Listening to the Music of Nature

Dan Gardoqui is one of my favorite naturalists and the Harris Center is one of my favorite conservation centers. So, how could one possibly pass up the chance to enjoy both at the same time?

We started at 7 am, great for this morning person, but such a cold and blustery day it was. Who knew that June 18th would have me pulling out layers of clothing to stay warm.

A great big thank you to Phil Brown, Bird Conservation Director for the Harris Center, and Janet Altobello, the Harris Center’s Professional Learning coordinator, for putting together this wonderful program.

We began introductions on the landing with a backdrop of bird feeders. The birds were very obliging.

Such cuteness!

After introductions we all thankfully went indoors where Dan gave us tips on Birding.

Dan has a delightful sense of humour, and is the most amazing imitator of bird sounds. To this day when I hear a Vireo, I think of it as the “Dan bird” as it was the first one I heard him imitate.

The Harris center, even on a cold and blustery day is full of all manner of birds. The blue birds were the stars and it was fun watching them poke in and out of their house feeding their hungry little birdlets.

We fanned out across the meadow in the morning to see and hear. We were very enthusiastic. Our instructions. Ask “What’s happpening here” Look, Notice, Listen. “What is this teaching me?” Pay attention to background sounds.

Our two sits were broken into 4 sessions. A crow caw would tell us when to start another.

My first session a Vireo kept me company and a Blue Jay made an appearance. Then, silence. Perhaps the Red Shouldered Hawk scared them. The wind thankfully calmed down. Was that a Tanager making all that noise? A caw!

Second session of first sit. A woodpecker, not a Piliated, was knocking on wood. The blue birds rotated to the house feeding their offspring. A swallow was taking advantage of the bugs surrounding Dan as he sat in the meadow. The Vireo moved Westward, the Tannager moved South. Was that an Ovenbird I heard in the brush?

Third session of first sit. The sun thought about peeking through the low clouds. A Phoebe and the Vireo seemed glad, but the sun was short lived and soon the wind picked up. Tanager keeps moving clockwise around the meadow. The bluebirds seem impervious to the cold. They have a job to do and take a respite on the bare branches of the apple tree.

hanging out in the breeze

Fourth session of first. To avoid the brunt of the wind I moved slightly. It seems the cold had caused everyone to quiet down. The Tanager was now to the West near Skatutakee. In the very top of a tall pine was a dark bird, too far away to identify, who seemed to enjoy the ride as the wind danced around its perch. At this point, I am shaking with the cold.

Thankfully the crow cawed and we came back in, to warm up and build a vision map.

The red initials indicate our stations. Photo courtesy of Phil Brown.

Dan then recorded where we had seen or heard the birds in the morning. It was fascinating to see where the activity was and how and why they moved around. He had symbols for “singing“, a clef note, “Call” < looks like an open beak, “!” alarm call, “0” nest. I can’t wait to do this with my grandson. If I can get him to sit still long enough.

After a quick break for lunch we went back out again with a pause for reflection at the Lilly pond.

As we walked through the meadow we spooked a family of turkeys. I always delight in watching them fly, but even the little guys took flight. They looked more like grouse than turkeys. Mom? ended up in the tree with them and did not look too happy that we had disturbed her brood. But we got a lot of turkey sightings. There is just something about a turkey in a tree.

Our second foray into the meadow was much quieter, except for the Turkeys. There was a Red Bellied woodpecker riding on a swaying brnch. It looked like fun. And the Wind!

Second session of second sit, more wind, and silence. Guess the birds were as disheartend as we. A crow, not Dan, cawed deep in the wood. Heard a chipping Sparrow. During the third session a dark raptorish bird dove toward the feeders and frightened all the golfinches who flew over my shoulder and into the woods. Some of the Goldfinches headed toward the perennial garden, but thought otherwise when they saw the gardener. Those little guys sure can maneuver. By the fourth session of the second sit the birds had pretty much decided that it was too cold and windy to sing, or even chirp, about the beauty? of the day. The only activity, the bluebirds who had an important mission to fulfill.

Want to learn more about the birds around our area? Join the bird language study group.

And, check out Dan’s YouTube channel. and enjoy the rabbit hole you will find yourself going down.

Here is the list of birds we gallant lot saw and heard that day. As you can see, despite the wind and cold, it was a very productive birdwatching.

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Stay tuned. Hoping, even though I shall be working as a Ranger, for a short blog about the Harris Center Hawk watch on Pack Monadnock. If you are thinking of joining the fun, please make reservations!