Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Summer Morning (and Autumn Thoughts)

Ahhh, it feels good to be back at the cabin. Gettysburg is a medium-sized town, but it’s still a town, and in the middle of summer miles of tourists arrive to visit the battlefield. I don’t think I’m going to go back there during the tourist season anytime soon. I’ll wait until fall or winter, when only the ghosts remain.

This morning is a near-perfect summer morning in the woods. A nearby evening storm cleared out the soggy, high humidity, and this morning I was greeted by a calming summer breeze and clear skies.
And in only the 4-5 days I was away, the mornings are already different. It is darker now when I take Dog for his morning walk. For a few days, near solstice, the sun was already up around 5:30 a.m. Now, I can see an orange glow in the east, but the sun hasn’t yet made an appearance, and the the sky to the west is still quite dark.

The forest birds are much noisier than they were just a few days ago. The phoebe and the pewees are still the earliest risers. How did the robin get its reputation as an "early bird?" They don’t start their morning songs for nearly an hour after the pewees and the phoebes. The single cuckoo that I’ve heard but not seen all summer long calls every day, never in the same spot. Sometimes it is so far away I can barely hear it. Sometimes it’s close enough that I grab my binoculars and head out the door, but so far it has always moved further away again before I can spot it. I heard a chickadee last evening for the first time in what seems like months, though it’s really only been several weeks.

Dog and I take our morning walks around Roundtop’s snow-making ponds. I am ever hopeful that I will see a few common shorebirds, simply so I can add them to my local list. Southbound shorebird migration has started already, if not yet at full force, so my wish isn’t exactly a pipedream. Still, the water levels on the ponds are fairly high, and until that changes, my wish probably is a pipedream.

I looked at my 2007 Roundtop bird list last evening, and so far this year is not a stellar one. May was a decent month, but April and June were both less than normal. July still has potential (and enough days left in the month to see more species), but the pattern of this year has been that I likely won’t find the number of species that I often do. For the year, I am currently at 64 species, if my quick count is correct. By the end of the year, I should add 10-15 more species to that total to reach a normal year. In the past, often the semi-common transient birds that I missed during spring migration would be easily found during fall migration. Last year, that didn’t happen, and I am already wondering what the fall migration will bring—or won’t bring.

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