouldn’t you know the harrier crossed the trail above me? It treated me to one of the best and longest looks I’ve ever gotten. He soared up high, and I could clearly see his black wingtips (for nonbirders, in this context, wingtips are the tips of the bird’s wings; hypothetically, though, if a male northern harrier with any taste at all were to choose the shoe, he would most certainly choose black to best complement his complexion). The marsh hawk dropped into the wooded area, and I watched him gracefully moving through the spaces between the trees. He was a very good flier.

On my way back, I spotted my first common yellowthroat of the season, a male black-masked bandit. No orioles, though.

Later, near dusk, I sat for ten minutes mere feet from an RBGB standing atop my feeder and gazing, in all likelihood, at his own reflection in my window. He did look good. I would have gone anywhere with him.

But this post is about the marsh hawk.

RBGB May 7, 2008

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This morning, just after 6:30, I’d say, I saw my first rose-breasted grosbeak of the season.

Tuesday night our friend Tom called and left a message on our machine: May 5, 6:54 p.m., RBGB! Every year he beats us by a day or two or three (this year, by about 36 hours). But he is a man of open property, and we are but lowly townspeople who have to wait til the RBGBs come back to our feeder—unless we happen to be outside roaming, which doesn’t happen as often as we’d like.

Actually, when Tom called, we were outside, planting grass (of the will-eventually-be-mowing-it variety), and Tim thought he saw an RBGB flying away. He wasn’t sure, though.

And earlier that very day, I had wondered if I had a female at my feeder, so anxious was I to see one. I ultimately decided that it was a very large purple finch.

Despite the fact that I could have seen one back when I lived in Maryland, I never did. I saw my first one in Vermont, just before I moved up. Tim moved 8 months before I did and rented a house. When I visited him in May, I saw my first RBGB at the feeder on the big glass door.

When I moved into the house in June, Tim had painted a huge RBGB on that glass door, right by the bird feeder, with Welcome Home, [Indigo]! in big letters. In my four years of living in that house, I never could bring myself to get rid of that RBGB portrait. The next tenant scraped it off almost immediately.

We wondered if the RBGBs who returned each year to feed for a couple of weeks were aware of the huge RBGB god/shrine. At least, that’s how we thought of it. To them, it may have had more of a yellow-arches feel.

Sunday Morning Bird Walk May 5, 2008

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Barn swallow. Tree swallow. Yellow warbler. Warbling vireo. Rufous-sided towhee. Yellow-bellied sapsucker. Downy woodpecker. American robin. Red-tailed hawk (flying low through woods). Chipping sparrow. Canada goose. White-throated sparrow. Field sparrow, maybe. Red-winged blackbird. Goldfinch. Chickadee. Probably more.

And the red-bellied woodpecker at my suet cake…