The Reddish Egret is an interesting
feeder, vigorous to the point of humor,
it’s wings like an umbrella held out and up,
hunting tiny minnows in it’s own shadow,
wobbling, apparently erratic, on rubber knees,
a drunken sailor bird, in actuality
every movement perfectly controlled
by a deadly focus on its prey.
Sometime in the wee hours
the migration broke over
Southern Maine like a wave…
not in a trickle but a flood,
as though somewhere south
a dam had broken.
Yesterday the yard belonged
to the winter shift…
chickadees and titmice,
the occasional Downy Woodpecker,
and the ever-present squirrels…
This morning there are Juncos by the hundreds,
Song Sparrows by the tens, a gaggle
of Grackles, a Cardinal or two,
and even my one-a-year Fox Sparrow
shuffling last year’s maple leaves
where they pile under the Pines,
resting a moment with us
on its way north to breed.
I will admit to having my moments of doubt
in the last month or so, but it is looking
like we will all live to see
another spring in Maine.
Winter has held on,
here in Southern Maine,
way past it’s welcome.
We are marching fast
into the final week in March
and snow and ice still clog the marsh.
Returning birds, expecting buds and bugs,
find cold comfort in a February landscape
and flock to backyard feeders.
And the marsh, normally alive
with bird-song by now,
languishes silent despite
the promise of the spring sun.
On the final day
of the Space Coast Birding Festival
when many had already given up
and gone home…
weather not the best,
and the birds scarce…
a group of us came around
the same corner at Merritt Island,
almost to the end of Blackpoint Drive,
and ran snack into this
amazing pool full of mixed waders…
dozens of Spoonbills, six or eight Wood Storks,
hundreds of Egrets: Snowy and Great,
sixty White Ibis and a handful
of Glossy, with one or two
Little Blue Herons and the same
in Greats… all feeding frantically
on some hatch of shrimp, or
spawn of minnows, turning
the little pool into a wildlife
spectacular to rival any in the world.
And we stood there and took shot after shot,
look after look, knowing we might,
none of us, ever see the like again.
And people actually wonder why we bird?
Like a steampunk psychedelic mashup
the Claw-tipped Emerald
hangs among the bright red berries:
it’s hydolic strutted wings fragile
with power, it’s jeweled body,
werewolf haired in all the wrong places,
rests unlikely, caught between
absolute form and ultimate function,
between strange beauty
and industrial design,
it bends the mind like a…
psychedelic steampunk collision.
Geese and Cranes descend
with the snow,
taking a bit more care
than the flakes where they fall.
Backing wings to break,
looking for the landing…
and all about them
the snow falls careless
to cover the corn stubble.
The camera catches,
arrests the moment
and it’s movement,
flakes and Geese and Cranes,
frozen in their separate attitudes.
I could look forever.
“Bold as a chickadee!”
ought to be a cliché:
the very definition of boldness
without backup, without good cause,
without substantial reason, unless,
of course, you count cute.
It is March
and winter is lingering long
on the marshes by the Mousam,
making slow work of leaving,
frustrating spring migrants
and long-suffering Mariners alike.
What can you do?
It is winters like this one
that make Mariners stoic…
or, what is probably better sense,
migrants in their own right.
The Eagles sit
at the bend of the Mousam,
at the end of the rapids,
just where the ice closes in.
I sort my feelings,
such a complex
and knowledge of
the nature of the bird…
of awe of the predator,
and awareness of the scavenger…
It is complicated…
not the Eagle itself,
singular and self-sufficient,
full of pure eagleness…
but all the stuff we have
piled on the image of the bird.
I breathe it all out,
breathe in the essence
of Eagle sitting at the ice edge…
take my shot
and hope to catch