Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Birds left lasting impressions in 2006
January 13, 2007
Steve Grinley

     First, a reminder that as we have these cold snaps, be sure to help the birds by filling your feeders with seed and suet. There has been no snow cover, and milder temperatures have allowed the birds to forage for the plentiful natural seed that has been available. However, as temperatures drop, birds will expend less energy if they can visit their favorite feeding station.

     Now, I’d like to share another birder’s perspective of the past year. Doug Chickering of Groveland shares his memories of 2006: “This New Years eve as Lois Cooper and I went over our last year’s lists; reconciling our entries we spent much of the evening settling upon some of the more vivid memories of the past year. We do this every year; and every year find the excursive most rewarding. It is odd some of the things that are prominent in the memory. Of course, the Life Birds are at the zenith of what we recall. I had five lifers; all sea birds, and an additional Massachusetts Lifer. This along with three new Plum Island birds meant it was quite a productive year. But the lifers aren’t the only bright memories of the year past, and some are almost inexplicable. Some, on the surface are mundane; prosaic, yet have qualities that make them special.

     “I remember, and probably will never completely forget: That stormy May day; rainy dark and cloudy as I stood at Sandy Point on Plum Island; wet and windblown, and watching in awe at flocks of arctic terns; crying out in a raucous chorus, and arising in ghostly, tight formations into the mist and rain; flying in great circles, sometimes right over me, before settling down in the sand; as if frantic and angry at having their migration interrupted by the great storm that lashed the mid spring week.

     “Another early May day at Crooked Pond; when Lois and I followed the siren call of a winter wren as it rang through the heavy primal forest, and finally catching up to the small bird as it hopped and darted about among the mossy jumble of broken trees and roots, below the hillside, below the high canopy, in the shadows. Such a small and defiant creature among the giant stolid trees, and working at the edge of the bubbling bursting brook.

     “A Cape May Warbler displaying itself in a tree at Hellcat. A Cape May Warbler close and brilliant in the sun. Enough said. “Finally catching up to that phantom of a Green-tailed Towhee as it suddenly appeared in the brush at the side of the road, almost within touching distance; a fleeting form in the gathering twilight that stopped long enough to display its particular spectacular field marks before once again vanishing.

     “The elegant and delicate reef-heron attempting look inconspicuous in the company of egrets; a thousand miles from home. Lois and I found the bird by looking for birders.

     “Lois and I watching the black-tailed godwit fly in on schedule to that particular place by the pans where he kept regular hours. As the towhee was elusive, the godwit was reliable.

     “Holding onto the rail of the Helen H on a storm tossed sea trying to focus in on the white-faced storm-petrel along the edge of the Gulf Stream as the small bird bounded over the water. The books describe it’s movement as a hop, but to me it looked more like that shove and glide of a youngster riding a scooter.

     “And the roadside surprises: A pleated [woodpecker] at Johnson’s Pond and a rough grouse on Middle Street, redpolls on the Granite Pier and the pair of upland sandpipers in the field across from the airport in Newburyport. And of course the great horned owl that ended the year by spending New Years eve with us.

     “All these and so much more. So many of last years birds I find hard to let go. When will I see another pileated? For many an easy bird, for me a nemesis. And a rough grouse. Where have the rough grouse gone?

     “The challenge lies ahead, along with more of the beauty and adventure that is that great quest for birds. I am inspired by the certain knowledge that next year also will have golden moments that will shine and will be hard to let go of. Is there anything else but birding?”

     I agree, Doug!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
Like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/birdwatcherssupply