The robins were a little surprised this morning — as were we all — to wake to a steady snowfall. We watched them grubbing in the roadside gravel as I drove Carole to work to meet her colleague for a trip to the airport and thence to Washington DC, where they are preparing an exhibition of Inuit art for the Canadian Embassy in the fall. One of the robins nearly flew into the windshield, but got caught in the slipstream and whooshed to safety, to everyone’s relief. And though I didn’t see or hear it — I was sleeping — Carole said that at dawn, while we were still in bed, a dark shape of a bird flew by our bedroom window screeching. Probably a kingfisher, though possibly a pileated woodpecker, she only caught a glimpse. When we walk the dogs along the Morgan Road, back in the woods along the river, we see the huge holes the pileateds hammer into old trees, piles of rough wood chips on the ground. Then there are the crows, which we both love, strutting around in the road and pecking at squashed chipmunks, etc. — so intent you have to hit the horn to get them to rise from their breakfasts. Have you ever noticed that crows have shoulders? Watch one walk, shoulders flexing beneath glossy blue-black feathers.
In winter the crows congregate deep in the woods, doing their philosophy presumably, and we only see them high in the sky, circling in large groups. Now that the snow is melting we see them solo on the tops of white pines and cedars scouting territory for the breeding season. Sometimes one crow will follow us as we walk the dogs, arcing from one treetop to the next along the road. This morning we also saw the first returning Canada Goose. One almost never sees them by themselves, but this guy was flying north and squawking his head off. Having arrived early, he must have been lonely and looking for company. It won’t be long before they have returned in their numbers to our bend of the river, where they nest on the sandbar and get handouts of corn from Betty, who lives across the water from us.
Saw the year’s first finches at the feeder this morning, so even though it was below zero overnight I know that spring will come. Bright sun and cold air today. This morning, early dawn, the sky in the south was a color I’ve never seen before.
There are at least four wild turkeys hanging out on our property this winter — when I went out with one of the terriers this morning they clattered up through the spruce trees by the creek. We see their huge tracks in the snow and they dig around under the bird feeders to pick up what has gone deeper than the other ground-feeders can get to. I also saw a grouse under the feeders the other evening — surprising because they are generally so shy that you only see them as a blur when you accidentally flush one while walking in the woods. We also have our usual nuthatches and woodpeckers and chickadees. I always appreciate the birds more in winter when they are the most lively thing in the landscape.
Slept for twelve hours and now feel much more human. The sun is just coming up in Hanoi and I can hear birds singing in the trees below my hotel window and the first tentative truck horns of the morning. Vietnam is full of wonderful birds, big singers with wild plumage to dun little sparrow-like birds who flicker among the leaves like animated shadows. The Vietnamese love bird and bird song–so much so that they catch and cage them–you see lovely bamboo cages everywhere. The birds are typically pampered and moved in and out of doors as the weather permits, so it is probably sentimental that when I see them caged, I wish the birds free.