Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunset on 2007

Perhaps I should designate 2007 as the year of the power outage. Certainly the end of the year has been that way. This morning after the alarm went off but before I had my slippers on, the power went off again.

Overnight, I had less than an inch of snow, so downed trees or limbs are not the issue. Perhaps, this time it was the standard car-into-a-pole scenario. In any event, the mountain is dark this morning. Again.

For me, starting a new year means starting a new bird list. It's a time of hope and optimism, when I plan to spend more time birding, when I resolve to look harder for my local birds, when I hope April and May will bring waves of warblers to the mountain.

But December 31? If it means anything to me, it means getting the spreadsheets and bird lists ready for the new year. As a day in and of itself, I don't pay all that much attention to it. Certainly my feeder birds don't know that tomorrow I will be counting them (again) in earnest. To the natural world outside my door, tomorrow is simply another sunrise, another sunset. Some days I wonder if I should be more like that. Other days, I'm happy to observe the human-created holidays and rituals that are separate from the goings on in the natural world. Call it inter-species tension, if you like, as for all I know, trees have their own holidays and rituals that humans aren't privy to and don't celebrate.

So I am preparing for a human holiday tomorrow, a human-labeled arrival of the new year, though as a species we can't even agree on the date for its start. I can find references to 20+ different dates for the start of the new year. We do, however, seem to agree that a new year is cause for celebration, so I guess that's something. For now, it will have to do.

Happy New Year! However and whenever you celebrate it.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Big Green Birding Year

I'm going to be joining the ranks of the BIGBY birders in 2008. For those who haven't yet heard this term, it means Big Green Birding Year. The idea is that you can only count birds that you see while birding around your own house and on foot. They do also have a second category called "self-propelled," which allows you to use a bike or other self-propelled conveyance to reach your birding destinations.

I figure I'm a natural for this one since it's the kind of birding I've been doing for some time.

As of this morning, some 75 birders had signed up. If this interests you, here's the Web address where you can sign up:

Light is already returning to the mountain, now that the shortest day has passed. On clear mornings, as this one is, the sun is just barely above the mountain to the east when I leave the cabin for work. In celebration, I took an early morning photo. The light I see during the hours I'm on the mountain is not yet good, but it is light.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Going Feral

It's probably just as well that the holidays are over, and my life is getting back to its "normal" routine. When I am alone and at the cabin, I find myself turning feral all too quickly.
It's so easy to quickly ignore society's rules of good grooming and good behavior. I end up wearing stripes and plaids (but they are my favorite flannel shirt and sweater). So what if they don't match at all? Both feel wonderful, so it's only natural to want to wear them together.
It's easy to let the hair go unwashed an extra day or to pad around in the same comfortable socks for longer than is proper. After all, the dogs, who are slobs at heart, don't mind. The cats are fussier but not about these kinds of things.
I find myself admitting, albeit reluctantly, that society's rules keep me from going too far "out there" down the path to being a feral human. The rules force me to leave the cabin, dressed and coiffed appropriately. If I had, say, a month on my own, I might forget how to do even that, and I'm fairly sure I would care even less than I do now, which is a bit frightening.
I am eccentric enough, I suspect, at least by the standards of normal modern life. For one thing, I can't abide pointy heeled shoes--they look like elf shoes to me. And even if I liked them, which I don't, they simply wouldn't work in the mud around the cabin, even on the short walk from the car to the front door. So I wear flat shoes with treaded soles, the only flats in an office with a sea of heels.
I don't scream when I see a mouse or a bat--both of which have mysteriously found their way into our office at one time or another. And naturally, I was the one who ended up catching these visitors and releasing them outside.
The differences run deeper, too, but the tamed and civilized humans around me are already suspicious enough. Sometimes I feel as though I spend my days in the costume of normal life, but I am wild and feral underneath.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Moon

The ice from last week's ice storm has melted, leaving scarred trees in its wake. Wherever I go, I see broken trees and their pale, exposed centers, often the lightest shade in this winter landscape. However, the weather since then has been calm. The skies have been most clear, the wind non-existent.

I am still cleaning up the limbs and branches that fell during the ice storm. At first, I only tossed them out of the way to clear the driveway. Now, I am creating several large piles deeper in the woods to get rid of them. So I lug what I can on each trip, dragging them out of the way. It is slow work, and unless I soon get snow, I will likely be working on it for another week or two.

Christmas morning dawned bright and clear. I was up before dawn and caught this photo of the setting moon when I first wentoutside. It has been a long time since the full moon set on Christmas morning. I don't even remember how long it's been. Perhaps even the last time it was cloudy or snowy, so I might have missed it whenever it did occur. But on this morning, there it was, heavy and pale on a clear, Christmas morning.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Grandmother Nature Rules (and a few of my own)

In the aftermath of the weekend’s ice storm, it occurs to me that life has few lessons to be learned that can’t be taught by Grandmother Nature.

1. Humility – Grandmother can very quickly knock out any idea you may have had of your own importance or abilities. She teaches that she is in charge and nothing in your day to day life will stand in her way. Sometimes we forget that, lulled as we are by seemingly endless beautiful days and busy lives. Then Grandmother reminds us.

2. Beauty—This hardly needs much more description. Everything I know about beauty I learned from Grandmother Nature.

3. Respect—This goes along with #1.

4. Enjoy life while you can—Tomorrow may bring an ice storm. Or worse.

5. Find ways to enjoy more of your life—See rule #4. There will always be work, errands, chores and nasty times. The trick is to teach yourself to enjoy more about these things, so you can spend more time being in the "zone" of #4.

6. Change happens, learn to deal with it—No tree is forever, no animal is forever. We are not forever. Even the forest isn’t forever. Holding on to what used to be isn’t something that Grandmother Nature worries about. New trees take hold, mountains rise, mountains fall.

7. Don’t focus on what you’ve lost when things change—This one is really hard, especially at first. We all tend to focus on what is lost when things around us change. It might be a job or a loved one or our youth. But with every loss comes something new, eventually. Spring flowers don’t lament the winter. New lives know only today and the hope of tomorrow. To them, life always begins with them. For those of us who are older, life should begin with today.

8. Life and Grandmother Nature always moves on—We have to learn, or at least try, to do the same.

9. To everything there is a season—Happy solstice. The wheel of the year turns again, and Saturday will bring more light.

Re: "Grandmother" Nature—Mothers I can deal with, but the cumulative weight of the ancestors is a force of a different Nature. So from now on, in my mind, Mother Nature has become Grandmother Nature, to help me remember that she's no pushover and to remind me of the lessons she teaches every day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Victims of the Ice Storm

During the weekend’s ice storm, as many as 80,000 people were out of power in this region for at least a day. That’s down to about 2,000 now and those poor folks are supposed to have it back today. Some roads are still not cleared. Homeowners are assessing the damage and checking their insurance policies for what is and is not covered.

Humans are not the only victims of this storm. Tree damage is extensive. Last December I took a pretty photo of several white pine trees with a delicate and pretty glazing of ice and snow. All of those trees are now broken. One might survive but I’m even doubtful of that one. Ice still grips the mountain, if slightly less so than the day before. Temperatures only rose above freezing for an hour or two yesterday. It was enough to start the process of thawing but that still has a ways to go.

In front of my cabin, I have three conifers that are in danger. Yesterday, I thought for sure I would lose two but thought one might make it. Today, one of those in danger has improved, though it’s not safe yet.

I’ve also seen two flocks of Canada geese, both at migration altitude, heading south. These sluggards were likely "gambling" that they were already as far south as they needed to be for the winter, and then the ice storm came. Now, they are getting out of Dodge, better late than never.

The little red-breasted nuthatch that visited my feeders 50 times a day since the moment it arrived is also among the missing. I still have a small glimmer of hope that it has survived, but only a small one. During the week, I don’t have much daylight time to see what’s going on at the feeders so perhaps it is there and I am only not seeing it. This is possible but unlikely, as before the storm I could rarely look outside and not see it. Perhaps it is holed up somewhere with its stash of seeds—not even the world’s hungriest nuthatch could consume as many seeds each day as this one took from the feeders. Perhaps it has left the area, figuring that it wasn’t nearly as far south as it thought it was. This is also, I think, unlikely. In any event, I haven’t seen it since Sunday afternoon. Godpseed, girlfriend, wherever you are.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Grandmother Ice Storm

Several days ago I said I had the mother of all ice storms. Boy, was I wrong. That storm was just a toddler. Two days after that storm I had the ancestor of all ice storms. I have only now gotten power back, and I’m one of the lucky ones. Tens of thousands are still without power in this area and likely won’t have power for as long as two more days. I was out of power for two days and that was bad enough.

My first photo today was taken yesterday, after the road up to Roundtop was cleared. Today, ice still hangs on many of the trees, and trees are still breaking from the weight of the ice that covers them. The trees worst hit were the ones that still had some of their leaves hanging on. And conifer trees (more about that tomorrow, I think). I am still about half-expecting to lose power again, either from more breaking trees or from the ice falling off the trees.

My driveway looks like a battle zone—if the war was fought with ice. The ice looks like inches of shattered glass covering the mountain. It sounds like glass shattering too when a tree breaks and the ice hits the ground. I have been fortunate, as I had no damage at the cabin, though I had at least one close call.

A tree fell no more than a foot from the front of the car, covering the hood with leaves and small twigs (looked like a bad haircut) but not damaging the car or the cabin. Larry, my neighbor and manager of Roundtop’s paintball, brought up the backhoe to pull the downed tree out of my driveway and clear our lane of branches. I had many branches and limbs fall on the roof of the cabin and roll off its slope. If I never hear that sound again, it will be fine with me. Often, I heard a tree crack before I heard the sound of the branch falling on my roof. Now I cringe at the sound of a tree cracking, waiting for what is to follow and wondering how bad it will be, until the branch lands somewhere. The driveway almost looks like a hedgerow, lined as it is now with branches and limbs that I have tossed out of the driveway and off to the side.

Living without power for two days in early winter isn’t something I’d recommend. I did have enough water, food, warm sleeping bag, etc. in my emergency kit. I have a hand-cranked emergency radio, but found I couldn’t get the kind of emergency information I wanted to have. Too many stations carried on business as usual and if they listed locations of emergency shelters or reports on when areas might get power back, I never heard it. The local ABC station was off the air for 2.5 days and has only just come back on the air this morning. The road in and out of Roundtop was blocked for a while by all the downed trees covering the road. Once I did get power back, the information on the local TV stations was better and more robust than what the radio stations carried, but even that isn’t helpful unless you have access to TV, and referring people to Web sites isn’t very useful unless you have an internet connection.

All in all, it was a mess but everything seems to be improving for now. Once I got power back, I saw an interview with a 104 year old lady (she looked like she was in her ‘80’s) who was in a local shelter. She said she’d never had to leave her home before and had never seen anything like this ice storm in her entire life. I hope that means I'll never see another one like it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mother Nature's Wrath

Mother Nature’s wrath was in evidence yesterday. The ice storm that pelted Roundtop was a big one—not the worst I’ve ever seen but certainly in the top five. I lost power in the late afternoon and despite promises from the electric company that it would be back up in 2 hours, I didn’t get it back for nearly 12 hours. I’ve come to the conclusion that their projected times for power to return have no basis in fact. I think they just give you a time that’s 2-3 hours from whenever you call.

The cabin stayed warm-ish as I closed the heavy curtains and didn’t open the door again except for a moment to take the dogs out. And when we were outside, I didn’t stay outside very long. I could hear limbs and branches falling with a crystalline shatter all around.

Just before I got up this morning, I heard what sounded like a heavy rain outside. Oh, great, I thought, more freezing rain. I got up to take the dogs out and dressed for rain. It was coming down hard. But then I looked up at the lightening sky and saw a star. That’s funny, I thought, a star out during a rainstorm. Then I saw more stars and realized the sky was nearly clear. That’s when I realized the "heavy rain" was the melting ice falling off the trees. That’s how much ice there is on the trees.

And Saturday, I will do it all over again—maybe. I was hoping for a snowstorm, but instead it may be a repeat of the ice storm. And in other news—forecasters locally report that the long range forecast for the winter is that after this blast of wintry weather, the long range forecast for January and February is for much warmer than usual weather. I’m reporting that now simply to see if they are right or wrong about that. Last year, December and January were warm but February brought a return to more normal weather. There’s nothing to do but wait and see. The last photo of my driveway was taken after I'd cleared all the limbs from it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


The mother of all ice storms is coating Roundtop Mtn. this morning. I didn’t try to drive to work. So I am at home fighting with the dial-up connection and working from the kitchen table—at least for now. With the ice storm only 90 minutes old and still going strong, I’ll be surprised as all get out if I don’t lose power before it ends.

I have already had “lunch,” figuring that if I don’t eat something hot now, I might not be able to later. The dogs are surprised to have me at home but as long as I don’t interfere with their sleeping, it’s fine with them.

I feel sorry for the birds that come to my feeders. I put out lots of fresh seed for them just as the storm was starting, so they will have plenty. But now they are as wet and icy as a plane you don’t want to be flying on. I notice it the most on the jays. Perhaps it’s simply more visible on a bird that size. Or perhaps the jays can’t find shelter as easily as the smaller birds. And suddenly shelter may be more difficult to find too.

I noticed last night for the first time, that the leaves are finally mostly down. For the first time, I can look out my bedroom window and see open sky and only a few leaves, even on the oak trees. At least the leaves picked a good time to fall. Leaves and ice would definitely not go well together, and I can imagine that whatever damage I will get from this storm would have been much greater had the weight of icy leaves been added.

So for now I am warm and dry. I expect to stay put, whatever the rest of the day brings.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Little Brightness

Last night the fog was as thick as I’d ever seen it. It swirled around my knees like a hungry cat, and though I could still see my toes, they seemed far away and pale. This morning, thankfully, the worst of that dissipated overnight. If it hadn’t, driving would have been impossible.

The front that has iced in the Midwest is now toying with Roundtop. It rises and falls across the southern tier of the state like a flag blowing in the breeze. One day, the mountain is north of the front and the weather is cold. The next day the mountain is south of the front and the temperature rises. This morning the mountain is south of the front and it feels like early April. The Carolina wren joined the cardinal in song this morning before dawn or what passed for dawn.

Clouds still cover the mountain and the sky, but as the sun rose this morning, it produced one brief moment of glory. For a few seconds the drab and overcast weather that has kept even the days in a kind of twilight lifted in a glory of reds and yellows. Seconds after I snapped this shot, the sun rose into the clouds and was obscured by them. Moments after that the rain started again.
Sometimes we only have brief moments of brightness in our days. I can get lost in the gloom or scurry of my day to day life, especially in these hectic days before a holiday. Sometimes I feel as though I am lost in a fog. But even a tiny bit of brightness can raise my spirits and get me through a gloomy day. Today, my little bit of brightness is the memory of this morning’s brief and glorious sunrise. Take the time each day to find your own little bit of brightness.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The fog and drizzle of the past few days have combined to melt 99.9% of the snow that fell last week. After the snow came the freezing rain, which made walking and driving treacherous. Now that I can safely walk around again, I find I'm enjoying what will likely be a brief respite from shuffling across the ice. I can walk on snow as well as anyone, but I can do without the ice.

The dogs appreciate the longer walks we are taking too. In fact, I can't even claim that they got much of anything that resembled a walk this past weekend. So now they have more energy than they can contain and are finding all kinds of mischief to get into to work off some of that energy.
The respite has affected the cardinals, too. I heard one singing this morning. This is not a sound I expect to hear in December. Cardinals do sing earlier than other birds, but they usually wait until a sunny day in February to start their chorus.
The ponds that were iced over are now open again in spots that get at least a little of the afternoon sun. The ground that was freezing is soft again. The air smells like winter but feels a bit like late November, as though winter has not yet settled in and decided to stay.
The respite will be a short one, if years past are any indication. I welcome this short respite. I already had the season's first taste of winter, just enough to remind me what it is like. The first taste helps me prepare my mind and the cabin for it. When it comes to stay, next week or the week after that, I will be ready.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Foggy Weekend and 2007 Bird Sightings

Fog covered the mountain most of the weekend. Freezing drizzle further obscured the view. Even at midday it looked and felt like dusk. The mountain was quiet too, as though the fog deadened the sounds around me. The bird feeders were busy all weekend. The icy conditions likely made it difficult for the local feeder birds to find much natural food.
I didn’t spend much time outside this weekend. Between holiday preparations and the ice that made walking treacherous, I was mostly inside. So perhaps that explains why I am already starting to compare my 2007 Roundtop bird list with the one from 2006.

Every year list has its own interesting differences, and 2007 is proving to be no exception. I’m currently at 83 species for the year at Roundtop, up from 77 in 2006. The number is likely to stay where it currently is until the end of the year. December is not typically the month when I find many new bird species. If I get very lucky a sapsucker might show up or perhaps one of this season’s irruptive northern species, but I’m not counting on that.

In the course of a year, I don’t see many differences in the total number of species found each month. May brings the most species of the year, and that remains a constant. February 2007 was an exception. It was quite cold compared with 2006 and I saw significantly fewer species as a result. In 2007 only four months (March, May, August, October) produced higher totals than 2006, and these totals were only 1-2 species higher than in 2006. So why is my yearly species total 5 birds higher than last years? The answer is that the variety of species in 2007 was good, but the number of sightings for the more common birds was somewhat lower.

When I look at my species by families, I find I had a decent year for waterfowl and raptors, a well above average year for shorebirds (that new pond has helped these totals a lot). Both the number of swallow species and the number of swallow sightings were much lower than normal. Warbler and vireo sightings on the mountain were abysmal in 2007—only 5 species when I can usually find 12-15 species of them.

2007 brought several species that are new to my Roundtop list. Double-crested cormorants were seen flying over the mountain not once but twice. Coot was a new species. The bobwhite family was a new species, as were the solitary sandpipers.

And the news is not all good. For the first 10-12 years I lived here Scarlet tanager was a regular summer resident. I heard that song regularly and often saw a pair or two of them. Since the woods were cleared and the new pond was built near the area where they nested, I haven’t heard them at all. Perhaps they’ve only gone deeper into the forest, but I miss that lovely song in early summer. Another missing species is field sparrow, which used to be common in the scrubby areas over by the tubing runs.

Overall, the results for 2007 were mostly pretty good, though I’m a bit concerned that the sightings of resident species is lower. Is that a trend or just a 2007 anomaly? Perhaps 2008 will bring some clarity.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Unexpected Cougar

The morning here at Roundtop is dark and overcast, in anticipation of what the forecasters are describing as a "wintry mix." That pretty much means something is going to fall from the sky, but they don’t know what. As it is too dark to take a morning photo, even a morning photo on a day when snow is on the ground to brighten things up, I’m posting a shot of one of the sibling cougars at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.

The two cougars like to play tricks on humans. They are in a strongly fenced area that the public can’t reach. However, the front of their naturalistic enclosure is glass where people view them. People walk up to the glass on a slightly raised boardwalk. The bottom of the glass hits the average human just above knee-level. Below that is a wood wall.
As there are two cougars, it’s not uncommon for one cougar to be up on the rocks, pretty much ignoring the people oohing and aahing at it. What people don’t see because they’re looking at cougar #1 is the cougar directly below them along the wall—until the cougar leaps up in the air and suddenly appears at your knees. They are particularly prone to do this, so we were told, when small children are present. The sudden appearance of cougar #2 terrifies parents, who quite understandably have a strong visceral reaction to a cougar that seems to be right in their child’s face. The cougars love this game.

While we were there, cougar #2’s face suddenly appeared once or twice right at the bottom of the glass for just a second—though he didn’t actually pounce. I think he saw that we were adults and so the game wasn’t quite as much fun. He did this sudden appearance so quickly, though, that I couldn’t get a photo of that. He’s quite the beauty. Both he and his sister were very calm and not at all shy about being seen.
I think the reason the reason the animal enclosures here are so nice is that they have few animals and so can provide excellent care and top-notch situations for them. The bears were hibernating, but of the rest I saw no more than 20 animals, of which 4 were raptors.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Snowy Morning

Winter has arrived in the form of about 3-4" of very light and fluffy snow. The light and fluffy part is unusual here this early in the season. It’s more common for the early snows to be wet and heavy. Light and fluffy is more typical of my mid-winter snows.

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the snow this morning, though the sun wasn’t yet fully above the horizon when I took it. I tried taking a photo up at the cabin too, but the forest blocked what little there was of even the early morning light, so I had to wait until I got down to where the sky was open.

What is it about snow that makes dogs wild? Mine are like kids with a snow day off school. They act as though snow means they no longer have to behave or listen to anything I say. They forget everything they have ever learned. Baby Dog was as bad on the leash this morning as she was on her first day of leash-training. Dog is hardly better, though at least he seems to know he won’t get away with it.

At Roundtop, the ski season will open tomorrow, which for me means I will have no more weekends off until probably sometime in late March. Last year a warm-up in late December closed the resort until mid-January. That warm-up was blamed on the jetstream being further north than normal. This year the mountain is on the cold side of the jetstream but only just, so it remains to be seen if that continues or not.

November turned out to be 1.65 degrees colder than average this year, which was kind of a nice change after October, which was nearly 7.5 degrees warmer than usual. November can’t begin to make up for October’s heat wave but in this era of global warming, I appreciate anything that doesn’t further deepen the heat.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Squam Lakes Science Center

This past Saturday I spent all day in a HMANA Board meeting that was held at Squam Lakes Science Center, near Holderness, N.H. HMANA’s Chair is also the executive director of the science center. The highlight of the day was not the Board meeting (which was okay as such things go) but the tour afterwards.

The science center has a variety of exhibits, including hiking trails and boat tours of the lake in the summer. They also have some animals that are native to N.H. in very high quality exhibits. The center is closed to the public now until spring. Some of the animals, like the bears, were already hibernating, but some are still in their areas. All are quite at ease with people around and were out in the open and easily seen.

The bobcat enclosure had two bobcats. We also saw sibling cougars, a fisher, a pair of red fox, bald eagles and red-tailed hawk.

This great horned owl was a lot of fun. This bird is now 39 years old, unreleasable as it is blind in one eye. Although the second photo isn’t very good—it was getting dark in N.H. around 3:30 p.m.—I couldn’t resist. Who would expect to find a great horned owl sitting on the sign that bears its name? Obviously, this bird didn’t want anyone to miss just who it was. Iain told us that the bird was meaner than any of the other animals and over the years was responsible for more staff injuries than any of the large mammals with fiercer reputations. The bird sat there and hooted at us while we stood just a few feet away on the other side of the glass.

Although we’d hoped to hang around Plymouth for a few hours on Sunday morning and search out the nearby pine grosbeaks, instead we left at 6 a.m. in order to beat the storm that swept across the east coast on Sunday. We did pretty well with that. New Jersey had a some sleet and freezing rain, but while we were on the road it was only bad for a mile or two. Snow nipped our heels the entire trip south but the roads were mostly good. Trip time from Plymouth N.H. to Hawk Mountain Pa. was just under 8 hours, with stops only for gas and drive-through food. Of course, having four drivers helps a lot.

Back at Roundtop winter is settling in (even those many of those oaks still have dead leaves on them). I had to clear an inch of snow off my car before I left Hawk Mountain to head home on Sunday. The forecast is calling for a few inches of snow today. Roundtop is busy making snow, and I expect they will be open this weekend, though I haven’t gotten the official word on that yet.

Tomorrow, a new report from Roundtop Mountain! It was a fun trip, if brief, but it’s good to be back on my mountain with all the critters.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bohemian Waxwings!

First, let me apologize in advance for foisting upon my readers the world’s worst photographs of Bohemian Waxwings. I took the photographs in very early morning non-light at Plymouth State University in Plymouth N.H. on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the HMANA board meeting required that I spend the day at that, so my only chance to see this life bird was before the sun was high enough to allow a good photo. But, as this will likely be the only time I ever see or photograph bohemian waxwings, for my purposes a bad photo is still cause for celebration.

And what a way to see a life bird! This wasn’t a single bo’wing or even a small group of them. The flock has been counted at around 300 individuals. So my first view of this irruptive migrants was in a huge flock that’s virtually impossible to miss. As of Saturday, the birds were spending a lot of time in an area around the arts center, where there are a lot of bushes and small trees with red berries.

Seeing a flock like this, it’s hard to keep in mind that what is a birding bonanza is actually a bad thing for the birds themselves. In a normal year, bohemian waxwings stay up north, happily chomping away on local food. When they come south, it means there’s not enough food up north to sustain them. So they are forced to migrate, with all the inherent dangers associated with that. And then in the spring they will head north again, braving those dangers a second time. I have to wonder if breeding success the season after these irruptions is poorer than it is in years when the birds can overwinter in their home turf. I try not to let the excitement of seeing a new bird for the first time override my sense of what that means for the birds themselves. But that is really hard when you’re surrounded by 300 of them.

So, now I’m back at Roundtop safe and sound. I’ll post more on my trip to New Hampshire tomorrow and possibly on Thursday before getting back to the news at Roundtop again.