Mockingbird, Full Moon ~ 3 a.m.

Mockingbird at 3 a.m., April Full Moon

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There’s a male Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) who sings outside our bedroom window every Spring. Despite the fact it makes them eminently easier targets for predators, like owls, they like to perch in the highest tree tops, and our house is at the top of the hill.

In Spring, on quiet nights when there’s a full moon, he sings all night long. So loud he wakes me from sleep, even with the windows closed. At 3 a.m., unable to go back to sleep, I gave up. Went outside with a microphone and a camera. The trees are budding out, and it’s a warm night with a soft breeze.

Just so happens I’m reading a book by a local author, whose daughter played soccer with ours. She often writes for National Geographic and Smithsonian, and we’d sometimes share conversations on the sidelines during practice about the topics she was researching. The book is called The Genius of Birds, by Jennifer Ackerman.

It’s a great book, an easy read, full of fascinating info. I just finished a section about Mockingbirds. Apparently, Thomas Jefferson (whose house I pass several times a day) kept one as a pet in the White House when he was President. His name was Dick. Dick not only sang a variety of songs by local birds from the nearby woods, but also a fair rendition of several American, Scottish, and French melodies. Jefferson was so fond of the bird it was allowed to follow him throughout the house during the day.

Mockingbirds will acquire hundreds of phrases in a library of sounds they can imitate, switching between them at the rate of 17 or 18 a minute with such accuracy that in sonograms they are almost indiscernible from the originals. And not just of other birds – car alarms, cats, people, sirens, whatever strikes their fancy. All using a brain about the size of a pea.

No wonder I can’t sleep.

This one is on a roll again, just like previous years. Though I’m only outside listening for a few minutes, I pick out a couple of hawks, Osprey, Cardinals, Robins, Sparrows, etc..

They sing to impress the ladies, of course, and will risk their lives to do so; but they don’t just sing during mating season. The rest of the year they sing just because it makes them feel good. Brain scans show singing gives them pleasure and comfort, so they often do it whether anyone else is listening or not. Just for themselves.



Spring Peepers

Spring Peepers, old farm pond.

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Just 3.5 minutes of spring peepers. Brown bats arc through the air.

Walked back to the pond this evening. It’s a quarter mile away, down at the bottom of the field and through the woods. Still, we can hear them clearly from the back door.

Standing at the water’s edge they are so loud they hurt my ears. It would be hard to talk over them.


Maine ~ Deer Isle Video

Deer Isle, Maine video

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Whew! Returning to Maine, where we last left off waaaay back in October at:

Maine ~ to Deer Isle


Some video from Deer Isle, the southwest corner overlooking Penobscot Bay. The foghorn was a constant companion, and we grew quite fond of it.


Ways to Fly

New Stuyahok, Alaska
Emily photo


In another one of those fun convergences that makes me smile, several people I know, and who know each other, all did different versions of the same thing at the same time, thousands of miles apart, without talking about it first.

Steve took a trip for work on a plane out of Wallops Island, flying over remote parts of the Eastern and Western Shores of the Chesapeake.

One of Steve’s photos, over Wachapreague,
One of my favorite places.


Meanwhile, Emily was also flying in an even smaller plane, also for work, on a volunteer gig to the remote Alaska backcountry. To a little native village called New Stuyahok (pop. 510).

They had stronger than expected headwinds on the way out. The pilot was afraid they wouldn’t have enough fuel to get back. He radioed around to people he knew and found a runway out in the middle of nowhere to put down and gas up.

Check out the video. There’s nothing around for hundreds of miles. When the plane lands – on a strip built with significant effort above the permafrost – there’s still nothing there.


Video from Emily in the copilot’s seat.


At the same time, other daughter Amanda was taking a flight of fancy a few thousand miles due south in California. She’s teaching third grade with a class of delightful mostly Spanish speaking kids in “The Garlic Capital Of The World” – otherwise known as Gilroy.

She was reading a favorite book to the kids, one I had read to her and Emily when they were young called Stella Luna, about a young bat who flies around in the moonlight. Amanda really gets into character when she reads, and has the rapt attention of all 30 some odd 9 year olds, which is no small feat. She dressed for the part, finding (somewhere) a flying squirrel costume that passed for a young bat.



Safe travels, all.


“There’s Nothing in the Code About a Treehouse”

via The Atlantic Monthly

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Canaan Valley ~ Blackwater Falls

 Blackwater Falls


First stop on the trek is right across the river from Davis, in Blackwater Falls State Park. In precise geological terms, Davis is just outside Canaan Valley. The Blackwater River emerges from the valley interior, seeping from the bogs and swamps that cover the valley floor. Gathering itself together, it meanders north where eons ago it cut a gap through the raised lip of the bowl, where it passes in front of Davis before tumbling over a set of spectacular falls. From there it carves a canyon down through the mountains on its way to the Ohio River. Canaan Valley sits on the Allegheny Ridge, an eastern Continental Divide deep in the Appalachians. Water on the eastern side of the ridge flows toward the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic, water on the west side flows north and west, into the Mississippi and down to the Gulf of Mexico.


 The route taken. Link to map.



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Canaan Valley ~ Davis, WV

Blackwater Falls


Another side trip (a trend I wish to continue). This one a Christmas present to ourselves. The plan, when T made the reservations a month ago, was to spend two days cross country skiing at White Grass in Canaan Valley. Alas, no snow is hard to ski in. They had a pile not much bigger than a cow pie out front of the lodge with a sign in it, selling it for $120 an ounce.

No matter. No matter even that it rained all weekend. We hiked and explored and read and ate well. No crowds to contend with. Met a lot of nice people, too.

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