Maryland to New Hampshire in Eleven Days
Maryland’s rolling hills are comforting as we travel north, but the traffic requires more concentration as we turn from the Beltway towards Frederick. Missing the junction could cause a close encounter to Baltimore. We needed to be away from so many people jammed onto so little space. After Frederick, we exit the interstate system for a US highway; pass historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where in a matter of a few days, soldiers fighting the Civil War managed to kill tens of thousands of one another. Of course, Lincoln’s famous speech was spoken here, where today the 2010 population is remarkably only triple that of those bloody bygone years in the mid-1800’s. That growth favorably compares with the growth rate of the sixth most populated state, Pennsylvania, which is increasing by a magnitude of six times its mid-1800’s population.
Wishing to avoid as many of Pennsylvania’s 12+ million people, we continue past the battlefields. Linda sits in quiet memory of visits to many cemeteries for victims of the Civil War. We cross the south flowing Susquehanna River, the longest American river that empties into the Atlantic and following some confusion to avoid mounting the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we conquer the east bound paved byways of Harrisburg. Finally, we find US 322 and just west of Hershey where we take US 422 and think of stopping to stretch our legs. It is beyond my time for a peanut butter fix. However, we are in chocolate country. Stopping near Hershey might be trouble since neither of us like chocolate. That we do not like chocolate usually arouses suspicion. Eyebrows raise, mouths turn downward, foreheads wrinkle and our citizenship is in question. It is best to avoid chocolate induced altercations so we keep driving.
In about four hours since leaving Alexandria, we pull into Lebanon. Only 25,477 people live in Lebanon and one of them clarifies directions to a park on an app for campsites. The destination is Stoever’s Dam Park, a 153-acre city owned park on the northwestern border of Lebanon that includes a lake and a place to park our RV. Historically the dam was needed to collect water for a canal that supplied goods to Philadelphia. Today, the water backs up a 23.5-acre reservoir surrounded by wooded trails that meander under maples, aspen, beech, seven species of oaks and other deciduous trees competing with a few coniferous white pine, hemlock and even spruce.
28-31 May 2015
We are the only people camping in Stoever’s Dam Park. Electricity is available to occasionally run the air conditioner to remove the humidity in an otherwise quiet night. Human activity increases during the weekend, with people fishing, hiking and picnicking, but no camping. It is a good time to rest.
During miles and miles of walking trails has taught a few things. Give plenty of room to kids and dogs. Dogs should be on a leash, but often are not. A few canines will ignore you, but most like to say hello and that sometimes this is too physical. Who wants their muddy paws on me nor their slobbering jowls leaving their wet scent on their legs of sniffed in inappropriate places. Of course, I do not want to be knocked off-balance and therefore tumble off the trail. Being a person of senescence, I look sternly the dog and their owners in the eyes. Often, I then have to raise my voice and gruffly say “down.” If that does not work, I combine the look and the gruff voice and raise a knee as the dog approaches. As for small kids, most are thankfully too shy to follow canine behavior, but there are similarities. I much prefer a courteous nod and each party continue on their way. Of course, if they are birders, that is a different story. We birders like to exchange information to help the other find birds.
Sometimes, sans dogs and kids, a hiker will acknowledge a meeting with a phrase. My phrase is usually a quick “hi,” but some hikers extend their greeting to “good morning.” If my “hi” is first, their “good morning” is often accompanied by lack of a smile and a voice change when stating “morning.” My interpretation of the well-wisher announcing “morning” is also meaning that I am somehow not on top of things by not knowing noon is yet to happen. I have even had people say “good morning,” glance at their watch, realize it is a minute or two after noon and audibly correct their mistake. Really, what mistake? Once the time for good morning passes, trail greetings are more likely limited to a “hi” or “hello.” “Good afternoon” or “good evening” is unusual although I have not run the necessary statistical trials to use the word “unusual” without bias. It should be noted here that the people on the trail are surely not the same clerks in stores that tell you to “have a great day” at 8:30 p.m.
One more thing or two about people on trails. Most are polite and considerate individuals even though groups too often talk too much and too loudly for our tastes. Isn’t some of the purpose of hiking a trail to witness nature? Nature does not care much for loud and talkative people. Of the numerous wonderful aspects of hiking in the Santa Rita Mountains in Arizona is the high elevation provides less oxygen for talking. Low elevations such as found east of the Rockies, are more oxygenated. There is enough of the gas to support not just hiking, but also more talking and longer greetings. For example, I recall that if the general time of day is announced above 5,000 feet elevation, the greeting is simply “morning.” Leaving out the word “good” allows one to intake more needed oxygen. I can attest that verbal greetings at elevations much higher than 5,000 feet very rarely exist and that even greater heights it is difficult to nod, let alone put the next foot forward. Finally, greeting and announcing the general time of day is something heard more in the east than in the west, regardless of elevation. Are easterners more civilized or more time conscious than westerners? Are westerners more laid back? Perhaps a multivariate analysis will reveal the truth, but there is at least one more factor complicating this phenomenal issue. That factor is what the person is wearing. What? Yes, observations strongly suggest that if the person you meet is wearing jeans, words during the meeting will be short and to the point, and with the assumption that a reminder of the time of day is unnecessary. On the other hand, if the person is wearing cut-off jeans, no words are or should be spoken.
It appears that it is possible to contrive a rule about behavior on trails, one such as the further north you go the fewer southern birds you see. This one might read the further east, the lower elevation, and the better dressed you are, the more you should say when greeting someone on a trail, especially if is before noon.
Rain showers interrupt outdoor time at Stoever’s Dam Park, but I manage the explore most of the acreage, including walking the numerous trails threading the understory. The usual eastern suspects are within earshot of our home. Gray Catbirds, House Wrens and Northern Cardinals are abundant and the songs of Red-eyed Vireos overpower the vocalization of the rest, including a Baltimore Oriole landing in hemlock a few yards away. I had forgotten how well these gorgeous orioles dress a tree. American Robins are in a continual mode of fussing except while quietly listening for underground fodder. A brief glimpse of something large and brown might be a Great Horned Owl.
Rain and more rain falls on 31 May. The down time is good for catching up on notes and her poem inspired by her earlier visits to Gettyburg and too many other cemeteries. Since the beginning of the year, Linda and I have tallied 338 species. It would be higher had we spent more time in Texas, northern interior Florida and the Atlantic Coast, but we are not on a Big Year and are happy with all the scenery, and birds, that have come across our path.
The rainy weather is also time to make a grocery list. One item we need is a box of sandwich bags. We like the type you fold rather than the type that locks. The folding types open wider than the others open and will slide over our plastic microwavable cups should they contain a left over. The sliding type of plastic bag is great for multiple uses. More and more products, such as cheese, come in reusable and resealable bags. That is great, but frequently resealing the bags gave the impression they were sealed when, in fact, they were not. Not resealing a package of cheese meant the cheese tomorrow might be hard and tasteless. The time-saving re-sealable function requires time to assure an actual seal. We make certain we have aluminum foil on hand since our plastic or shrink-wrap will not stay on plastic or paper ware. It will stick to itself or stick to glassware. I like to keep a roll of waxed paper handy to cover items cooking in the microwave. Lids, after all, take up space, add weight and they must be washed after use. Waxed paper is disposable.
When Linda and I hear the word disposable, we think about conservation, waste and carbon footprints. We try to be careful about consumption. We realize we were wasting water before living in our RV. We realize people with large wardrobes waste water since every garment made requires gallons of water during manufacturing. According to experts, a vehicle leaves a sizable carbon footprint, but so do the clothes we wear and so do houses. These same experts write that living in an RV leaves a smaller footprint than those living in stationary structures. Of course, figuring ones exact carbon footprint is not so simple. The size of the RV, the horsepower of the engine powering your motor home or pulling your trailer, the output of a generator, the food consumed, the number of miles driven and factors we have not thought of come to play when calculating the harm we are doing to the planet. Nonetheless, we love the idea that, at least in ballpark numbers, our carbon footprint from living in a RV is less than the one we left back in Oregon.
1-3 June 2015
Friends who we last saw when they lived near Tacoma, Washington, invited us to their new home north of Lancaster. However, timing, being almost everything, did not permit the visit. Instead, we continue north, spend a night at a Wal-Mart and skip the detour to Hawk Mountain. I had spent three weeks there in 1962 and visited there later, but I had not been at Hawk Mountain with Linda. Seeing the legendary sanctuary today would have been nice, but all the migrating hawks would be busy nesting somewhere else. Also missing would be Maurice and Irma Broun, who befriended me during the early 60’s.
Our next two nights are in Lackawanna State Park located north of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton complex of humanity. The idea of a state park began in 1966. Six years later and a fist full of dollars, Lackawanna State Park was open. At 1,445 acres, the park has a lake just shy of 200 acres, which is a reservoir of dammed Tunhannock Creek. The name Lackawanna comes from Lackawanna River that flows from the famous Poconos westward through Scranton and on its way to the Susquehanna River east of Wilkes-Barre.
Scranton and the connecting highways is where I need to decide where to go next. Should we continue northward to southern Vermont, New Hampshire and into Maine, or should we head east to visit my daughter in New Haven, Connecticut. My daughter and I had planned to visit there. However, the prospect of driving into New Haven is daunting, especially after experiencing the Washington, D.C. traffic. A wrong turn in New Haven might put us into danger. My daughter, aka Dr. Sarah, takes traffic in stride, but she drives a compact car and has become familiar with most of the territory. She lives in an apartment that does not have nearby parking for even our smallish RV. Because of that, Sarah had arranged for us to park on the property of a school colleague. However, the distance between the site and her apartment is considerable enough to be difficult and, in addition, she is expecting additional company. Because of all the impediments, I decide not to drive into the fray of New Haven. It is not easy delivering the news to Sarah. Everyone feels the disappointment.
Deciding to drive north brings minds back to us about the ending of the names of the two aforementioned waterways, Susquehanna and Lackawanna. Both names have in common “hanna” and “anna,” which terms are American Indian for stream or river. Being somewhat well-versed in nomenclature, albeit that of birds, it is interesting that, once again, Americanization’s of the names of the two nearby rivers have the word river in the last part of their name. We would not, or at least we should not, utter the words Rio Grande River, so why use Lackaw River River? I suppose it is far too late to quibble over geographic names now long recognized incorrectly by so many non-Indian geographers. There are, however, exceptions including the name of the highest peak in North America, the one I photographed and labeled “Mt. McKinley.” That mountain will soon officially have its familiar Native American name “Mt. Denali.” As far as I know, there is no movement to rename the Lackawanna or Susquehanna rivers. The Indian “anna” followed by the Anglican “river,” do not bother my Indian blood, which is a mixture with that of Anglican genes. Mixing blood and names of a stream is to be expected. It seems prudent to be less sensitive about nomenclature fixed by cultural demands and realize it is important that everyone, not just a few, know what is communicated. What is important is that today we all know what we mean when we say or write Lackawanna River or Susquehanna River.
Luckily, cartographers are not changing the names of those waterways to simply Lackawanna and Susquehanna. After all, it could be important for the general populus to know that the stream to be crossed is a river, not a creek. Using a nomenclature based on cultural etymology can lead to unnecessary confusion, but common sense prevails over what to call the subject waterways. Why use a nomenclature that only a few actually understand?
That thought diverts my mind to the use of common names of certain species of birds in the great state of Hawaii. I realize these thoughts may be interrupted as anti-Hawaiian that is definitely not the case. My reason for wondering about the situation is that problems in communication could be avoided by using English names. One does not have to look hard to find people wondering why so many Hawaiian names of birds are in use. Why? For some reason, the AOU committee on nomenclature made the decision to go Hawaiian. Maybe they had their reasons, but I am not the only one troubled by the outcome. The International Ornithological Congress (IOC), although making great strides in attempting to standardize English names for birds of the world, considered several Hawaiian names of birds to be “troublesome.” Instead of solving the problem, the IOC took the easy route by following the AOU decision to use of several native Hawaiian names instead of English names. With that in mind, it seems appropriate to revisit the issue. Actually, my mind drives me to wonder.
Why not use English names? The non-scientific names of several species are based on the native Hawaiian language and are hard to remember, spell and pronounce. Natives are free to use what ever name they choose, but most authors of checklists of birds have gone native by adopting those highly vowel-laden monikers of certain species of birds that have names more about the culture than about the birds. Legislatorists will more likely help endangered birds that have names relatable to morphological traits such as color or size and where a given species might occur. Sure, there are other names of birds that have been adopted into English vernacular. Jacana, curlew and others have history with birders, but the more recent “official” adoption of some of the species in Hawaii to native names require more time for acceptance by a world that does not speak Hawaiian. As a matter of fact, only about 0.02% of those living in Hawaii speak Hawaiian.
Replacing all those vowelized names with names we can pronounce, spell and, most importantly, easily communicate with everyone is helpful. Native languages should live on and birds that struggle for existence in Hawaii and elsewhere likewise should live on. Again, politician about to sign legislation to protect a species will most likely do so for a bird having a name relatable to the most people, not to a small minority.
Should the common names of birds be relatable to the most people needing to use those names? Should a bird on an Indian reservation carry the common name originally applied to it by the natives living there? Imagine using the name Cherokee do-tsu for cardinal. At least do-tsu is relatively easy for an Anglo to pronounce,although it might not be as memorable as cardinal. Further, there are apparently more pure cherokees than pure Hawaiians and more people who speak cherokee than those speaking Hawaiian. Does the number of people communicating a name of a bird in their own language dictate common usage? I am not sure what the very few Hawaiians that speak Hawaiian call cardinals, but thankfully the AOU and ABA checklists use the English name cardinal. None of this should matter and everyone ought to respect the differences and similarities of everyone. Despite the difficulty borne from using Hawaiian names for certain species of birds, I will be respectfully join the fray, try to be happy to embarrass myself by mispronouncing and misspelling to Linda, to myself and anyone around, the field marks separating aeiou from ouiea that are flitting in the nearby Hawaiian bushes.
My mind suddenly puts up a red flag to stop worrying about common names of birds. Drifting from the tangent of island nomenclature of birds in the central Pacific, my mind crosses a wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean and traverses the Cascade Mountains and Great Basin. A synapse rattles in my skull causing thanks that common names of birds are not as confusing as identifying polynomic plants. Travelling from the west, the old wondering and wandering gray matter conquers the Continental Divide and spans the Plains while in accompaniment with the realization that most bird people are on the same page. The exceptions are minor and solvable. After sailing across the Mississippi, my head and the rest of me lands back in the Appalachian Mountains that embrace Pennsylvania’s Lackawanna State Park. Our park has 18 miles of trails for hiking and 15 miles of trails for biking and even allows hunting of deer and upland birds on 900 of its acres. As campers, we enjoy the warm-water showers and electricity for $23 per night. A wide spectrum of fantastic moths grace the shower building ceiling. Our campground is full of Ovenbirds singing loudly. Teacher, teacher fills the air.
Trails are difficult to resist and the woods teem with birds that beg identification. One singer had to be a Cerulean Warbler, but it stayed hidden from confirmation. Black-throated Green Warblers almost fool me to thinking of hearing a Blackburnian Warbler. I have to learn the songs of the eastern warblers. Northern Yellowthroat and American Redstart are along the trails as is a Yellow-breasted Flycatcher. During hikes, I manage to scare up a Broad-winged Hawk, a species that makes me think of my days in 1962 at Hawk Mountain. Hairy Woodpecker joins the list with Yellow Warbler and one singing Golden-winged Warbler.
Golden-winged and Blue-winged warblers sometimes interbreed, producing offspring so recognizable in the field that the hybrids have English names. Yes, the two hybridize, but they are unquestionably distinct species. Blue-winged Warblers usually arrive at their nesting sites earlier than Golden-winged Warblers and are less selective where they nest. Thus, Blue-winged Warblers will likely outbreak and therefore might cause Golden-winged Warblers to become extinct through a process we bird people call genetic swamping. Of course, that ongoing process will require considerable time. Studies have shown that contact between the two species of warblers does not always lead to genetic swamping. In other words, there are some reasonably good biological barriers to help maintain two species.
Interbreeding or not, the Golden-winged Warbler today is a rare bird in these here parts, at least according to information gleaned from the web. The warbler was at the forest edge in what should be perfect habitat for the species. The territory looked to be also perfect habitat for Blue-winged Warblers, a species listed as common in the park’s checklist. Repeated searches of the area for Blue-winged Warbler are in vain. My observations are upside down. Blue-winged Warblers ought to have been found and Golden-winged Warbler missing from today’s efforts.
Plant life attracting the diversity of birds in the Lackawanna State Park is the results of successional forestation replacing ruined habitat historically scared by destructive management. A lot has happen in Penn’s woods. One of the trails leads to a 550-gallon concrete tank that holds water for a swimming pool. Many of the surrounding deciduous trees are tall and tower over a green understory that shades the hidden concrete structure and cools me from the early June sun. Songs of Northern Yellowthroats standing guard at openings in the forest near the edge of the nearby paved road penetrate the dark green leaves of beech and eastern hemlock over the brown leaf litter of summers past. Thoughts of finding an American Woodcock come to mind. They occur in the park, but only warblers and a few flycatchers hold the stage today.
4-5 June 2015
The season is advancing and spring will soon be a memory, but we try to ignore the advancing calendar. We do not want the landscape to wash over us. We want to soak in the landscape, to smell the wildflowers and hear birds repeat their songs as they flash through the shiny new foliage. RVing should not be rushed, but we are also anxious to continue driving north to escape the heat and humidity we know all too well.
One thing we did not and cannot seem to escape are ants. While parking in Dick Bank’s driveway, ants made their way into our wheeled abode. They are tiny creatures. Luckily, the hitch-hiking insects do not seem interested in food except for a box of cereal. Every day since leaving Alexandria, we manually euthanize hundreds of ants. Our task is manually since any ant begone bug spray might cause our lungs distress. The “natural” or “green” sprays was a means of dispatching the ants by way of drowning. We might as well use water. So, the hapless creatures have to be smashed. The ant war is on and we will eventually win.
After leaving Lackawanna State Park, ants and all, we motor north into New York, leave I-81 and drive a few miles east on I-86, and then on a state highway where we have a few miles of tranquility on a narrow state highway connecting to I-88. Our goal is to travel about 140 miles today, which takes us from one state and well into the next. Driving only 140 miles in the West might not span a single state. Although Pennsylvania is a relatively large, everything seems closer than in the West. So, today we will be in the state of New York and, tomorrow, by driving only a relatively few miles, we could be in Vermont or New Hampshire.
Putting tomorrow aside, we enjoy today and before we realize, we must exit I-81 and travel state route 7 to our night’s destination, Cobleskill, New York. The hamlet of Cobleskill appears busy and at the same time peaceful. We learn the town’s population is a little over 4,500, that Cobleskill hosts a small college and a medical facility we hunt up to take a look at a tick that most likely hitched a ride in Lackawanna State Park. The creepy little insect caused a little redness around its perch near my right nipple. Although the tick came across state lines, the doctor pronounced me not guilty of having contracted anything from the Pennsylvania wannabe vector.
We discover Cobleskill has good pizza. Someone, one of those people who count stuff, wrote that approximately three billion pizzas weighing in at 252 million pounds are annually engulfed in the US. Another pizza man, or pizza woman, said that US citizens consume an average of 46 slices per year. We think that must be a mistake, but our cravings let us know we are not eating our fair share of pizza. This is in part because, as wonderful as RVing is, our Class B+ could not accommodate an oven to cook a pizza or a refrigerator large enough to store a frozen pizza. Of course, we ignored, until today, many establishments offering cooked pizza. In fact, there are over 61,000 pizzerias in the country. Now, we could not wait to break the trend of being pizzaless in America.
Because of the lack of camping in the immediate region, the town, not the parking lot of the pizza joint, we join a couple of other RVs parked on the lot of the local Wal-Mart. One side of the large parking lot is a meadow, with a smattering of low dark green bushes and awash with a verdant carpet of tall grasses close enough to smell. The green expanse goes to the top of a ridge in one direction and in another view, to a distant fence bordering forested hills. Layers of gray flat-bottomed clouds dominate small bits of blue sky. A Song Sparrow is carrying food to its young. Yellow dominates the birds, with several Northern Yellowthroats singing from the grasses surrounding the bushes invading the meadow, and with flocks of bright American Goldfinches flying across the green. I wonder how many ticks are out there.
Our other views are route 7, a quieting distance from our door, the front of the Wal-Mart, other vehicles, and a garage where we have an appointment tomorrow for an oil and oil filter change. In addition, a slow leak has developed on one of the rear tires. Today, it is attention to a tick and a pizza fix, tomorrow, will be a day to tend to the RV.
It is time to wonder about the little town of Cobleskill. I venture that the name Cobleskill means a place for cobblers, but the supposition is completely wrong. Several sources credit a German named Jacob Kobel as the reason for the name Cobleskill. Around the turn of the century, the one that occurred over 200 years ago, was when Kobel built a grist mill on what is today known as Cobleskill Creek. Another source recounts the name for the town as Cow-bell Kill and that the creek’s name is Cobus Creek. As I relate my discoveries, or my interpretations of the history of the region, I tell Linda to wait for it. Yes, wait for the punch line.
The word “kil,” which is attached to the town and the creek is Dutch for stream. Oh no, Cobleskill Creek is Coble steam Creek. This is not unlike a name we left back in Pennsylvania where the Lackawanna River translates to Lackaw River River. It is good thing those insisting on strict cultural spellings of names of birds are not looking at maps of Pennsylvania and New York.
Other geographic names have the word “kill” in their name, including the famous Catskill Mountains about 40 miles south of Cobleskill. The mountains may have part of their name from the bobcat, but may have the name from the Dutch word “Kasteel,” meaning Indian stockade. The “eel” may have become ‘kill” from kil. Regardless, there is a stream in them there hills called Catskill Creek, yet another name having two words denoting the same thing. Thinking the word Catskill also reminds of the numerous ways people pronounce the name Catskill ranging from Cats-kill to cat-skill. I agree cats do kill, in fact billions of birds annually, and cats, at least some of them, have skills, especially to kill.
With digressions aside, we enjoy the next spring-like day in Cobleskill. Even the wait for the oil change and tire repair is okay so long as we can see that meadow and trees beyond.
Almost too far away, near one edge of the meadow is a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. This blue and chestnut thrush is always fun to watch and we see the bluebirds courtesy of Ray Briggs. Someone in town, upon hearing we are birders, asked if we knew about Mr. Bluebird. No, we did not, but a person relates that around 1960, Ray Briggs had realized that populations of bluebirds were down from times during his youthful years and made it his mission to provide houses built especially for bluebirds.
Bluebird numbers probably increased in the 1700’s as humans cleared more and more land for agriculture, leaving tree edged meadows and wooden fences for potential nest cavities. However, introduced House Sparrows and European Starlings in the mid-1800 competed for existing cavities. Later, humans cause shortages of natural nesting sites by removing trees with rot or cavities and using metal poles instead of wooden ones. Left without a place to nest caused a steady decline in Eastern Bluebird. Ray Briggs helped populations recover in Cobleskill and a good portion of New York.
During my early years, I had read of another Mr. Bluebird, the original Mr. Bluebird. In the 1930’s, the man, Thomas Musselman began placing bluebird houses in Adams County, Illinois. His efforts mushroomed to other states. Musselman’s contributions inspired my teenage mind to pay more attention to my local Western Bluebirds. The more I learned about them, the more questions arose. I began reading about bluebird behavior and discover that, at that time, far less was known about the breeding habits of Western Bluebird than had been documented for the eastern species. Nearing completion of high school, I realized a need to first find out how much is known about Western Bluebirds in order have some idea where I might best direct my attention. Yes, perhaps this should be a research project.
At that time, I was also planning a yearlong birding trip that would begin in June 1962. On the agenda of that trip (Birder Interrupted), was a stop at Smithsonian’s Division of Birds to perform my first ever literature search. A reply welcoming my visit there was the opening for me to sift through journals and jot down every morsel I could find about Western Bluebirds. While looking into the journals, I met several ornithologists in the Division of Birds, some of who worked with and remain in contact to this date.
During the early part of the following nine years since visiting the journals at Smithsonian, I began a field study of Western Bluebirds. The study began with construction of several bluebird houses and placing them on wooden fence posts and oak trees on a 400-acre ranch in the foothills of southwestern Oregon. Many a bale of hay harvested on that ranch had once been stacked in a huge barn by yours truly. With aerial photographs, I mapped where individual bluebirds perched, and with hours of data points was able to determine the size of nesting territories. Hours were also devoted to recording the number and durations of birds visiting a nest box. However, time and better research techniques were deficient. Higher learning, a job and other obligations, meant less time to study the several pairs of bluebirds under my part-time watch. The study was reluctantly terminated. I will always be grateful for those hours watching the lives of Western Bluebirds that so pleasantly connected me to my career.
People continue placing houses for bluebirds and populations of both species of birds have yet to suffer low enough numbers to become officially endangered. However, the National Audubon Society, including the relatively common Tree Swallows as one of the natural competitors to bluebirds, concludes that both species are becoming endangered as climate change brings more havoc to all hole-nesting species.
6-7 June 2015
Misreading of maps or misalignment of my brain cells causes us to become momentarily lost in Albany/Schenectady metropolitan region. I am pretty sure that we drove across the Hudson River more than once. Somehow, we locate highway 7, the one we lost on the west side of the city snarl, and continue eastward beyond Troy, pick up Vermont highway 9 and climb into the Green Mountains.
Our destination for the evening is Red Mill Brook Campground in Green Mountain National Forest. According to our phone app, the campground is north of the highway on forest road 72. As we approach the junction, our speed slows in order to locate the forest road. Naturally, we pass the junction and, after finding a place to turn around, travel about three-fourths of a mile on a narrow dirt and gravel road to the campground. Metal pipe gates are across the entrance to the campground and the metal fee box appears only as a place for rust to grow. The narrow entrance road has become habitat for grasses and saplings on a quest to reclaim the land. The campground is definitely not open for business and it looks to have been shut down a few years ago.
Red Mill Creek campground Beaver pond near our campground
What should we do? The answer comes easily. We are the only ones here and should take advantage of what we consider good fortune, a place for a night of solitude. Also, the prospects of good birding are inviting. We turn to face the RV back toward the highway should a forest ranger tell us to leave in the middle of the night. It is quiet except for a couple of cars that turn around to return to the highway. An owl or two, if any are close by, are silent. Our location is about 2,000 feet elevation and being a bit further north, feels more like spring than early summer. That, and the isolation entices us to stay two nights.
Hiking the forest service road to the highway is rewarding. Only a few yards beyond our back door is a Blackburnian Warbler. It competes with the sounds of Ovenbirds and Red-eyed Vireos. Further down the road are more Chestnut-sided Warblers than I have ever seen in one place dominate the secondary deciduous forest. A small beaver dam crosses a placid stream while another creek runs freely through a culvert under the road. Nearby is dead snag owned by a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers busily feeding young.
Were those small streams connected to Red Mill Brook? I decide to ignore the name brook, forget about rils, runnels, rivulets, runs, rivers, creeks and cricks. Instead, I will duck the etymologies of those waterways by allowing the clear liquid to run down my back.
Tomorrow, we will be in Maine.