I think of this video clip as a rainbow after the thunderstorm. The thrushes sing, telling us that life goes on through all the predation events, the rebuilding,the sadness. These thrushes don't know that theirs is a declining species, vanishing everywhere due to habitat fragmentation. They only know that they must sing on July evenings, and light up some bird lovers' hearts.
Friday, August 5, 2016
I can’t stay away from Dean’s Fork in late summer. Every time I walk, trot, lope or jog it, I see a new constellation of creatures, birds, plants. I never know what’s waiting for me. Early morning is magic, the wood thrushes are in full song even in late July, and the fact that all the other birds are mostly quiet only highlights their ethereal flutes. At any one point on the road I can hear four or more at once.
I’ve found several eggshells on the road, freshly pipped; clearly, this wild woods cranks out wood thrushes, and that makes my heart sing.
This one wasn't pipped by a wood thrush chick; it was predated, probably by a jay. It was June 10. I had just spotted a female wood thrush hauling a huge wad of nesting material across the road, and thought, "Huh. Looks like she's tearing her old nest apart and rebuilding it elsewhere. Wonder if it got predated..." when I looked down and found this empty egg. That's situational awareness in action, and a small turquoise reward for paying attention.
Just before Phoebe left for California in June, we walked Dean’s on a sparkling cool day. I wrote about it in her birthday post. One photo I left out of that post, out of consideration for my girleen, was what we found on the road when we scared up a family of crows who were foraging as we walked around a bend. I fought with myself for awhile about this photo, knowing the sensibilities of many who read this blog, but I find it so beautiful and powerful I knew I had to share it. Crows gotta eat, same as people, and what’s on their menu is baby birds. This wood thrush nestling, looking with an unseeing eye on a woods it will never get to know, moved me, but not in a take-down-the-shotgun-and-shoot-crows way. I love crows. I will always love crows, just as I love wood thrushes. Having raised a wood thrush, having been its surrogate mother, this photo is hard to look at. But it is. So much of moving easily through nature is accepting what is.
Where nature is concerned, I have an unblinking eye. I want to know what goes on out there. I want to know who pierced the egg, who halved the nestling, who left the toad eggs, the rabbit omentum strewn across the meadow. My first reaction is rarely “Eeew!” but rather “I’ve never seen that before.” Or, “Would you look at that!” I take it all in, and while I harbor an abundance of emotion, and it makes its way into my writing, I find that very little that I observe in nature really disturbs or upsets me. It’s the workings of man that do that. Those are all around. Those, I prefer not to write about.
We are blessed with wood thrushes here. This area-sensitive bird has vanished from so many smaller woodlots, forest fragmentation and the resultant incursion of brown-headed cowbirds taking a terrible toll. This is why I haunt big woods, why I am drawn down Dean's Fork again and again. There is an intactness about the place, a feeling that everything--from damselfly to box turtle to bobcat--is still here, in its place, safe, more or less, and undisturbed. It is my Eden.
To judge from their songs, wood thrushes must continue to nest well into summer, or why would they be holding territory with their music? Listening, one might conclude it’s for the pleasure of singing, but bird behavior is generally more directed than that. I made this little video in late evening on my birthday, in late July. At the end, I say, "It's my birthday, and I've got my Dean's on." Listen and swoon. Try to ignore the endlessly pippering baby cardinal, and dig those countersinging wood thrushes!