Tuesday Bird Report

I have seen several pterodactyl looking herons flying on their return from a southern winter. A possible eagle in the neighborhood, heading south and only glimpsed from behind, although I think I heard him call.

A red headed woodpecker poking it’s little head out of its hole nest in a dead tree. Heard like two more.

Lot’s of red-winged blackbirds near the rain swollen creek.

Cardinals I noticed by sound only. And the omnipresent vulture.

Clinton owns Madison

It’s been over 6 years since I went out there. It was too hard, too rocky. And nobody knows that the actually point is not in Madison, but Clinton, probably because the  Hammoneggitt River changed course after the town’s boundaries were set. A flood cast the border askew and severed off a piece of Clinton by it’s wide estuary channel.

I slowly made my way out the newly scaped path and reached the point without trouble. On the way I saw sea going geese called Brant’s and several merganser couples. The formally dressed males in black and white and the females in earthtone brown with red fronts. Still not as impressive as the morning sunlight tom turkey with its feathers all iridescent and shiny.

But there were seals. Two large, lazy harbor seals showing white and slate grey, like seagoing Confederate officers.

They laze there, on rocks on the outgoing tide, enjoying the sun.

Once with Gary the Negative we met a woman at the park. He was wallowing in his post divorce loneliness. He had made his teenaged daughter the center of his universe and I warned him to take care of himself for she would soon want her own life. I’m the smoother one and  soon she agreed to continue on  at a local coffee shop where he, Hallelujah, got her number. Nothing came of it and I grew tired of him making plans and having his daughter disrupt them with her petty drama. I mean cant’s a father have one afternoon every two months where he’s not at her beck and call?

Leaning on a big boulder that glacial outwash deposited 10,000 years ago, I relaxed and enjoyed the sun and water and birds and pinnipeds. But soon there was crunching and voices and a troupe of people coming. Fifteen tweens emerged with their beautiful counselor. She was blonde, fresh and bubbly and soon began asking questions.

“Do you know what those birds are?”

Then she said they came out to see seals, I showed her and began passing my binoculars around. There were four that seemed interested. A small boy, younger who liked the binoculars more than the seals, a pretty brunette who only became interested after the tallest blonde boy, who also feigned interest. And there was Kyle. He was bigger than everyone except the blonde kid. He w as just a few inches shorter than our 5’10” heights and his voice was stuck in the a lower range due to changing. Deep, but not yet a bass or tenor. He was skeptical. He claimed the seals were just rocks. It’s funny that there are so many people skeptical of wildlife in Connecticut. But there are seals, moose, wolves, eagles and mountain lions in our woods.

The most common response I hear, when I tell people that eagles’ nest in Hamden, next to the Amtrak line north, across from the W.B. Mason distribution center is;

“those gotta be chicken hawks”

But what is a chicken hawk? No such thing. It’s a combined misnomer for any hawk capable of killing a chicken.

Kyle froggy voice was a real doubter until he saw the seals move. It was only visible with the binoculars, they were too lazy to move around enough to see without them. He was a little excited, but then his boyness took over and he started to climb on the rocks. When I left I went eagle watching in Guilford at the yacht club and did an eagle drive-by in Hamden. And I might have seen an elusive chicken hawk. One eag in Guilford, none home in Hamden.


Even on a Simple Walk, Birds Intrude.

There’s a Regional Water Authority property near my house and it has a wooded trail. It’s pleasant to walk on because the Mill River, which is really a stream runs next to it. The sound of moving waters forms a tranquil babble and soothes the passersby.

The only drawback is the deer population, which attracts and deposits ticks. And since it’s a non-improved, wild trail some of the older, dead trees could be widow makers.

The woods are noisy today. Blue jays, cardinals, blackbirds. I take the spur of the path that goes down by the stream and find two ducks, a mallard drake and his frumpy drab wife feeding on duckweed along the shores. A red tailed hawk in transitional phase, morphing from winter to summer coloring flies over. A loud little bird, not sure what it is- only it looks like a nuthatch, but it’s not, warbles a deep throaty song, which reminds me of a woman in the throes of pleasure. The hawk brings Bruce Jenner to mind. Also in a transitional phase. I think about Kathy, the first transgender person I ever knew and wonder if she’s even alive. That was in 1981. I think about Bruce’s brother; Burt and Sally Hutchins who died together in Bruce’s loaner Porsche. Too fast on a backwoods New England road. That was 38 years ago.  And like the old radio commentator said; “Time Marches On.”

My only thought is I hope Bruce is happy. He deserves it. Gave America a lot of entertainment and prestige.

The trail by the river takes a turn right and climbs a hill to a baseball field. I cross the field thinking; “This would be a great place to watch stars and comets and meteors and the aurora borealis.”

Walking back the cheep, cheep, cheep of cardinals are all around. They start slow and then quicken like; “cheeeep, cheeep, cheep, cheepcheepcheep. Then I see the otter. Not an aquatic, animal otter, but the tall, lanky, pelty otter on a minibike. I’ve seen him going to the Henny Penny for cigarettes. Now he’s asking if his bike is too loud, I tell him no, I never hear it. He’s handsome.

On my porch in the sun, I see one final bird, a vulture soaring down the river to the south. I can tell it’s a vulture because it tips from side to side, its body the axis, as it catches the wind.

Shoes on the Wire

Someday when the spirit and genius of Tesla triumphs there will be no ugly power line wires running above every street in New England. (First wired in not the last century, but the one before and saddled with old infrastructure.) Everything will come into your home by energy wave. Like your cell phone or old-style TV’s.

Then people will have to find new creative places to toss their shoes.

The frat houses across the street have a single pair of sneakers hanging on the cross wire over the avenue.

Now there are pessimists who would say that tossed shoes denote gang activity or drug dealing, but they don’t know Donald Smoot. He was my first shoe flinger. And he did it just to be mean.

Don’s territory has changed dramatically. In fact it’s been in a near constant flux. The main highway, off which it sprang, was an Indian trail, cutting from the valley floor up into the hills where the river ran south. Then it became a vital link to the Litchfield settlement and Albany in the New York Colony. The stages left Hartford twice a day. The road also connected to the east and terminated in Providence in the Kingdom of the Clam. There is a restaurant, just west of the three corners, on the hill formed by the first rocky outcropping that has been the site of numerous taverns, inn’s, victualeries and houses of assignation for centuries. The tavern was the home turf of some of the nastier colonial valley residents who engaged in smuggling, bear baiting, cattle rustling and horse stealing. Some were veterans of the Seven Years War, but fought in the colonies. Leaving them with a lust for marauding ways.

The area around the inn has been the site of many tragedies. Deadly car crashes, pedestrian deaths, and suicides in the nearby woods are routine. In 1878 the inn burned down and a headless body, a century old, was found in the clay cellar. The town judge wrote he believed it was the remains of Guy de Tailliavent, a French Army paymaster who disappeared after leaving Hartford for Saratoga to pay his French officers. He, his silver, his horse and all traces were never found. Except a pair of half rotted boots were found years later, hanging from a swamp oak in the marshy land near Secret Lake. I got this info from books and stories and Mrs. Whitestone. She was a plain old yankee with a good name who had married a bit of a bum, who also had a good name, and hated work. The Smoot’s were not her kind of people, but she now had to live with them.

Today there’s a shopping mall on the land I remember as an old golf course. But Mrs. Whitestone remembered when it was an apple orchard. About the time old dead Guy turned up, old, old, Mr. Lowell built a summer camp on the shores of Secret Lake. It wasn’t for the wealthy, they went to Lake Congamond or Watch Hill or Fisher’s Island. These cottages were for the foremen and the chief clerks not partners or upper management. They were nice, small with outdoor kitchens. They swam and fished and lived more primitively. It was a Chautauqua, a pioneer outing, a sleep-away camp. Fish fries, peach pies, kettles of chowder, quilting and shucking bees. Honey and sunshine and fresh air and hiking. And as good as it was,  it was already nearly over when the Depression hit. The summer cabins got rented or the families moved in after losing their in-town homes. There was no money for upkeep. That’s when Mrs. Whitestone bought her home. A faux log sided cabin with a breeze porch on two sides. And she soon had eight kids filling it.

When her oldest Danny came home without shoes she blamed him, but a few days later as she walked to the market she saw the nearly new Thom McCann’s hanging from the power line. The Smoot boys she thought. Fearing electrocution she nixed climbing the pole or using a long stick to knock them down. So she got her husband and he, between beers and on the third try shot them down with a bow and arrow. It severed the lace completely and they fell to the ground. He would have got it on the first shot if he used his rifle, but Mrs. Whitestone worried that the bullet might hit a passing car on the turnpike. But Donald was at it again the very next day with Shari Goldman’s ballet slippers. Thankfully it was the early 1950’s and Don was soon in the Navy due to the draft.

And that’s how I saw my first tossed shoes.

Mrs. Whitestone’s husband died of a stroke in 1967. In 1974 she inherited her aunt’s estate and moved out of Secret Lake, across town to Piggot Lane where she sat on her flagstone patio or on her breeze porch and looked out over the valley every night.

Donald traded his shoes for flippers and became San Francisco’s premier underwater demolition contractor with his brother. It combined his need for destruction with his love for explosions. He died, unexploded in 2007.

I only like Birds

The only people I like are birds. And I’m sick of big raptors and buteos, although I tolerate the rarer accipiters. Now I like ducks and waterfowls, not the common mallard and not Canadian Geese, unless they’re in a V-shaped flock and honking. Two weeks ago I spent days watching a nesting eagle pair in Guilford on the access road to Guilford Yacht Club. After a while, their behaviors became boring and pedantic. I did see an immature one soaring with a full bald. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a seal in the Sound. Seal in the Sound, Seal in the Sound! Ocean State Job Lot, Ocean State Job Lot!

There are Ruffled and Wood and Harlequin ducks on the Mill River. And Black Crowned Night Herons. Birds have no expectations and don’t form co-dependent relationships. They just come and sit and let you watch and then fly away. Guilford is the Eastern Bluebird capital of Connecticut. They live as they have for 14,000 years along the West River, near the Regicides barn. After sending Charles I to the chopping block the Regicides lost power after the death of the Lord Protector. Then Charles II came upon the throne. The monarchs were Scottish and Catholic and they patronized the sybaritic clubs in underground London, which had been Roman baths and wine cellars. Chuckie 2 demanded the execution of the signers of his father’s royal death warrant. Goffe, Dixwell and Whalley fled to Boston and then were forced to New Haven (where they got avenues and streets named after them.) Dixwell faked his own death and was able to bring his fortune to America, which wasn’t even known as America, but known as The New Haven Colony.  Whalley eventually settled along the Connecticut River in Hadley, Massachusetts and manned a canon during the Metacomet War when war chief Phillip burned Simsbury and raided Northampton. He was never in Simsbury but led a squad of militia to ward off the Indian Army at Northampton. Today there are more South Asian Indians in the Pioneer Valley than native Indians.

The valley has a strange imported bird population, Emus. That were bred for meat. But the flesh is as dry as Grandma Bobbie’s turkey and I don’t think people want to eat such a weird looking foodstuff. It just didn’t catch on. And a farmer turned loose his flock rather than feed them. Traffic, weather and predators took their toll. But there are still Emu’s roaming the Pioneer Valley in undomesticated bliss.

On Easter I saw two vultures perched, a wild tom turkey iridescent in the sun and four hawks.

On Monday 4/6, the first real spring day, I saw blue crocuses and an eagle chase an osprey and steal its fish. It was kind of a wake up call as to how the real world works. Once in the C-Town parking lot in downtown Fair Haven at the luxurious corner of Ferry and Grand I watched a big red-tailed hawk swoop in and strike a pigeon. The pidge was dead instantly and the feathers blew around. Only me and a crack head seemed to notice. Maybe people did notice but birds did not interest them. Or they just wanted to go about their day. As I headed into the store, the crack head shouted;

“did you see that, in Fair Haven even the animals are killing each other!”

Kinda sad how pure nature works.