The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Tag: birds

Sky sponsored by Exxon

It’s early morning in Rivendell, a smoke-cloaked fantasyland outside my back door. Hobbits and dwarfs sit with their morning coffee around kitchen tables in stone huts along pathways pressed by millions of footfalls through the forest on the far side of the glen.

This close to July, the morning sun should have the air warmed to near-80 but this morning it is only about 60, reflecting the reason the sun is a hazy gray over the land as smoke from numerous forest fires, blown from eastern Canada to the midwestern states of Ohio and Illinois and now back to the eastern Manor of Maske—known less imaginatively as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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What a boring world this would be

Several years ago, when granddaughter was still of an age that she enjoyed going hiking with her Grampa, she came back one day to sort of complain that Papa John had spent a lot of time talking about how the trees had leaves of different sizes and shapes.

Some of it must have stuck with her, though, because she has traded the old guy for a Chosen One more her age, and together they enjoy hiking the woods and trails of northern Maryland and nearby Pennsylvania.

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Avian invasion

Standing in line for a look at the fixer-upper at the end of the fence.Bluebirds, starlings and sparrows line up atop the fence outside my window, anxiously jockeying to see who will take over the fixer-upper mounted atop the fence post at the far end. The starling tries to bully his way to head of the line, but will lose the contest, because he’s too big to get through the hole, but he’s sure making life miserable for the others.

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Getting warm(er)

Geese hanging together means spring is coming.My best friend gave me an insulated vest for the days when I venture out into the winter air. Out my back window, most of the trees have taken the opposite approach, having shed their raiment and shut down their blood supplies to protect against the frigid winds of winter.

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Wild critters underfoot

A Spider wasp casts a ferocious shadow.There’s life in the backyard, just waiting for someone to notice. I found a couple of Japanese beetles one morning, being real friendly with each other on a cluster of flowers decorating the butterfly bush.

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Birds are doing it

Chickadees pause their dance and the wood's edge, sharing with the faeries the rhythm that powers the world.I have pictures of them chasing each other around the wood, playing tag, showing off, and sometimes producing copies of themselves.

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The world is alive …

Daddy cardinal feeds his son.Every spring I sit mesmerized as, in the space of just a few days, the mass of quarter-inch buds inexorably spread their petals in a real-time slow motion exposition of pink and white four-petaled flowers, each bloom more than two inches across.

The petals will shortly fall off, leaving behind next years buds, and life goes on.

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Perpetually wandering

Robin brings breakfast to the nest.I was chatting, the other day, with a niece about mountain hiking.

“I’d love to hike up a mountain,” I said, “as long as who I hiked with wasn’t in a hurry and loved, or at least liked, mountains.”

“As a spoiler alert, I’m in much less a hurry once I reach the top,” she replied.

Australians, I am told, like to go “on a walkabout.” I prefer to go “on a wander.” “In a hurry” has never been one of my defining traits. I could walk as long and as far as anyone, but almost anyone could beat me in a run. I always figured if where I was going would be gone by the time I got there, so be it.

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Mice in the kitchen

Robin brings breakfast to the nest.The mouse traps were empty when I slid out of bed to check. I’m glad.

I know about disease vectors and the bother of the little critters nibbling into the sleeves of saltines crackers, leaving a carpet of tiny black pellets on the pantry shelf. But, really, they don’t eat much.

I lived for awhile in a cabin in a wood. On a winter evening, we would watched a tiny critter appear on one side of the living room, scurry around the top edge of the tongue-and-groove knotty pine sheathing to the pantry – where he (or she) – knew a tube of Ritz crackers waited. He took one, then retraced his path to his family.

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They may not speak our language

Common Loon on its nestI’ve lived many places and left bits of me in several of them. One of my favorite memories is swimming with the loons on hot summer midnights in Maine.

Common Loons have existed unchanged since the first ones flew over the planet and under its water. According to the fossil record, they existed as a distinct species more than 30 million years ago, and with that kind of seniority, they think they own wherever they land.

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Miracle of life

Newborn robin chick in nestMonday, there was one, new, baby Robin. We didn’t get to see the first poke into the world of breath-on-your-own, but it still wore a part of its shell like a hat.

Tuesday, there was another.

She laid them one each on consecutive days.

Fifteen days later, the first little one appeared.

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Birds – and other stuff – in flight

Belted KingfisherIt was night at the edge of the woods, the first night in awhile the sky has been so clear. We settled back in the water to watch for shooting stars, a.k.a the Perseids.

The Perseids is an annual shower of dust and ice trailing from Swift-Tuttle, a comet that whips around us every 133 years, leaving a trail of comet-junk in its wake for us to pass through on our own annual trip around the sun. As those pieces succumb to the gravity of our Terran planet, they burn up in the friction of our atmosphere – and no, they do not get to the ground – normally. If you’re watching the sky and you see a “shooting star” and it disappears while it’s still high in the sky, it is gone and did not collide with Spaceship Earth.

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A studio at the edge of the woods

Leucistic House SparrowWatching the clouds drift in, and I watch them drift away again. (With apologies, or at least a nod, to Otis Redding.)

A Downy Woodpecker arrived, stopping to check a fence post for bugs, prompting a pair of House Sparrows to break away from the feeder to assume guard positions at the bird house mounted at the top of the post. Unsatisfied, the Downy moved away, and tried to rustle up some grub from nearby tomato stakes.

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The world beyond my window

John's thumbnail(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 4/18/2014)

The world is coming alive with the warmth and light of Spring – this week’s below-freezing day notwithstanding.

A little bit ago, there was a bird singing loudly in joy at the edge of my back yard. I couldn’t find him to discover his name or photograph his appearance, but it was enough to hear his robust love song.

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Ornithological shift change

Sparrow attempts to chase away a starling(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 2/14/2014)

A few days ago, the first Eastern Bluebird of the season wandered into the yard. I watched as what I am pretty sure was a Tufted Titmouse sat on a branch and dug a peanut from its shell. I’ve been told robins have been seen in Littlestown.  It’s seasonal shift change in the bird kingdom.

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