Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Acting My Age

There is the bucket list, and there is the anti-bucket list.

The bucket list is what you want, need or have to do before you die. Usually it refers to places to go and things to see.

There are places I would like to visit, sooner rather than later, such as the interior mountain west, the Point Reyes Seashore, the forests of Oregon. There are places I have visited and want to see again - Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco.

And there are places I have visited I have no desire to see again. That is the anti-bucket list, for lack of anything else to call it.

At the top of the anti-bucket list is the North Lookout at Hawk Mountain. Hawk Mountain is one of the finest places to go in the Autumn if you want to see migrating raptors. It was once where sportsmen and farmers would climb and shoot eagles, osprey, redtails, kestrels and other raptors out of the sky, just for the hell of it.
On the North Lookout at Hawk Mountain (RE Berg-Andersson)

That ended thanks to the courageous actions of a number of people and one rich woman who bought the mountain to create the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

There are number of areas where you can walk or climb and sit on the rocks to watch the hawks fly in, presuming the wind is out of the north and the air is warm enough to promote thermals, the air currents on which the birds coast, saving their energy for less-windy areas.

The top place, literally, is the North Lookout. To get there you climb over rocks large and small, up an incline. Over the years, there have been a lot of people walking up and down to the lookout and between the first time MH and I visited and the last time, it seems to me there was some significant erosion or rock shifting. Or maybe it was being older. Or all those people of different ages jostling us. Whatever, it was extremely difficult climbing up and more treacherous climbing down.

When we got back to the bottom I turned to MH and said, "This is the last time we go to the North Lookout."

There are other lookouts not so far up or treacherous to visit, and the South Lookout is accessible to those in wheelchairs or can't walk.
Higbee Beach, Cape May, NJ (Margo D. Beller)
Here is another example: I love Cape May. If you are a birder, this is mecca. Always something to see, but especially during the spring and fall migrations.

In Autumn, many southbound migrants travel at night (to avoid diurnal raptors) and as the sun rises find themselves over Delaware Bay. At that point they turn around and fly north.

One of Cape May's best areas is Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area. There are trails through fields, there is a path down to the beach and there is a dune - a very high dune.

There are some birders - all men - who go up there every year to count and note the birds passing through. One September, we visited Cape May and got up at dawn to visit Higbee. I attempted to climb to the viewing area. I got about halfway up and realized the trail was going straight up! I could not go up and going down was going to be extremely hazardous. I used the phragmites as a kind of bannister and resolved not to do that again. (There are more than enough other fine birding experiences in Cape May.)

Finally, in Dutchess County, N.Y., there is a preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy. It encompasses Thompson Pond and Stissing Mountain. I read about it from my old edition of the "New York Walk Book."

There are three trails and the first time we went there we took the longest of the three, the Yellow, which is nearly three miles long around the pond. It did not get as close to the pond as I would've liked and on the eastern side of pond it was wet, muddy, overgrown, uncomfortably close to the neighboring farm property where someone was using his ATV and his cattle crowded close to the fence to watch us as we made our sodden way along, slowly.

That was last year. This year, looking for something to do, I suggested we go back to Stissing Mountain and the pond, but use the other trails. The Blue trail is 0.2 miles and came much closer to the pond than the Yellow trail. We saw and heard a number of fine birds - three great blue herons, a singing yellow-throated vireo, a foraging black-throated green warbler, among them. The Blue trail brought us to the Yellow trail. We walked it until we met up with the third trail, the White, 0.8 miles. It took us into the woods, uphill, over rocks, around downed trees. Few birds.

By this time, several years on from our Hawk Mountain finale, MH's knees have gotten worse and my back isn't great. By the time we came down the Stissing Mountain ridge line we were extremely tired. It was obvious no one had bothered checking on this trail to clear the downed trees. MH and I agreed that unless we were in the area anyway there was no longer any reason to come to this spot.

The Baby Boomer generation does things. We rush out and run around and take pills to ignore the pain and pretend we are never going to age or get infirm or die. We do things our parents would not do, for whatever reason, and we refuse to think anything can stop us.

Until it does. Steep climbs, deep mud and water, downed trees to get around, lose rocks that can turn an ankle. And don't get me started about coming face to face with a bear or mountain lion or someone with bad intent. I've been lucky to avoid all three and I don't want to test my luck.

Sorry, my g-g-generation. I don't want to die before I get old.

Male downy woodpecker, Sept. 4, 2016 (Margo D. Beller)
An Update

What you see here is a male downy woodpecker. As I mentioned last time, the hummingbird feeder not only has drawn rubythroated hummers but downys, which are small enough to sit on the feeder and has a small enough bill and long enough tongue to enjoy the sugar water within.

The reason I am noting this is because after my last post I came out to find one male and one female down sitting on the feeder.

Today I came out to find one downy on the feeder itself, one at the top of the feeder pole and one hovering around, trying to decide whether it wanted to fight the first male for access.

Three sugar-addicted downy woodpeckers?

Soon enough, the hummers will be gone and so will this feeder. Next year I may have to do something else to feed the hummers.

The downys, and the others, will have to make do with the seed and suet feeders.