Good weekend for birds

From Pomona, NY, we headed north on the Palisades Parkway, against the advice of the GPS which prudently thought going back to I-287 would be preferable. We crossed the Hudson on the Bear Mountain Bridge. It’s a beautiful spot, but I only recommend it if you are OK with a very winding road along a cliffs on the eastern side of the river. Eventually the GPS got us back to I-684, just one exit before the junction with 84 near Danbury.

We got to Casco at a reasonable hour of the evening.

Monday I walked out to check on my hazels (doing great! At this rate, they’ll be respectable bushes in another three or four years) and the Koosa dogwoods Matt and I planted last weekend. The dogwood we have in Newton has messy squishy red-orange fruit which sprout often enough that I dug up five flowerpots full of foot-high young trees to put around the place in Casco. We’ve tried in past years, but maybe haven’t dug up big enough root balls. At any rate, Matt and I put in two pots full, probably four trees, near Sleeping Rhino last weekend, and I put in one pot in the little clearing on the far side of the property that we call The Patio and one pot just across the driveway. Well, yesterday just as I got close to the one I had planted near Sleeping Rhino, a bird flew away from virtually underfoot and landed at waist height in the trees beyond the rock. I didn’t have my binoculars with me, so I didn’t get a real look at it. From the way it was behaving, hanging around at a minimum safe distance from me, I got the impression that it had some business where I had flushed it from — maybe it had a nest right there. I left so it could get back home, if that was indeed home.

Patsy had said she would like to get out in a boat. We have four people-powered boats; one 8 foot long aluminum rowboat, one fiberglass canoe, one two-seat kayak, and one one-seat kayak. All but the rowboat were in the sand room of our basement for the winter. Getting them out takes a little maneuvering. The one-seat kayak is no problem; the two-seat kayak isn’t hard if you watch where you’re going; but the canoe just barely fits through the door if you hold it at the correct angle and pay attention not to bump the oil tank and the water heater. The four of us got the three boats out with less trouble than I expected.

Charley and Patsy got in the canoe and Arlene and I took the two-seat kayak. We headed south near the shore, past Jack Carroll’s house and the three houses along Azwelikit Road, about to the first house in Hancock Beach. I called back, “Remember, we should turn around when we’ve had HALF as much fun as we want to have,” and Charley promptly said, “I think I’ve had half as much as I want,” so we headed back. Patsy said, “What’s that bird?” It was a loon, not very far away on the right. We all got a good look at it, and then it dove, and we didn’t see it for a while until it showed up ahead of us and on the left of our path. It dove again, and when we saw it next it was only two boat lengths away. It didn’t really seem to mind as we paddled along. It was as close as we’ve ever been to a loon.

Arlene said to Patsy, “If you want to keep canoeing, Charley and I can go home and you and Dean can stay out with the canoe,” so when we got back to our dock Charley got out, Arlene and I put the kayak on the shore, and I got in the bow of the canoe where Charley had been. We went the other way, past our association beach and more than halfway to a tiny island beyond it. At that point the wind picked up and the waves got to a disturbing size. We turned around before getting to the island and paddled back, into the wind all the way home. By the time we got back we had had all the fun we wanted.

This morning (if you’re keeping track, that’s Tuesday. I took a vacation day to stretch out the weekend, since we weren’t in Casco until Sunday night) I took binoculars back to Sleeping Rhino. I figured that if the bird I had flushed there was really nesting there, I would probably see it again in the same place. My best guess as to what it would turn out to be was based on the size, about sparrow-size, and having flushed it from the ground; the only ground-nesting bird that size I could think of was an ovenbird. Sure enough! It did flush from just about the same spot, flew to exactly the same place as before, I got a decent look at it with the binoculars, and it was an ovenbird. I took Arlene out to see it later, and again it flushed from the same place to the same place.

Also, good weekend for fish. Late in the afternoon we walked down to the association dock with fishing poles. On her second cast, Arlene got a fish. And not just any fish! It was a good black bass, definitely legal size even in Maine, a good fourteen inches long. It was hooked through the lip and I had squashed down the barb of the hook so it was easy to release. Maybe if we had caught it earlier in the weekend we would have kept it to print, but it’s swimming in the lake again now, not much the worse for the experience.

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