6:59 a.m. (desperate for Eastern Standard Time), 43 degrees, wind NW 5 mph
(another ideal day to migrate). Sky: starts as a gray pall with a wedge of
clarity above the marsh that opens as I watch. Low clouds, silver
highlights, pushed southeast by the wind; high clouds pushed by a
counter-current head northeast. A cosmic criss-cross. Permanent streams:
refreshed by rain gurgle all the way home; a soothing melody. Wetlands:
somber and sober, much like yesterday sans rain. Pond: two mergansers bolt,
both first-year males, a rippling memo across the dark water.
Although I hear both robins and red-breasted nuthatches, the numbers are
down, again. Waves of birds coming and going. Blue jays rule. A male
cardinal at the feeder, a rare treat.
Overhead, a raven screams, tearing holes in the sky. Above the naked limbs,
I see him black against the blue and white, a commanding bird, bigger and
heavier than a redtail: a barrel roll, a patented maneuver—a big-brained
bird, a Mensa, demonstrating the joy of flight. During the summer of 1980,
on my honeymoon along the shores of Hudson Bay, I watched a pair of ravens
steal eggs from a whimbrel nest. While one raven drew both whimbrels away
from the nest, the other stole an egg. Easily duped, whimbrels never caught
on. Ruse repeated four times . . . until the nest was empty. Teamwork and
*Comeback birds:* Perhaps, on the heels of coyotes. Or the regrowth of
woodlands. Or both.
In the spring of 1976, on an ornithology field trip, I visited a remote
raven nest high on a cliff in southwestern New Hampshire, at the time, the
only known nest in the state. Today rarely does a day pass that I don't see
or hear one. They nest on the nearby Fairlee Cliffs, and one winter,
several years ago, more than thirty roosted in a pine grove on the north
end of the Hollow. Besides New England, ravens have returned to northern
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and down the spine of the Appalachians to South
Carolina. In New York City, they've nested in the Bronx and Queens, and in
the Chelsea section of lower Manhattan, where one was spotted eating a
bagel. Long Island ravens nest or water towers and along stretches of
Sunlight rinses Robinson Hill. The last leafed-out aspen glows a deep,
vibrant yellow, commandeers my attention . . .
Until eight geese call down.