On a midspring day while going to work there was a tortoise in a field on the side of the road. He probably had come out of the creek beyond the field. He was a big sucker. He looked like one of those African land tortoises. One of them adopted a baby hippo after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. They wrote a book about it but the baby got big and they brought in a girlfriend for him. I wonder if they still talk? A person only sees about 10% of the total wildlife around them. My count? Depends if you allow zoo animals. Seen hermit crabs, ferrets, little pigs, exotic snakes and reptile dragons in peoples’ houses. But there’s something better about seeing it in the wild, doing its own thing.
There’s been gold and murder in my neighborhood. The Times today had a front page article on Monk Parakeets. They’re known as Quaker parakeets or just plain green parrots. Legend has it they escaped off some cargo truck at JFK, which was still Idlewild when they booked. Then there was a truck that supposedly crashed in Stratford, with a load of pet shop parrots headed to Boston. They staged a mass escape and birds ran wild. Now they’re in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Louisville, Florida, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Ohio & California. Georgia prohibits them and they’re tough down there, and they eradicate them pretty quick. But Monk Parakeets, ospreys, eagles, hawks and falcons are commonplace. If you look you see. Most people don’t look. Once a bear climbed a tree right off Dixwell Avenue across from the Dunkin Donuts. The shop made a killing that day. Two Donut minimum during bear viewing. I saw a bear run across a road and it looked like a dog. Went on a whale watch and was the first to see the cetaceans. And I practically made seal watching on the Sound popular. Saw so many eagles on the Connecticut River and once saw 12 perched in that one clump of trees on the Quinnipiac Marshes. But I never saw a moose. Did see a pod of wild Manatees. And tons of rattler tracks. Plus dolphins. But moose and mountain lion are my goals. Maybe wolves, but only in a pack.
There is a community garden near my house. It was part of a golf course. We used to go sledding there. Same thing I did at Canton Golf Course before I was afraid of snow. Nice hills and good exercise going up. I knew this lady and her youngest died sledding. But the thing was; it wasn’t traumatic. He had an aneurysm, died instantly. Excitedly flew downhill and never got up off the sled.
What an “Ode to Joy” moment. Not death, but the stinglessness of it. Spared suffering and the pain of aging and decay. Passed during a moment of intense joy, having fun, living happily in the moment.
My Mother went that way, so did Beth’s. Mine playing tennis. Hers while sailing in a 35 foot Hunter on Lake Michigan. Beth did not attend my mom’s funeral. But she reconnected a week later with the “so sorries”. I said, “Hun, no guilt it could’ve been yours”. Within 10 days her mom was dead. Same thing killed all three. Point was they went happy. And I’ve known people who were killed in two separate terrorist attacks.
On a small patch of land on a hill near the golf course turned community garden and former sledding area that is now a middle school, thistles grow. Thistles are the symbols of my father’s alma matter and perched on these thistles were goldfinches. Eating seeds. One measly goldfinch means nothing, but there were five. Three gold and black boy birds and two brown females. I don’t know if they eat the whole thistle seed, including the fuzz, that’s really a sail that takes the seed to new lands, or just the mustard seed small little nub attached to the fluff. Walking deeper into the golf course/middle school/community garden/playground I think; old historic hill bounded by new use educational facility, open space, kid space with cool looking giraffes, and 55 plus housing just beyond, is this what good planning and zoning reaps?
I visit the goldfinches every day. My son walks with me into the meadow, past the giraffes, towards the community garden. There are dozens of sunflowers and we discover them one Sunday morning. And they’re crawling with goldfinches. Every position; sideways, upside down, straight up, and one just circling the circumference of a normal sunflower, where the flower’s parallel to the stem, picking seeds. Like Fellini movies, goldfinches have their saturation point and thirty minutes of gold bird watching was enough.
These finches may have been locals, or just passing through as the early chill touches their northern summer grounds. Maybe they saw a moose in Quebec or Ontario or New Hampshire.
Where do they go? Where do they come from? Some roost here all winter, but they could go down to the Carolina’s and northern Florida, which is nice that time of year.
People have a propensity to fill in the blanks. They speculate on the unexplained to have some closure. Where is that Plane from this year, why is it lost just like the TV Lost? That might be why ghosts and haunts and spooks and aliens and werewolves and Champs and bigfoot yetis exist, in our minds. Here’s a weird story. Once on Christmas Eve I went to St Thomas’s with my six month old son. We heard a ghost. A moaning in the function room. I was walking the kid and heard an unearthly groan. The previous Christmas I had been thoroughly wowed by the 10pm service. Camels, Donkeys, Latin and incense filled the mini cathedral as the ancient and semi ancient songs were sung. In between Christmases I had a kid who thankfully made it through the incense laden bestial procession and the Veni, Veni Emmanuel sung a cappella in Latin, which was probably translated from Greek. Then he cranked and I took him to the function room. The haunted function room.
We heard it. A soft moaning, but no one was around, only us. Ghosts? Why on Christmas? A spirit of a kid who died of scarlet fever after not getting a rocking horse? I checked everywhere. Behind stuff. But not in plain sight. Buried under twenty coats was the culprit. From what she was wearing and the fact that she lay there while they piled coats on her made me think she was drunk. But that’s speculation. I’m filling it in because I wasn’t there. I was not an eye witness. she could have crawled under them. Once an acorn fell into the car window and hit my daughter on the head. But that’s just speculation. I could have not seen a hidden acorn thrower. Exact truth and history are always speculative and never the same from two points of view. The ghost of Christmas present stirred and rose. Looked like a librarian who glogged too much eggnog.
That’s how I watch birds. I invent back stories. Migration history’s, places visited, berries eaten. At the Quinnipiac marshes in the west side trees a bald eagle nested this spring. One guy told me the male was born in Branford off route 146 in 2008. He knew cause the conservation people told him, but I never checked. It could have been a lie, but why? To add backstory? Cause it’s fun to invent? Did he have a basic story that became embellished with time, thought and repetition? As better ways to tell it came to him?
Heard a Night Crowned black heron late at night. There’s a stream nearby and I think it perched nearby to eat. And I found a dead pigeon. The breast eaten. And a dead crow. A Red Shouldered Hawk was hanging in my neighborhood. They like tender breasts. And then there was a dead crow. It could have been killed by the hawk, crows are ballsy. Could have mobbed the hawk and he got a good peck in. But that’s just speculation.