delithopia

Notes from the Waxhaws

Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Cycles

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These hot, humid days we’ve been having in the Carolinas belie the fact that the end of summer is approaching. I’ve finally made the connection in my mind…somewhat late in life, I’m afraid…that each year has its own sunrise (the vernal equinox)…its noon-day sun (summer solstice)…its midnight (winter solstice)…as well as its (now rapidly approaching) sunset, known as the autumnal equinox. My favorite time of year has always been Autumn.

My favorite part of the day is that somewhat magical time just after the sun has set below the horizon…when the illusion of bright blue sky slowly surrenders to the celestial wonders above. The gloaming. As a professed lover of the gloaming, it finally dawned on me why I like Autumn. Autumn…the gloaming…they are, in my mind, very much the same…the beginning-of-the-end of a cycle…the final approach to a period of rest…from which a new beginning emerges out of the darkness.

I felt the coming change in my bones this past week…when I noticed that the hummingbird feeder had hardly been touched since last weekend when I last filled it. The red nectar was still only about a half-inch from the top. During the summer, a weekly fill-up was needed to keep up with the insatiable appetites of the ruby-throated hummingbirds that had become daily visitors. It suddenly occurred to me that the tiny birds must have started their fall migration. I did some research…and sure enough…found out that come late August-early September, the hummers begin their long flights…lasting hundreds, and even thousands of miles to the south. I imagined these very small (weighing in at a tenth-of-an-ounce or so), indefatigable birds …single-mindedly winging their way…seemingly against all odds… to exotic wintering grounds in the Argentine. Leaving me behind…in the darkness…until the sunrise of next year.

Written by Jim

September 7, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Early morning visit

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Early this morning…sitting by an open window in the living room…everything outside was shrouded in dense fog. I was being kept company by the sounds of a solemn procession making its way overhead…the subdued and muffled whining and whirring of airplanes as they carefully made their approach into the Queen City to the north. Hundreds of people passing unsuspectingly over the silence and stillness below them.

As I quietly read my book, another procession took place right outside my window. A steady stream of ruby-throated hummingbirds made their way to the feeder that’s hanging out on the porch. When one finished topping off its tanks on the sweet red nectar…another arrived to take its place. While reading, I didn’t even have to look up to know they had  arrived. I could sense their presence just by the humming of their speedy wings…a sound more akin to that of a very large bumble bee.

The feeder has three access ports, disguised as tiny, yellow five-petalled flowers. But, they all draw from the same reservoir that holds the red, sugary substance that the hummers love so much. So, I find it amusing that when each bird visits the feeder, they have to visit each of the three flowers in succession. Since I happened to be reading this morning about different spiritual paths, the birds’ behavior at the feeder seemed an apt metaphor for our own perception that, although we may see our own path as distinctly different from that of others, there is at the heart of each, an underlying unity and commonality.

At one point…taking a break from my reading…I looked out at the feeder, and was met with a very strange sight, something I’d not seen before. There was a solitary hummingbird perched atop the metal support from which the feeder was suspended. Its wings were completely still…its head and long beak moving from side to side in apparent nervousness. Slowly getting up to take a look outside, I noticed a flash of reddish-brown amongst the grasses and shrubs. There was a very tiny deer nibbling on some leafy greens. It was a fawn still speckled with spots…and seemingly all legs. Then I noticed two more deer…yearlings from the look of them. Out of the corner of my eye I saw still more movement by the edge of the woods. It was a mature doe standing guard…mother keeping an eye on the youngsters. The yearlings grazed on grass and foliage for a good twenty minutes. While its older siblings were eating, the little fawn leaped and pranced about, immensely enjoying itself on this fine misty Carolina morning. After a while…at Mom’s beckoning…they all darted off into the woods…but leaving me with a joyful sense of the sheer exhuberance of life…and gratitude for this brief early morning visit.

deer

Singing ourselves awake

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The signature of this summer has to be the song of the Indigo Bunting. Bunting summer. Early this morning, I sat in the darkness before dawn…cup of coffee in hand…in a deep silence broken only by the murmuring of crickets in constant prayer. The world about me was still veiled from the tyranny of beauty that would soon enthrall the senses. As if testing the waters of the new day, a bunting broke the stillness with a single note…then, a tentative half-turned phrase. He seemed to be recollecting himself…remembering how to carry a tune after surviving through the long night…perhaps, singing himself awake. When he finally burst forth into full song, I could hear other buntings off in the distance joining in…each waking up to the world.

It was a beautiful moment that led me to thinking. Maybe that’s what we’re doing in this life…rousing from a deep sleep…slowly coming to our senses…and singing ourselves awake.

Written by Jim

July 20, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Remarkable

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The contrast could not have been greater. I spent the last week in the Los Angeles area…falling asleep every night to the incessant sound of traffic rumbling by on I-10…right outside my sealed-shut window. Sunday morning…I awoke to the sound of a yellow-billed cuckoo…with its soft rattle, followed by a frog-like thwump-thwump-thwump…a soft cool breeze wafting through the open window.  Welcome home.

On my flight back home on Saturday, I sat next to a 15-year-old boy who was traveling alone. He was sitting by the window. For the entire duration of the 4-hour flight, he kept the window shade down. Instead…he focused on either his cell phone…or his laptop computer…or both…completely engrossed in video games. Perhaps…an escape from the real world, where he was forced to commute cross-continent by himself?

Towards the end of the flight, he put away his computer and phone…pulled up his hoodie over his head…and fell asleep. When we landed, he awoke and asked if we were in Charlotte. I replied, “Yes…Charlotte. Are you going on to Raleigh?”  I wanted to make sure he didn’t miss his destination. He sleepily replied, “Yes.” He turned his head towards the closed window…back to sleep. Hopefully, there was someone waiting for him in Raleigh…glad to see him.

I took my time on Sunday…catching up…slowing down once more. Silence…and solitude…was broken when an American Goldfinch came tapping on the window…not once…but twice… seemingly, peering in and welcoming me back. A strange and unexpected greeting. Remarkable…nonetheless.

 

 

 

Written by Jim

May 26, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Of wetness and wildness

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What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
Oh let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

~Gerard Manley Hopkins

A steady, cool rain this morning in the Carolinas. Gray skies above…but all below is cloaked in spring green and wetness. Birds are singing, nonetheless. The soft coos of the mourning dove…the mysterious flute-like tones of the thrush emanating from some nonspecific location in the woods…the white-throated sparrow, sadly elegizing old Sam Peabody. The blue flag Irises just barely containing themselves…waiting expectantly for the warm rays of the sun to help them burst forth and contribute to the splendor of the world.

Then there is Esmeralda, the reddish-brown feral chicken, with her new suitor who arrived on the scene this week, a black and white rooster (who I’ve since named ‘Q’). They’ve been inseparable…as they wander about in the drizzle foraging for their sustenance…Q occasionally stopping in his tracks…flapping his wings…and then belting out his cock-a-doodle-doo, ostensibly warning off any would-be rivals.

Greenness…wetness…grayness…birds…flowers…all playing their part in ushering in the season.

Written by Jim

April 19, 2014 at 7:44 am

Borderland

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It was a cool Sunday morning…following on the heels of a very sunny and warm Saturday. Not many more of these before the hot, humid air takes over. Last night, I was surprised. Sitting in the living room…in the dark…with the windows open wide…I noticed a brief flash of light outside down near the road. Too early, I thought…fireflies are my sure sign of Summer. But, this is April…surely they’re not yet out and about. As I stared into the blackness…I saw another…and yet another. Flickering on and then off…silently teleporting to a new location before repeating their cold, luminous signals to each other…gliding among the trees and shrubs. I can’t remember them appearing so early in the year…usually late May or early June. Lights peeping out of the darkness…maybe a sign of some sort?

This morning, I grabbed my walking stick and set out down the road for a walk. My destination was the creek that crosses the road about a half-mile from my house. It was still early, and the sun was slanting through the trees, highlighting dogwoods and red buds in full bloom. Birds were singing everywhere…all seemed to be right with the world on this beautiful Spring morning. My spirits were lifted.

When I arrived at the creek, the water was slowly meandering through its channel. I stopped for a while, peering into the woods along the creek, perhaps hoping to see some wildlife. I then crossed over to the other side of the road to look upstream. When I looked down, I saw something that momentarily took my breath away. Five or six feet below me… was a large white dog laying in the creek bed, its head partially submerged in the running water. There was a large blackish bruise on its hindquarters. Perhaps having been hit by a car on the highway, she had wandered off…dazed… into the woods? There was no collar with identification…nothing to link her to the outside world. I wondered what her life had been like…

When Belle, my Pomeranian, died several weeks ago, the animal hospital sent a little sympathy card that spoke of a Rainbow Bridge…a mythical place where deceased pets finally meet up with their loving owners, when they, too, pass on. It’s a nice thought…and it brings a smile to your face when you need it the most.

As I trudged the half-mile back to the house this morning…the wind suddenly taken out of me…I wondered, is there a Rainbow Bridge in store for this poor, nameless soul that ended up alone in the woods? I find myself these days in a borderland, half-way between civilization and the wild…just a mile of dirt-gravel road separating the two…a tiny remnant of what once covered this entire continent. And whether it’s pondering the one or two week life span of a firefly…or the lonely demise of a dog in the woods…or the strange nocturnal song of an owl…I’m grateful…just for being here in the first place…being a witness to something I don’t yet quite understand.

Written by Jim

April 13, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Convocation

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I thought I heard the hoot of an owl this morning as I awoke. After rising, and after making the mandatory pot of coffee, I pulled on my jacket and went outside in the darkness…to sit and await the dawn…keeping company with the planet Venus, which hovered just above the tree line in silence. The whip-poor-wills were softly asserting their presence to the new day. Crows were beginning to noisily wake up…probably complaining about the roosters in the distance who had been up since 4 am.

The sun had yet to rise, but after a while, I heard the hoots of a Barred Owl…Who cooks for you…who cooks for y’allllllllll (this is the South). The quality of sound emanating from this bird took me aback. It was coming from the pine woods to the south…an area that I call the Dark Wood. There was a strange and tremulous reverberation to the hoots, as if they were bouncing off of  a rock facing. On a topographic map of the area, I had noticed that there was an old quarry of some kind in that direction. I’ve never ventured into those dark, impenetrable woods…mostly because I want them to remain mysterious…the haunt of owls, and perhaps other elusive and wild creatures.

All of a sudden, I heard another owl begin hooting…just as the first’s descending y’allllllllll was completing. It sounded as if I was an innocent bystander to a territorial dispute of some kind. Then…yet another owl began to join in the vocal fray…causing quite a pandemonium. I’m always appreciative of hearing Barred Owl in the nocturnal stillness…but this was really an unexpected treat. I’ve heard that a group of owls is called a parliament of owls…probably because they’ve been seen as symbols of wisdom. What I experienced early on this Carolina April morning was more of a convocation…a literal calling together of owls…to what purpose I can’t imagine. Things finally quieted down (perhaps the argument was settled?)… as the sun begin to make its appearance…clothing some clouds in the west in a soft pinkish hue.

April Morning

 

Written by Jim

April 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm