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Book of Days


Filtering by Tag: junco

July 11: Haiku Workshop

Kristen Lindquist

Today I taught a day-long workshop on haiku at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. I was so grateful to have such a responsive group of students, open to paying attention, being creative, and sharing their poems. And we couldn't have asked for a better setting for a (partially) plein air class. The gardens are an endlessly inspiring landscape for the arts.
In the Five Senses Garden
A few of my in-the-moment jottings from our writing exercises out and about in the gardens:
(Five Senses Garden)
Stopping to touch
the black stone rabbit
warmed by sun.
Above the lily pond
black-and-white dragonflies
coordinate with her kimono.
Construction noise--
the dragonflies
go about their business.

(Children's Garden)
Rooted in mud
the yellow waterlily
seems to me perfect.
Junco visits our table
hoping for crumbs.
All I have are words.
Finding a small patch
of old-man's-whiskers
in the children's garden.
(Vayo Meditation Garden)
Purple love grass.
If only my life
could be so exciting.
Warbler still singing
in heat of the day.
Hay-scented ferns.
Alliums gone by

July 9: Rainy garden series

Kristen Lindquist

Visited the beautiful Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay this morning, despite persistent drizzle. The paths were less crowded than usual, and the colors and scents of the summer blooms seemed more vivid in the rain.

standing just so
under the flowering dogwood
fragrant pink sky

atop the weathervane
trilling junco
this garden is his

crouching down
so the lavender's eye-level,
I imagine fields full

Star of Persia allium
blown-out blooms
fireworks above the ferns

rain on rose petals
all-natural rosewater
flush of memory

January 4: Red-bellied Woodpecker

Kristen Lindquist

This morning when I got to work, the trees were birdy. A small flock of juncos flitted and twittered near my car, the usual feeder birds were queuing up in the bushes, one nuthatch spiraled head-first down a birch trunk, and a pair of jays watched with bright eyes. From inside my office I watched with binoculars, hoping to see something interesting turn up--more redpolls, perhaps, or an errant sparrow.

As I stood there in the center of the room, one of the jays landed in a feeder. Usually I shoo them off because they're too big for the feeders, and they eat too much. But I hadn't seen a jay here for awhile, so decided to let it eat in peace. Their blue plumage (which isn't really blue, but that's another story) looks so pretty in contrast with the white snow.

Soon the second jay passed overhead, moving from a nearby tree to the edge of the roof over my feeders. But instead of another jay at a feeder, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker suddenly appeared.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (male).
Photo by Ken Thomas via Wikimedia Commons.
He stayed eating bird seed not only long enough for me to yell to my co-workers to come see but also for them to actually watch him for a few seconds. Then he flew off into the trees, moving upriver. He didn't return, but it's good to know there's still one in the neighborhood. This southern species has made an amazing incursion into Maine in the past eight to ten years or so. Before that, to see one here at all was unusual. Now they're hanging out through the winter, popping up in my own yard, their chirring call becoming so familiar that a couple nights ago I dreamed I heard one.

Should I expect all my dreams
to become as real
as this visiting woodpecker?

March 27: Stirrings of Spring

Kristen Lindquist

Despite cheery blue skies, it's only one degree above freezing this afternoon and gusty--with wind chill it probably feels like the mid-20s right now. Yes, we live here, we're used to getting snow into April, but that doesn't mean we have to like it. The first words out of everyone's mouths these days concern the weather and how soon spring will really be here. I think we got spoiled last year, when for the first time in my memory we had a real spring, early and warm, coinciding with the calendar. Now that we've had a taste of it, we want that every year.

Despite today's raw edge, there are some signs of spring out there. Sheltered by a south-facing wall at the Camden Public Library, clusters of crocus bloom cheerily, always the first flowers I see each year. Around the neighborhood, milk jugs hang from maple trees, collecting sap; this is Maine Maple Sunday, after all. The Canadian robins have mostly moved northward and incoming migrant robins are beginning to feed on half-frozen lawns--a shift from their winter diet of fruits and berries. I spotted some red-winged blackbirds in Lincolnville along Frohock Brook. Many trilling juncos create music in the bare trees around our house. A tom turkey, surrounded by a heedless harem, was displaying in the back yard a few days ago. And Canada geese are beginning to return to the Megunticook River, even as winter ducks--goldeneyes, buffleheads--linger before heading up to Hudson Bay and points north. I've even noticed that some of my lilies are starting to poke tender green shoots through the veneer of dead leaves and road grit plastered across the front lawn (along with remnant snow banks that will probably linger till the next Ice Age). We're on the cusp of the season.

Goodbye and hello:
birds of winter, birds of spring
briefly overlap.

November 4: Flying Leaves

Kristen Lindquist

And the season starts to shut down. Yesterday morning I woke to the first heavy frost, rime on the lawn and a carapace of white lingering like snow on the neighbors' roof. I had to scrape my car windows for the first time since last winter. This morning before the rains began, the slopes of Ragged Mountain, where I was walking, were burnished deep bronze, the russet of dying embers, just one tone removed from dead brown. Birch bark shone starkly amid branches bared to the wind. Crisp oak leaves leapt through the air like small birds, skipping on unseen eddies and currents in the sky. Small birds, juncos, scattered amid the dry leaves. Things were aswirl in the calm before the storm. So the appearance of two ravens, hoarsely cawing and dipping amid the loose leaves, fit the day's mood. They flew swiftly overhead as if whipped by the wind, but they knew exactly where they were going.

Leaves skitter like birds,
birds scatter like leaves. Two black
ravens ride the wind.

October 25: On the Move

Kristen Lindquist

Released from the pair bonds necessary for nesting and raising young, most birds move in flocks during migration. This morning at my office I could hear a small flock of robins clucking in the trees at the edge of the lawn. Robins don't migrate far--usually a few hundred to a thousand miles or so south of where they nested--but they constantly shift around in itinerant flocks searching for food. Robins from northern Maine and Canada, sometimes even accompanied by bluebirds, will pop up here throughout the winter to feast on crabapples, winterberry, mountain ash berries, and other wholesome fruits. It doesn't mean spring's coming early. It means there's something to eat in your yard.

Later in the day a flock of a dozen or more juncos passed through, scuttling in the heaps of fallen leaves, trilling in the pines. Juncos are often accompanied by sparrows, but all I had were my lousy office binoculars, so I couldn't pick out anything but a junco in the bunch. These pert grey and white birds with pink bills will also appear intermittently throughout the winter. My grandmother used to call them "snowbirds."

A birder friend in southern Maine reported literally thousands of cormorants migrating off Biddeford Pool and Eastern Point this morning, including one single flock of 2,500 to 3,000 birds! Cormorants fly in big vees like geese, although often in much more dramatic numbers and more quietly--endless skeins of birds flapping their wings with purpose.

These crowds of feeding, flying creatures moving overhead or in the underbrush add to the overall restless and unsettled mood of this season of transitions. I find myself jumping out of my office chair, useless binoculars in hand, walking from window to window and then outside, wanting to follow the birds. Not far--just enough to get a sense of where they're going. Although as darkness closes in so early now and a chilly fog shrouds the mountaintop, heading south to warmer climes appeals to me more and more. I'm not prepared for winter.

Restless birds fly south
ahead of snow. How I long
to grow wings, follow.


December 30: White

Kristen Lindquist

I think of the color white now not because of snow or the almost full moon, but because in the past few days, Maine birders have posted on the Maine Birding List-serv photos of two different white birds. These birds are leucistic, not albino. Put simply, leucism is caused by developmentally defective pigment cells, while albinism is caused by a genetic lack of melanin. The main visible differences are that a leucistic animal doesn't have the albino's red eyes and may not be pure white. I've seen a song sparrow with a white face and a crow with some white tail feathers, for instance. But these photos depicted birds that were, if not as pure white as driven snow, almost entirely white.

The first bird is a junco that has been coming to a feeder in Freedom for most of December. Normally, a junco is an overall slate-grey bird with a white belly. This junco, photographed on a very snowy feeder against snow-covered bushes, is strikingly white, with only a thin dark edge to its wings, dark eyes, and a junco's typical pink legs and bill. This beautiful bird looks as if it's been crafted from the surrounding drifts and brought to life--Frosty the Snowbird. I wonder if it's aware how well it blends in with the snow, if it has learned how to make itself invisible.

This morning a birder in southern Maine posted a photo of a leucistic red-tailed hawk that has apparently been regularly seen in Eliot for the past four years in the neighborhood of the Marshwood Middle School. The photographer has seen the bird with his non-white mate. (With most hawks, the females are larger, hence the assumption that the smaller, white bird is male. Apparently his freakish color didn't render him unattractive to at least one other of his kind.)  The photo shows a white hawk flying against a background of bare trees. Except for his dark eye and bill, the hawk truly looks like a ghost bird, or the surreal visitation of some forest angel.

Two unusual white birds during these snowy days of winter, two pale muses:

White bird in winter--
blank as the snow-covered field
and as beautiful.