A few smudges of low-lying cloud, curled and shuffled by daybreak breezes.
Almost-silhouette of a bold-singing robin, so dark yet, too dark for color or light. Still, I can find him by the denser darkness where he perches, not twenty feet from my head.
Off to the south in the old horse pasture, a soft, nasal peent! resonates gently.
It is so noisy here that it isn't easy to hear, but he's out there.......the timberdoodle.
Also known as the American woodcock, one of our favorite birds of early spring.
I think he actually returned the day before yesterday. Thought I might have heard a whisper of sky dance wings just before dawn.
Yesterday I was sure. He whirled and whistled right above my head as I walked the other doodle, Daisy the Doodlebop dog, as Alan calls her.
Sheer delight. There is nothing else to name it. Like the deepest mystery of the wild woods come calling at our doorstep.He is so welcome to his little corner of our pasture and the tiny, icy pond.
I have a friend who writes often, of the grassland farming of Upstate NY and what it has to offer birds and wildlife. Not too many yards...certainly not enough...from our eastern boundary looms a housing development, row upon row of matching houses on tiny lawns carved out of field and forest that was also once a farm.
Mention has been made over the years that Northview Farm would fit right in with the developer's plans, room for hundreds and hundreds more little boxes of humanity.
Imagine, should we be unable to hang on to this ground, or should the kids have to sell it when we are under it, what that would mean for the birds and animals that share it with us.
As I sit here this morning, typing at my kitchen table, I hear robins, white-throated sparrows, chickadees, the woodcock, the Carolina wren and others that have slipped my mind. By the time the sun comes up many other species will join the list.
Just here at the house, we have five kinds of woodpeckers, nuthatches, finches, a lingering list of the northern sparrows, and literally dozens of others.
Well over sixty species are counted here on the farm each year.
Just yesterday I saw something BIG! and white! And flapping across my view from the living room windows. Alas I didn't have my glasses on, but it was either a swan or some kind of heron. Did I mention it was big!
There are more kinds of birds out on the fields proper and a number of species I don't recognize yet, by call or flickering outline, flashing through the leaves. I am sure with more expert ears and eyes than mine the count would hit at least seventy...some breeding, some just passing through or stopping to grab a snack.
The decline of upland birds in America is marked and documented and drastic. A wildlife biologist sat at this very table a few years ago and linked the dramatic decline of the whippoorwill to the decline of small farms. And when is the last time you heard one?
As farms fail, bobolinks, night hawks, and many other once-common species continue to dry up and vanish. I worry.....The number of viable small farms that have given up and gone out has left an alarming panorama of vulnerable acreage just begging for development. Mile upon mile of it. Should the economy by some amazing sleight of hand, somehow recover....how fast will the houses follow?
Top twenty common declining birds...some of these used to be common here. Some of them still are.
Whippoorwill research, author of which told me about a lot of this.