Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Midsummer Musings

Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy.

-- Regina Brett

As the sun rises this midsummer morning, its light is filtered through the backyard trees, throwing patterns on the porch, where I sit on the shady end. At various times the light hits the medallion atop my bird feeder, creating a stained glass effect that is very pretty.

Stained glass effect (Margo D. Beller)
Behind me, through the opened window, I hear robins, catbirds, redbellied woodpecker, titmice and... is that a house wren? I go to the screen. Yes, that is a house wren. Perhaps it will discover the nest box now that the apple tree is done for the year and the attacks by squirrels have ended. As I look, a small chipping sparrow flies to the paving stones to search for insects. It still has its breeding red cap, but when it flies south in a month or so, that cap will have gone brown.

Every so often a hummingbird has come to the feeder but at this moment I see a downy woodpecker has discovered it too, just like last year. I go outside and chase it off, and am rewarded when a hummingbird suddenly returns, causing me to freeze so I don't spook it off. As I stand on the path by the apple tree, a family of house sparrows, several jays, a robin and at least one calling chickadee fly into one of the few trees on my property I can't identify, which is full of hanging seeds. The birds sound agitated. Is there a hawk in the vicinity or am I the cause?

I don't know. There is still a lot about birds I don't know, including why they all suddently appeared and then, just as suddenly, why half of them flew off.

Downy on feeder, Sept. 2016
(Margo D. Beller)
This is about as active as I get early on a summer morning, rising because I don't sleep well nowadays and I want to sit outside while it's cooler and do my birding by ear.

In NJ, where I live, you have to get up early - even on a Sunday - if you want to beat the traffic "down the shore" to the beaches or have a sporting competition (I can hear the crowd noise from the recreation area a mile or so away from my house) or even take a walk. When I look at the state birding list I see a lot of entries from Brigantine, one of New Jersey's premier ocean coast birding sites. But to get to Brig before the summer traffic it would require MH and me to rise much earlier than we'd like.

Years ago, when I was working in the city on a rigid schedule, on weekend mornings I felt compelled to rise before dawn, dress and rush out to a familiar birding spot so I could listen, walk and shake off the week's nonsense. Then I started working at home, still on a rigid schedule, where I could fit in walks and wandering during a long midday break. I wasn't restricted to weekends anymore.

Now, I am still at home but my schedule is far from rigid, and with all the time in the world the best I can do most mornings is creak my way downstairs to my porch chair and listen to the yard birds.

There are many reasons for preferring this. For one, it is summer and, unlike the spring migration season when I want to find the gaily colored warblers as they head north, it is harder to find birds unless you get out ahead of the heat, humidity and the mosquitoes to walk and listen. The birds, when seen, may already be starting to molt into their duller fall coloring. And, to be blunt, I am 99% sure I am not going to find any bird I haven't seen before many, many times over the years.

Once I have made my annual late May/early June trip to the northwestern part of the state, where you drive along a road and can hear hundreds of breeding birds singing their different songs at the same time - a challenge to identify, I can assure you - I can't be bothered.

Also, I am older and perhaps more than a little lazy. I'm not happy about the lack of energy but there were several times during my life when it could've been cut short and I'd have never met MH or bought this house or met many of my friends. So I can live with this alternative.

As I sit and time passes, I see more cars are now rushing about. I am in no rush, even with places to go and things to do. I know where this road leads. You do, too.