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  • Published
    February 4, 2012

    Tracking our summer birds south

    Remember that unusual raft of 600-plus coots that hung out on Chickawaukie Lake into early January, dwindling down to two, then none, as the lake finally froze over? I think we found them. My husband and I were birding in Florida recently, and coots were everywhere — in canals, swamps, and ponds wherever we went. In fact, as our plane was touching down at Palm Beach International, we passed coots in a wet area …

  • Published
    January 12, 2012

    Meditations on gulls

    In a high school writing class years ago, I wrote a compare-and-contrast essay on how to tell apart different species of Maine gulls. Even then, I was both fascinated with birds and bent on encouraging people to take a second look at what’s usually dismissed as ordinary. My life as a bird nerd had begun. And 30 years later, I still find gull-watching to be a satisfyingly challenging exercise, especially in winter …

  • Published
    December 12, 2011

    Meditations on screams in the night

    A friend taking part in an owl survey a few years ago thought she’d heard a barn owl screaming in the woods. At least, she hoped it was a barn owl, because otherwise all she could think is that someone was being murdered. If you’ve heard a barn owl shriek (described on the Stokes bird song CD as “human-like scream”), you’ll get some sense of her concern. The sound will make the hairs stand up on the back of your …

  • Published
    March 4, 2010

    Meditations on red-winged blackbirds

    When we think of harbingers of spring, most of us think of crocuses, robins or peepers. For my husband, it’s the onset of fishing season. For me, it’s the return of turkey vultures, which seem to arrive back in Camden about a week before the official first day of spring (or vernal equinox), which falls on March 20 this year. My mother, however, marks the season with the re-appearance of red-winged blackbirds at …

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