Parable of the Migratory Birds

Fall is migration season. The Pond is a stopover for avian migrants enroute to coastal NW United States, or further south to the Gulf Coast and even Mexico. This year, for some reasons, the traffic at the Pond and the adjacent lake is particularly busy, all to a birder’s delight.

October came in like a lion and out like a lamb. We had heavy snow by the middle of the month when the leaves had not all fallen off from the trees and the grass was still green. The lowest temperature reached was -18°C, that, my friend to the south, is 1°F. The water at the Pond was frozen by the third week. But after that premature winter, we were blessed with warmer days towards the end of the month, and even breaking a one day record high on Nov. 2, reaching 23°C, or 73°F.

But it’s not the temperature that interests me. What I find amazing is the variety of waterfowl converging here on their way to the south and the way they come together.

Here are some photos in the past couple of weeks. Mallards, Mergansers, and Ring-billed Gulls side by side. I think I heard Lady Merganser say: so what if my Lucille Ball hairstyle or its colour is different from yours, just let me be and swim to my heart’s delight. Whether you dip or dive for your food, these diverse avian species know how to get along and enjoy the warm sun, fresh air, and clear water:


What does it matter that a female Goldeneye is leading a flock of Buffleheads:

From the front of the line: Female Goldeneye, Male Buffleheads (wearing white hoodies), followed by two Female Buffleheads (white patch on cheek).

At a lake nearby, more migrants converged. It was a pool party of diversity: Canada Geese, Goldeneyes, Mallards, Coots, Gulls… those were just the ones I could see from afar. Only when there’s peaceful coexistence can they conserve energy for the long haul, and leisurely soak up the sun, preen their plumage, do yoga stretch, and of course, fuel up on nature’s buffet.

Thanks to other birders alerting me, that’s the first time I saw Swans here. From a far distance, I sighted several of them on the half frozen lake (or, half melting lake):


I can’t decide even after researching online whether they were Trumpeters or Tundra Swans as I was unable to see their bills from so far away, not even from the enlarged photo later. The two on the right in the picture above are juveniles as they’re greyish in colour. The one in the middle in the foreground standing on one leg is a Canada goose. Note the difference in size.

That day, I had my fill of avian sightings, albeit just watching from the shore far from the activity. The swans stood out in their sheer physical impression among all the ducks and geese, yet they were gentle and not bullies.


Maybe the migratory birds know that they’re only here temporarily, as they’re all in transit. As time is short and their presence ephemeral, might as well be at peace with each other and indulge in what they are given: Nature’s bounty, and enjoy their fill of common grace.

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Reopening: A Bird’s Eye View

We know how hard it’s been these past few months for you humans. Not gathering together means no more communal bathing. That’s tough.

Bathing beauties

Communal Bathing

Don’t get me wrong, we’re very adaptable. We love congregating, but we’re also fine with just being with our significant other.

Mergensers M & F

and practise yoga together:

One leg stance

You may think of us as flocks, but we enjoy being solitary as well. That’s when we gain clarity:

Solitary

or being solitary together, gleaning collective insights through our silent vibes:

Hang out as a group

Guess by now, you’ve gotten used to social distancing. We do that all the time when flying, no fun being poked in the eye by a flapping wing. Social distancing is not a problem as long as you know there’s someone flying with you, only 6 ft. away:

Pelicans

Some of you are gifted with a beautiful voice, we know all that. So you got to belt out from your balcony, we from ours:

DSC_0312 (1)

I’m glad you’re finally reopening. Just like us, you can come out to eat, drink, and be merry, instead of doing that in isolation. We can share the world with each other once again.

But huh… keep your distance please. We’re bathing.

Share the world

 

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A New England Fall Foliage Road Trip

Just came back from a ‘Thelma and Louise’ kinda road trip with my cousin to Northeastern United States. Kinda but not exactly, for obvious reason: I’ve come back, bearing photos and a foliage report that says it’s not too late to head out even now.

According to locals, due to the warm, extended summer days, foliage change has delayed by about a week. I started my drive in late September to the first week of October, and I’d say the foliage color change was from 10% to 40%, depending on the locale.

Here’s the itinerary of my travels:

Wayland, MA –> Portland, ME –> Rockport / Camden, ME –> N. Conway, NH –>
Stowe, VT –> Williamstown, MA –> Wayland, MA

I’ll be posting interesting sights I encountered during this trip. Here’s my first entry.

Walden Pond

I started from Wayland, MA, a suburb about 30 mins. drive west of Boston. Walden Pond is just 6.2 miles north of Wayland. In pursuit of solitude, to taste the bare essence and to ‘suck out the marrow of life’, Henry David Thoreau cleared some trees in the woodlands owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, built a 10′ x 15′ cabin and on July 4, 1845, began to live there by the Pond, an experience that lasted two years, two months and two days.

A stone-throw from the parking lot of the Walden Pond State Reservation is a replica of Thoreau’s cabin. A friendly ranger greeted me:

Thoreau's Cabin

Inside the cabin were the bare necessities, a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs: “one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”

Interior

As for the Pond, it was pure serenity. As for fall foliage, I could only see it in my mind’s eye:

Walden Pond

So you could imagine my surprise to see beaches and swimmers. But of course, this is now a National Park, and it’s summer still:

Swimmers at the beach

The day was September 28, the few autumn leaves reminded me that transition of the seasons was indeed happening, however slowly:

Autumn Leaves

As I walked around the lake, a sign pointed me to the actual site of Thoreau’s cabin in the woods:

Actual Site

And beside it, these famous words of his:

To live deliberately

But nowhere could I find a sign posting this other quote which I also admire, on the economy of work:

“For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely by the labor of my hands, and I found that, by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living.”

Don’t you just love his calculations?

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