Monday, September 19, 2016

Heritage - for the birds? #phenology

Maybe the missing goldfinches were just going through their Autumn molt. Their numbers at the feeder are back up. On the other hand, we've seen no signs of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds for a week or so now.

goldfinches at feeder
goldfinches at feeder
Photo by J. Harrington

The turkeys, conspicuous by their absence all Summer, have been regularly wandering through the yards for the past few days. They've wandered back and forth through the field behind the house, checked out the side yard on the North. and some of them have started to explore the woods on the East side. The dogs are intrigued by the scents left behind. There are about 16 birds altogether, and it looks like that's the combination of 3, 4 or 5 separate family flocks. From what I've noticed, they're all hens. At least I haven't seen even the stub of a jake's beard yet.

Autumn turkey flock(s)
Autumn turkey flock(s)
Photo by J. Harrington

Speaking of turkeys, I've got my fingers crossed that the connection my Better Half made near mid-Summer will actually result in the family enjoying a heritage Bourbon Red turkey this Thanksgiving. The past few years we've been late to the party and all the "local" birds were taken. We've got one on order this year and have our fingers crossed that the supply will meet demand at least until we've got ours.

It's about this time most years that I start to look again at Gary Nabhan's Renewing America’s Food Traditions – Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods. I think it's my New England origins, but perhaps it's only that I'm getting older, that explains my increasing interest in traditions and heritages. I've got a split bamboo fly rod that I enjoy fishing for trout as much as, sometimes more than, my "newer, better, etc..." graphite rods. I continue to regret the fact that I never got around to gunning for grouse or ducks with a side-by-side shotgun because it wasn't as "practical" as an over-under or pump. (Their cost also had something to do with it.)

One of the aspects of phenology that I'm coming to enjoy more and more is that it gives me an increased sense of awareness of and participation in our natural heritage, an anticipation of what to look for next in the patterns of our four seasons, and the pleasure of always being able to find something more to learn. Can't ask much more than that. One of nature's nicest traits is that the "new and improved" models don't come out every year. Change occurs at a more human, more natural pace.

To the Light of September


By W. S. Merwin


When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

you
who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew

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