Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bathing in Lichen

In the woods, bird calls are often the loudest sounds we hear. They are a musical feast, a constant conversation in the trees that continues all summer from earliest dawn long into the night.

Our cabin is surrounded by tall hemlocks, white and red pines, and spruce trees, with a few maples and birches mixed in. We have many bird visitors, but most of the time we never see them because they stay high up in the trees. We know they are there because we can hear them calling. Fortunately I enjoy picking out the bird calls, driving everyone around me crazy as I name the bird that is singing. My husband is now used to this after more than 30 years of marriage. Even when I'm in the suburbs walking with friends, I want to say the name of the bird call I'm hearing, even if I'm in mid-sentence. It's an obsession, I admit it. And most of the time, I manage to keep it to myself, unless it's a Wood Thrush. When I hear that bird calling, I have to stop and listen, and create enough silence around me to hear its beautiful timid song.

A couple of weeks ago a warbler was calling in 'front' of our place near the water. I didn't know its call (warbler calls are the biggest challenge for me). I wandered out to investigate, mug of coffee in hand, and strained my eyes high into the branches of a white pine festooned with light green bearded lichen. About 20 feet up, I could only make out the outline of a bird flitting about inside a long thick beard of lichen. It seemed to be taking a bath in it! That was the key to identifying that warbler, a northern parula. I didn't get a good luck at him at all. But Sibley's guide revealed the parula loves to nest in and near bearded lichens. And then I checked the call on-line (Cornell website) and 'bingo', confirmed it was a northern parula.

Northern Parula in some Bearded Lichen
Blackburnian Warbler with his distinctive orange throat
 Another day this week my husband caught a rare low-altitude sighting of a Blackburnian Warbler with his apricot throat coloring. Doublechecking his calls, we confirmed who he was. We also spotted a Hairy Woodpecker and his mate pecking at a red pine that is on the decline. All summer I'd been missing the call of the Black-Throated Green Warbler, and this week his song started up. I wonder where he's been?

These days of early July we hear the songs of a Winter Wren, a Song Sparrow, Robins, Pine Warblers, and other Warblers I haven't figured out yet. The ravens and crows continue their long standing turf wars. Bluejays, nut hatches, and chickadees pass by with a few remarks. Then at dusk each night a mysterious bird flies through the forest with insistent chipping and then a kind of freeet call - and is gone. Then late at night when the weather is fine, the loons call on the lakes nearby.

No comments:

Post a Comment